Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Everything About Stain Removal: You and Your Laundry from Start to Finish

I ruined a pair of pants that I made. I didn't realize there was a crayon in the pocket and it went through the washer and dryer. The dryer melted it. There were several stains on my pants and I was horrified. I decided to try some online tips to help restore my pants. And all the stains but one came out. It looks like that one is set. So these are pants to wear at home, not to work. But at least, they are not totally ruined.

Check out my recipe for homemade laundry detergent here (it works in the dishwasher too)

General tips for washing:   
  • To avoid the necessity of looking for pairs of socks after washing, clip them together in pairs before laundering.
  • Try to save energy by washing a full load but don't overload your washer. It will blow a fuse and shorten the life of the washer.

  • Check for stains and ensure you pre-treat properly. Once a stained item hits the dryer, the stain will be set and will be next to impossible to remove
  • Due to fabric, dye, stain, chemical variations, time and other variables, these suggestions should be considered guidelines only. 
  • Attach a magnetic caddy to the side of your washing machine to save items that fall out of pockets in the wash.

  • Adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the rinse water, will help pantyhose retain it's elasticity.

  • Oxyclean is baking soda added to detergent. Try it and see how it foams just like the brand name product.
  • Colour Removers (sold with dyes) will help if you have yellowed collars on light fabrics.

  • Coloured clothes will come out much brighter when a Tbsp of salt is added to the wash. Be sure that it is added first, so it can dissolve.
  • Set the washer for a 10 minute or less cycle. Most detergents will have done there work by then.
  • Suds don't clean clothes. That's a myth built on a survey from Wella Balsam in the 1930s where people felt suds proved cleaning capability. Don't use too much detergent looking for suds.
  • The most economical way to wash is to wash everything in cold. And if your clothes aren't really dirty, go ahead. You may want to do load of whites in hot though.
Did you know that many clothes manufacturing recommend dry cleaning as an easy way to satisfy the laws that require that one washing means be listed? Many clothes labelled dry clean only can be washed at home!
Laundering Specific Fabrics:
Think you have to take that sheer voile blouse, beaded top, fringed silk shawl, or lace trimmed dress to the cleaners? Think again! You can clean these at home by simply tying the articles in a cotton pillow case, knotting it closed, and washing in cold water on regular cycle. Beads, sequins, buttons and delicate laces will not fall to pieces, and garments can be restored by steam ironing or steaming in the shower!
Cotton: Cotton may shrink in the dryer in the first or second laundering.
Silk: You can put silk in the washer but it will need an impressive amount of ironing. (Buy a steamer!) Instead, using warm water, hand wash the blouse with some mild detergent(normal detergents are the wrong pH for animal fibres like wool and silk). Then dry until it is just damp, roll it tightly and place in a sealed plastic bag then place that in the freezer. Then when it is frozen take it out and iron it.
Wool: Wool is made of tiny loops that can lock together. It is the agitation of the wash cycle (and dryer) that shrinks wool. It is best to dry clean or spot clean wool clothing.
Linen: This may shrink in the dryer in the first or second laundering.
Polyester: Washer; dryer
The confusing part about caring for rayon is that two types of rayon exist: viscose and polynosic. The major difference is that viscose rayon becomes weak when wet, and therefore normally requires dry cleaning. Occasionally it can be finished so that gentle hand washing is possible. Blends with 30 percent or more polyester will provide enough strength for gentle hand washing or machine laundering. Polynosic rayon is an improved version with high wet strength. You can safely machine wash and dry it.
How do you tell the difference? Unless information is provided on the label, or can be obtained by calling the manufacturer, you can't. Machine washable rayons will have the term polynosic, the trade names Modal or Zantrel, or indicate machine wash and dry on the label. The term viscose on a label will be accompanied by a care label that indicates to dry clean. For best results, follow care label instructions.

Stuffed AnimalsOld stuffed animals can be salvaged. Place stuffed animals in a pillowcase, tie a knot in the case, and then place the stuffed animals in your wash machine on gentle or permanent press. You can even dry them. For best results, machine dry animals for about 20 minutes and then let air dry. Your child's favorite stuffed toy may look like new. 

Baseball Caps
To clean baseball caps without destroying their shape, place them on the top rack of the dishwasher and run through a complete cycle.
* Large items such as bedspreads, comforters and king size blankets should be washed alone or laundered and dried in oversized machines, which are available in most laundromats.
LL Bean's Advice on washing down-filled items:
In washing down filled items. wash on the gentle cycle, but when it comes to drying remember that it takes a very long time! LL Bean advises that you dry the items on low heat all day long. The down needs to dry out well, and when it does *then* the down will be evenly distributed through-out the jacket.  LLBean did say that using a commercial dryer would work faster.
Help with Stain Removal:

    The ABCs of stains are action (immediate action), blot (don't rub) and volume( take off excess spillage to keep the stain from spreading)

Some people are able to gracefully avoid stains. Others are magnets for stains and can’t eat a simple snack without dripping spicy salsa or globs of chocolate ice cream on themselves.
If you are a stain magnet, or live with one, you need stain-removing help!

  • Check your clothes for stains before washing them.
  • Double-check before drying.
  • When in doubt, soak spots in cold water.
  • Use hot water with caution - it can set some stains, just like the heat of the dryer will 


Wine stains: If you or someone else spills red wine on something, pour some white wine over it or else use club soda over it. Blot up the stain, NEVER rub it. Use a clean white cloth to blot up the stain until it is gone.

Lipstick stains: try rubbing alcohol and blot stained fabric between two towels until the stain is gone.

Berries/Fruit Juice :  For most fabrics, pour boiling water over the stain until it lightens and fades. For delicates (or if you don't have access to boiling water at the time), dab some fresh lemon juice directly on the stain. Launder as usual
Blood stains on clothes? Not to worry! Just pour a little peroxide on a cloth and proceed to wipe off every drop of blood. Works every time! Or try unseasoned meat tenderizer!

Ink stains? Spray hairspray on it and wash.

Tomato Stains? Saturate the stain with vinegar. Allow it to soak in. Then, wash. (prevent it from staining your Tupperware by spraying it with Pam before putting tomato-based foods in)

Grease? Soak the stain in undiluted white vinegar. Then, wash as usual

Sweat Stains? Pour vinegar over the sweat stain. Then rub coarse salt into the stain (table salt will work if it's all you have). Place the garment out in the sun to dry. Then, wash.

Egg? Soak it and be sure that the egg is thoroughly removed. It may be a good idea to let the clothing air dry to make sure that a ghostly yellowish residue doesn't remain when dry. Repeat the steps above before drying to make sure that all of the stain is removed.

Salad Dressing? Wash in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric. (This is a gamble because heat can set a stain)
Hot water will work with the laundry detergent to break down the salad dressing stain and leave your clothes looking like new. Be sure to check for any residue after the clothing is finished in the washer but before you put it in the dryer. After a stain is dried it can be very difficult to remove it. Repeat if needed.

Crayon?(or candle wax) freeze the items. The wax will flake off easily. (If candle wax gets on carpet, use a warm iron placed on aluminum foil and iron it off. The wax will stick to the foil. Keep repeating until the wax is gone.)

Ivory soap works well for stains because it’s mild (with an almost-neutral pH) and it doesn’t contain moisturizers, deodorants, and other unnecessary additives. Other mild white bar soaps will work, too, but save those colorful, moisture-laden or highly perfumed soaps for unwinding in the bathtub.
For stain removal, plain old soap works wonders.
1. Wet the stained garment with cold water.
 2. Rub a bar of Ivory soap directly into the stain, then rinse.
 3. If that doesn’t remove the stain, rub Ivory soap on the stain again, and then soak the fabric for 30 minutes or so in cold water with a bit of powdered detergent dissolved in it. (If you forget and leave stuff soaking longer, it doesn’t really matter; you won’t hurt the fabric.) Rinse.
4. If that still doesn’t work, rub more bar soap into the stain, scrub it with a scrub brush (taking care not to damage the fabric), and rinse.
5. If a second scrubbing attempt doesn’t remove the stain, blot it gently with some color-safe bleach (oxygen-bleach, not chlorine bleach) diluted with water, then rinse with clean water to remove all of the bleach.
6. If all else fails, be prepared to live with the stain. 
Like most rules, there are exceptions. Certain stains require different methods of attack.
Coffee: Betty says that coffee isn’t hard to get out if you get to it with soap and water right away.
Fruit: Betty always puts lemon on the stain first. If that doesn’t work, then she uses bar soap.
Mildew: Wash the garment in warm or hot water with oxygen bleach, depending on the fabric, and line dry or dry flat in direct sunlight.
Oil and grease: Sprinkle some cornstarch or baking soda on the stain, then place the garment, stain side down, on a large rag on top of an ironing board. Iron with a hot iron on the wrong side of the stain. Most oil and grease stains will come right out. (This trick works only for oil and grease, which need heat to dissolve.)
Rust: Soak fabric spotted with brown rust stains (which sometimes come from hard water) in a solution of 1 part lemon juice and 1 part water for at least 30 minutes. Do not use chlorine bleach on rust stains.
Tea stains: These are hard to get out, but Betty soaks tea stains in cool water and applies bar soap anyway.
Sweat stains: Line-dry the shirts outside. The combination of sunlight’s natural bleaching properties and drying at lower temperatures than in a dryer keeps sweat stains from turning yellow. It’s the heat of the dryer that sets the stains and makes them difficult to get out.

Unknown Stains: Often these stains are from a pale liquid, such as white wine or a clear soft drink that contains sugar, that was present when the garment was laundered but did not come out completely. Try this: For whites and light-colored fabrics, dab stain with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide on a cotton swab. Allow the peroxide to set for several hours; it acts as a milder, slower bleaching agent. And here is my mother's last-ditch stain remover for washable whites and colored items that can be bleached (or that you're willing to take a chance on): To 1 gallon of hot water, add 1 cup of powdered dishwasher detergent and 1/2 cup of bleach. Let the garment soak for no longer than 30 minutes. If the stain doesn't come out in that amount of time, it probably never will. 

Indoor and outdoor Clothes Lines Hints:  Now that everyone is thinking about ways to conserve energy, clotheslines are back in style. Did you know that in the 1990s a lot of upscale neighbourhoods had by-laws prohibiting the use of clotheslines outdoors!

  • I don't mind an indoor clothesline but some people prefer to hang their clothes outdoors.  
  • Check the weather
  • Fold jeans and pants with the crease down the front if you'd like a crease when dry.
  • Hang shirts by the hemline instead of the shoulders ( avoids the bunched up shoulders look)
  • Be careful about drying black and navy clothing -- or anything else that tends to fade -- in the sun. They may fade, but not evenly -- just where the sun hits them. Dry these items on a line or rack in the house if needed.
  • Be sure not to set up a clothesline under trees (birds)
  • Take laundry off the clothesline when jeans or towels are still just barely damp and dry the load the rest of the way in the dryer. Everything -- towels, socks and all -- will be soft and flexible just as if they were in the dryer the whole time.

  1. Larger items such as sheets and towels should be placed on inner lines and smaller articles on the outer lines.
  2. Sheets should be doubled (horizontally) and may be hung on the Handy Line in three ways - Peg one end to one line and loop the remainder forward and up the line in front (like a sling). Fitted sheets should be pegged in this manner.
    1. Place folded sheet over two lines.
    2. Peg the doubled sheet along one line and bring the remainder forward and peg back along the line in front (as if doing a 'U' turn).
  3. It's easier to fold the sheets in half when taking them out of the washing machine.
  4. Towels take longer to dry if hung vertically - either hang as suggested for a sheet as above or place horizontally. If using bath sheets they need to be placed on the line as in 3 above.
  5. Washing should be evenly balanced on both sides of the Handy Line.
  6. When placing trousers on the Handy Line it is a good idea to peg the front to one line and the back to another and open out the legs so that the air can flow through them.
  7. Quilts may be "tented" over the Handy Line making sure to carefully fold ends into centre and lift off.
  8. Do not use the Handy Line out in the open on windy days.
  9. It's a good idea to leave about 12 pegs on each line so they are readily available.
  10. The lines may be re-tensioned by undoing knot and gently pulling the line through from other side making sure not to pull too tightly.
  11. Plush towels will be softer if shaken before hanging on the Handy Line.

Using the Dryer:
Make your own inexpensive alternative to fabric softener dryer sheets.  Mix 1 cup of liquid fabric softener together with 1 cup of water.  Store in a wide mouth jar.  Using and old cloth, dip it in the mixture, then wring it out over the jar so that any excess liquid is returned to the container.  Throw the face cloth in the dryer with the damp clothes.  It works like a charm!

For static cling: Roll up a ball of aluminium foil and put it in the dryer with your clothes

(Spray hairspray on the garment to instantly get rid of static cling if you find you have it when wearing an item)

Down Items
Some manufacturers recommend putting new tennis balls in the dryer to keep the down from clumping. However, the Soap and Detergent Association does not recommend this practice. The neon dye on the tennis ball could transfer to the down-filled item, or the tennis ball might not be able to withstand the heat. To avoid clumping, it is safer to periodically remove the item and shake vigorously. Adding clean, dry towels to the dryer load can also help.

Save on Drying Time
To save on the time spent running your dryer, especially for "heavy" items like throw rugs, diapers, etc., first run an extra "spin" cycle in your washing machine. Then, add a clean, dry, fluffy towel to your dryer with the wet laundry. This can cut your drying time by 25% or more!
*Don't over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it. 
Over drying is also a leading cause of static cling. 
*Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material, not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages. 
*Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer. 
*Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.*Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
 *Drying a small load reduces the tumbling effect and consequently lengthens the drying time. Add several clean, dry white towels to speed up the drying of small loads. 
*Turn your jeans inside out, so they won't fade as quickly. 
*Most dryers have delicate permanent press cycles, which have lower settings to protect fabrics which might be damaged by high temperatures. 
*Don't overload your dryer, as it can result in excessive wrinkling.

  • Buy a steamer. There $75 and worth every penny.
  • Collect the dry clothes form the dryer immediately and fold them.
  • If you must iron, use the water collected by the dehumidifier in your basement, you have "free" distilled water in its tank, which you can use for your iron.
  •  Buy a tube of iron cleaner. It will last and last and there will be no more iron residue burned onto your clothes.
Quick tips on removing wrinkles from clothes:

  • Hang your clothes up as soon as the dryer stops. If your clothes are wrinkled, spritz them with the fine mist of water and let them hang on a hanger until dry. Wrinkles usually fall out when dry.
  • Hang your clothes on the door when you take a shower, the steam will help to remove some wrinkles.
  • You can spritz on equal parts white vinegar and water if the wrinkles are very bad.


  1. Re: Socks

    Better yet, to avoid looking for pairs of socks, only buy one kind of sock! Since I wear jeans essentially every day, I only buy white socks. That way *every* pair matches.

  2. Wow! What a great post! I tweeted it and shared it on FB.

    1. Thanks! I stain almost every shirt I have. I drink a lot of coffee and invariably, some of it ends up on my clothes. I just had to find a way to save some of these clothes. Especially, now that I have rediscovered sewing! Its such a shame to ruin something you've put so much effort into. I'm glad you like this post!

  3. Great post! How about starch? Does anybody use it anymore?

  4. I find lemon juice (fresh squeezed) can be a good resource as well

  5. I don't know a lot about starch. I remember my grandma using it all the time but I actually thought it went out of style and wasn't sold anymore. It did go out of style, but it is still sold. I found a homemade recipe below...and I learned that starch can keep collars from yellowing. (read on to find out how...)

    I found this at: http://frugalliving.about.com/od/colthing/r/Spray_Starch.htm

    Make your own spray starch, and enjoy crisp collars and pleats on the cheap.


    1 heaping tablespoon corn starch
    1 pint cold water
    1-2 drops essential oil (optional)


    1. Combine the cornstarch and water in a bowl, and stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. (The mixture will be milky in color)

    2. Add in a couple drops of essential oil for fragrance, if desired.

    3. Then, transfer to a spray bottle, and use.

    1. For best results, shake before each use.

    2. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly.
    Did You Know?

    Commercially-produced spray starch usually contains formaldehyde!
    Starching clothes actually makes them last longer because dirt and perspiration sticks to the starch and not to the fabric

  6. wow wow...so many helpful tips...thanks for putting them all together. I use a lot of vinegar, bicarbonate and peroxide too for stain removal. Adding salt to the washing to enhance color of clothes is very helpful. I find that colors fade very quickly after every washing. I used the dryer for bed sheets only...my son tried to shrink a big T-shirt to fit him better but it didn't work. haha..


  7. Very good tips. I actually made your laundry soap and I use it on my floors too!

  8. Woolite is too costly for delcates. Baby shampoo is a cheap alternative for delicates. It sells for about 99 cents/bottle and I've never had a problem.

  9. I'm going to print this and tape it up in my utility room. thanks

  10. Wow! Amazing! When I was in collage a bunch of "restored" our faded black jeans by adding strong brewed tea to the final rinse. I am sure there is a better way but that is the one I still use. I have the stuff on hand and its easy.

  11. For a fresh tea or coffee stain, immediately pour boiling water over the stain until it disappears. Or, soak the stain with borax and water, then wash as usual. On old stains, make a paste of borax and water, leave on for 15 minutes, then wash as usual. Works like a charm.

    1. I get coffee stains on my shirts all the time! Thanks I will try the borax paste trick.

  12. I've used the foaming carpet cleaners to clean stained jackets (the plastic/vinyl ones that are parkas and lots of ski-jackets have) for years. Put some on, let it sit for 20 minutes and wash in warm water. Presto! Works every time!

  13. I worked in a used store for a few years. We would fill a bucket with the hottest tap water we could run and add a cup of Chlorox and a cup of Cascade. We would soak clothes that were stained in it overnight. Almost every stain came out.

  14. As a last resort, I find Lysol gets a lot of stains out. I noticed once on the back of the bottle that it said 'safe for wash" and I tried it. I wouldn't use it every time, but when I have a really bad stain I try that.

  15. I read this at Real Simple.com and thought of this post: Fabric softener sheets are convenient to use, but they're much more expensive than liquid softeners. You can make your own drier sheets and save money. Just moisten an old facecloth with 1 teaspoon liquid softener and put it into the tumble drier with your next load.

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