Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ask Red: Laundry Quandry

Dear Red,

No matter what stain remover I use, some stains just won't come out. No matter how fresh the stain is or how vigorously I rub the fabric together I still see shadows of stains. I read your blog about not using bleach. I have to wonder how white are your whites? Do you have shadow stains on your clothes? I need to know what I'm missing because this is costing me time and money.


Dear Chelsea,

I'm glad that you are trying so hard to remain green and inexpensive in your laundering. It sounds like you need to make two adjustments. The first adjustment is how you treat the stain.

First, you have to fully saturate the stain. You may want to lay the garment over a piece of cardboard so there will be no stain transfer. Second you will need more friction on the stain than rubbing the fabric together can cause. By rubbing the fabric together you are merely transferring the stain from one part of the garment to another. Try buying a dish brush, one with a refillable reservoir would be a great option as you can fill it with stain remover. Brush the stain being careful not to harm the fabric. This causes the stain to lift rather than smear. If your formula of stain remover doesn't suds up or foam up you need a new formula. This is a great alternative to waiting 5 minutes after treating the stain.

The second adjustment is the water temperature. My whites stay bright as I wash all of my stained clothes (mostly baby and child organic stains) in cold water and then separate the whites and wash the unstained white item in hot or warm water. No bleach needed. No dryer use in between.

Use the following guide to help you.

Protein Stains- cold water

  • Baby food
  • Milk
  • Baby formula
  • Mucous
  • Blood
  • Cheese sauce
  • Mud
  • Cream
  • Pudding
  • Egg
  • Urine
  • Feces
  • Vomit
  • Gelatin
  • White glue; school paste
  • Ice cream

Tannin Stains- hot water

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Beer
  • Berries
  • Coffee
  • Cologne
  • Felt-tip water color pen or washable ink
  • Fruit juice
  • Soft drinks
  • Tea
  • Tomato juice

Oil-based Stains- hot water

  • Automotive oil
  • Hair oil
  • Bacon fat
  • Hand lotion
  • Butter/margarine
  • Lard
  • Car door grease
  • Mayonnaise
  • Collar/cuff greasy rings
  • Salad dressing
  • Cooking fats and oils
  • Suntan oil or lotion
  • Face creams
Inks and dyes, if removable are done so with alcohol. Typically, it takes several washes for the stain to release. Don't be surprised if you just have to "wear out" the stain. If you have a garment that cannot be washed in the temperature required to remove the stain then fill a spray bottle with the required temperature and only treat the stain. Don't dry your stained laundry in the dryer if the stain is still present. It will set the stain.

Dear Red,

I use a public laundromat and I don't have money to waste quarters on the dryer. I hate being there all day so I use the big dryers and hope that all my clothes are dry. But they never are. Is there a way to speed this up without going broke?


Dear Tricia,

You're playing with a loaded deck at the laundromat. The dryers are not as hot as a home dryer which causes patrons to use them longer by adding more quarters. The ones that are as hot only last about 12 minutes including the cool down which does no one any good. Here is what you do. Don't be so anxious to throw the load straight from the washer to the dryer. Wait for all of your wet laundry and sort them as follows: towels, jeans, linens, everything else. Towels are designed to hold moisture so they make everything else wet. Dry them alone and they are done in half the time. Jeans are made from a heavy cotton that has the same effect as the cotton and polyester in the towels. It takes more heat the dry them both so dividing them allows the maximum amount of heat to be absorbed. Linens like sheets and blankets don't take longer than clothes but they are larger in size. Clothing gets trapped in the linens causing both to stay wet. As you dry your clothes pull out things like lingerie as it becomes dry. This allows everything else more access to the heat. Do this with all of your dryers.

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