Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dirty secrets, clean tricks...

I might throw occasional homemaking tips and articles into this blob, but this is probably the only laundry advice you'll ever receive from me. Laundry duty has always been my arch enemy and continues to be even after writing the following article, which I hoped would help.
Dirty secrets, clean tricks: laundry tips from a novice washerwoman
Shenandoah Journal, The (Dayton, VA) - Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Author: Regina Cyzick Harlow
When my editor asked me to write a column on laundry tips, I chuckled.

When I told my husband, he laughed outright.

He knows my strategy is to wash and dry clothes on Monday, use clothes out of the dryer until Wednesday, move the clothes to a laundry basket until Saturday when I finally get around to folding them or I need the dryer for another load of clothes.

I humbly admit I have never been an authority on laundry. During most of my childhood, we used an old-fashioned wringer washer, two washtubs and a clothesline. My family of seven children had no problem dirtying enough clothes for six to eight loads every Monday and Friday.

Granted, there was an art to our laundry system back then. Since all the laundry would be washed in the same water, we sorted the clothes in piles from dirty to dirtiest.

Each pile would be placed in the machine, put through the wringer into the rinse tub, swished around, then through the wringer again into the softening tub. After one final time through the wringer, into the basket they went. Several of my siblings nearly lost a finger, and almost an arm, between the tightly rolling wringers.

Clothes were hung on a line to dry, with the exception of dresses, which swung on hangers from a chain draped between the columns of our front porch. Since there were five women who wore dresses daily, washdays provided quite a display. Our house was often identified in the community as "the one with the dresses hanging on the front porch."

That was the extent of my laundry training. I didn't learn about fabric care, the difference between cold and hot water washing or even stain removal.

Now I have a family of my own and a super capacity, commercial quality, high efficiency washer.

But I'm still learning through trial and error.

I tried those new laundry sheets with pre-measured detergent, fabric softener and anti-static all in one. The pre-measured detergent became a problem when I wanted to wash a small load or stuff the washer to capacity.

I also unintentionally covered one of my white shirts in bright yellow pollen while working in the flowerbed and instead of trying to remove the stain before washing it, I am now working at it two washes later with little to no hope of ever removing the stain.

But after snooping around for laundry tips on the Internet, I found I might have reason to hope. I even found some great tips and laundry recipes in my "Mennonite Country Style Recipes" cookbook by local homemaker Esther H. Shank.

Although I doubt I'll ever become obsessed with laundry care, I might at least learn to care about laundry.

So besides the obvious garment testing for color fastness and using cold water for darks, here are a few tips that might help you (and me) the next time we run into a laundry debacle.


Always put detergent into the washer and let it dissolve before adding clothes.

Place delicates in a pillowcase and tie the end before machine washing to eliminate some of the roughness of the wash cycle.

Stain Removal

Use an old toothbrush to rub stain remover into the fabric.

To take care of deodorant stains: Use an enzyme detergent or a detergent with bleach alternatives. Apply pre-wash spray every third or fourth washing to prevent deodorant stains. Sponge white vinegar on the stains, wait 30 minutes, then launder garments in hottest water safe for the fabric.

Sprinkle a generous amount of cornstarch or baby powder on grease stains, let sit for a few minutes, then brush off powder and wash garment.

To prevent bleeding of colors and brighten dark clothes, add a scoop of regular salt or Oxi Clean with every load.

When all else fails, Esther Shank says to take the stained item outside at night and lay it on an area of clean grass where the sun will hit it first thing in the morning. Let the dew settle on the garment and the next morning the sun will magically take the stain away. (Make sure to discuss your need for plenty of dew and sunshine with the weatherman before hand.)


Include a few tennis balls in each dryer cycle to reduce drying time and fluff clothing.

Pour a few capfuls of fabric softener on an old dishtowel and throw it in the dryer as a fabric softening sheet. Add more softener every 10-15 loads or when you start noticing static. (Use a towel that is distinct from your other laundry.)

When using a clothesline, always hang clothes inside out to prevent fading from the sun.

To avoid unsightly marks, place clothespins in less obvious places such as the underarm of the garment.


For stubborn creases, sponge crease with white vinegar and press with warm iron.

To remove burnt starch on iron, rub iron with aluminum foil.

These tips were taken from www.laundrytipsntricks.com, www.kitchen.robbiehaf.com and Mennonite Country Style Recipes.

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