College Laundry Tips

Chances are lots of college-bound freshmen are asking for a new computer to take to school this Fall.  But there’s something even more important than a new lap top for back-to-school--a laundry basket full of all the essential supplies a student will need to do the laundry at college, of course!  Not sure how doing laundry works at your student’s college?  That’s not surprising—the question rarely comes up during college tours unless you’re Dr. Laundry and like asking about it.  If you don’t know, you can run a search on your college’s website with the keyword “laundry” and get the information you need before your student leaves home.  Many schools now include free use of laundry machines in the housing contract, so your freshman might get to leave the quarters at home!  Remember, life lessons learned outside of class can be just as important as what’s being covered in lecture, so make sure your favorite student has everything he or she needs to get an A+ in personal management: 

Laundry Basket—small enough to fit easily into the closet, yet sturdy enough to transport clothes and cleaning products is ideal.  Set it on the clothes washer or dryer while the laundry is washing and drying so others will know to find another machine!

XL Twin Sheets—regular twin sheets are too short for most dorm room beds.  Check labels and choose sheets that are bleach friendly.  Many colored sheets can be safely bleached.

Bath Towels—white towels and wash cloths are the easiest to care for, but keep an eye out for bleach-friendly towels if your student prefers color.  Two sets can help make it to the weekend when there’s more time for laundry.

Plastic Hangers—fill the closet with these, and she will already have what she needs when she wants to air dry an item.

Plastic Wall Hook—she’ll need a place to hang that wet towel after his shower so it doesn’t end up on the floor (yuck!), damage the back of a wooden chair, or get a mildewy smell.

Detergent—check the ingredients to make sure it includes enzymes in addition to the cleaning agents

Clorox® Smart Seek™ Bleach—she can include more items in her bleach load with this terrific new product that is safe for many mostly white items with a little color (such as white t-shirts with transfer prints or monogrammed white items).

Measuring Cup—measuring helps use the right amount.  A 55 oz bottle of Smart Seek Bleach can wash about 14 loads, enough for one semester (unless her roommate is always “borrowing” it…)!

Clorox2® Stain Remover & Color Booster—not only can he add it along with detergent to get his dark and mixed color loads super clean, it doubles as a pretreater for hard-to-remove stains.

Having easy to care for textiles and the right products is only the start.  It’s important to have good laundry habits so students can get their laundry clean without the seemingly inevitable mishap.  Here are some basic strategies that will help them succeed:

Sort laundry before washing—keep it simple and sort into three basic color groups:   whites/bleachables, light colors, and darks.

Bleach load goes first—who knows what was in the washer before you got there.  Run the bleach load first (sheets and towels plus any other bleachable items) to freshen the washer before the next load.

Check for stains—pretreat any stains before washing with a little liquid Clorox2® Stain Remover & Color Booster.

Read care labels—know what you are washing, and avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex, and non-fast colors.  Always wash in the warmest water temperature recommended.

This simple approach makes it easy to stay on top of the laundry, and avoid having your student come home at the end of the semester with a mountain of dirty laundry.  If she does (or if her college is close enough to just bring the laundry home any time she needs to run a load), make her do it!  This way she won’t miss an important opportunity to develop independence and problem solving skills, a big part of what college is all about!


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Treating Hamburger Grease

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Treating Flower Pollen

How can I remove flower pollen that got on my clothes?

<p>A big bouquet of lilies may be beautiful, but they can lead to problems when pollen comes into contact with fabric. The good news is the resulting stain can be removed! You can make the job easier by getting as much of the pollen off the fabric before you apply any water or laundry products so have less stain to deal with. Start by brushing or shaking away as much pollen as you can. You can also gently press a little clear cellophane tape to the pollen and lift it away. It's sticky, so any pollen that remains will benefit from being pretreated before you wash it. I don't know what fabric your stain is on, so here are some suggestions for two basic situations:

  1. White, bleach-safe fabrics: Pretreat with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel-apply a little directly to the stain and rub it in with the soft scrubber tip-and then wash immediately in the hottest water recommended using detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Note that you should always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex.
  2. Colored washable fabrics: Pretreat with Clorox2® Stain Fighter and Color Booster-apply a little directly to the stain and rub in-wait 5 minutes, then wash in the hottest water recommended using detergent and more Clorox2®.

Air dry the item, and check to see if the stain is all the way out. You can always repeat the treatment if any residual stain remains. Your chances of complete success increase when you keep the item out of a hot dryer until you know the stain is gone. If your item is labeled "Dry Clean Only" then be sure to point the stains out to the dry cleaner, so it can be properly pretreated before washing.</p>

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Denim Care, Part 2

Once I got over the “ick” factor of the suggestion that blue jeans can go a year without washing, I gave a little thought to the idea of what steps it would take to keep a dark item looking as close to new for as long as possible.  To be fair, why wouldn’t he want his jeans to look like new?  At the point of sale, a garment usually has a finish on it that helps it feel crisp and new, and this finish usually washes off, so I can see why someone would want to put off that first wash cycle as long as possible.  But clothing does get dirty, and you really do decrease your chances of getting something clean if you put off washing it.  So here are some suggestions:

1. Wash the item inside out.
2. Use a front loading washer—it has much more gentle agitation—or hand wash.
3. Use lukewarm water--since it is easier for a dark item to hide the fact that it’s not perfectly clean, it’s less critical to use hot water for the best cleaning at the expense of a dark color.
4. Use detergent and Clorox2® Stain Fighter and Color Booster—you really do want to get the item as clean as possible, don’t you?
5. Squeeze excess moisture out with a towel and hang the item to air dry—dryer heat can be very hard on colors, prematurely fading them, and air drying really does helps decrease fading.

These are great tips for preserving color.  I really like being able to wear my favorite dark items as often as I like and wherever I like, knowing that good laundry practices will keep them wearable longer!

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Denim Care, Part 1

Amazing—You may have seen the news that a well-known denim industry leader , announced that he hasn’t washed his favorite pair of blue jeans in a year, and that by spot treating and occasionally putting them in the freezer, they are clean and don’t smell.  I don’t believe it—yes, he may have owned them for “maybe a year” as he put it, but has he worn them at least once a week, for the majority of the day, out in the real world?  As in seated on the subway or bus?  Sitting in the bleachers at the soccer game?  Leaning against a rock while taking a break on a hike? Standing next to a bbq grill while cooking? Washing the car?
I don’t think he wears his blue jeans the way the rest of us do:  more often and in more situations where they will get dirty.  If he doesn’t think so, then he should swap out his blue jeans for a pair of white jeans, and see how they look after 3-4 wearings.  Depending on where and how long he wears them, they may not be very dirty at all.  I have a pair of white capris that I love wearing in the summer, and I work really hard to keep them clean while I am wearing them, but try as I might, after a few wearings they show the dirt!  Just because blue denim hides dirt better than white denim doesn’t mean it isn’t dirty!  It’s that acceptance that my blue jeans are getting just as dirty as my white capris that lands them in the laundry basket after they’ve been worn a few times.  I can’t even imagine what a pair of white jeans that were worn twice a week for a year would look like if they were never laundered and only spot cleaned!
I do think his recognition of the scarcity of water is an important consideration.  But washing ones laundry less frequently really isn’t the answer.  The best way to conserve water in the laundry is to invest in a new “high efficiency” model that uses much less water than a traditional top loading washer, and avoid washing small loads.  And if buying multiple pairs of the same jeans is necessary to spread wear and tear over several pairs to reduce the need to wash them, then maybe this isn’t about saving water!

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Outside the Laundry Room: A Bleach Tip to Keep Bouquets Fresher

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Washing Red Gauze

How do I wash a red gauze dress without it bleeding?

Red garments are notorious for bleeding, so it’s really good to be aware of that! It’s actually pretty typical for darker colored items to have dye come off in the wash water the first few times they are washed, and for that reason it’s always a good idea to wash new items separately until any excess dye is removed. Even after that, darker items can still lose some dye (blue jeans are a good example) so it’s still important to sort older items into darks, mixed light colors, and whites for washing.

 I don’t know if you have a new dress that hasn’t been washed before, or if you have a dress that has continued to bleed even after several washes. If it’s new, definitely wash it by itself so you can determine how much of a bleeder it might be. After a few washes, bleeding should have diminished enough so that you can wash it along with dark blue, and black items. Some people swear by home remedies for fixing dye such as rinsing with salt or vinegar—these methods generally don’t stop bleeding—but they do seem to work simply because as part of the process, the item is rinsed multiple times. It’s the multiple rinsing that removes the extra dye from the fabric.

If your dress has been washed multiple times and continues to bleed heavily, then it sounds like the dye wasn’t completely fixed (made fast) onto the fabric.  In that case, you could try fixing the dye with a product called Retayne, which is typically available at fabric and craft stores. How effective that will be depends on which type of dye was used to color the red dress, as well as the fabric content of the dress, but it’s definitely worth considering. Be sure to check the product instructions to make sure Retayne is compatible with the dress!



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Treating an Unknown Stain

Treating An Unknown Stain

I have many nice golf shirts with unknown stains on the front. These are possibly from my small dog, who loves to lay on my stomach. These are expensive shirts that have been washed (cold), but dried.

 It sounds like you have a nice dog, and if your dog is older, there is a good chance that you’ve correctly identified the source of the stains! What color are your golf shirts? If they are white and bleachable (always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex) then try washing them in hot water using a good detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Washing in cold water really lowers cleaning performance (as you have found), so I would expect a huge improvement switching to hot water, even if the shirts have already been through a dryer cycle. I would also air dry the shirts after washing, so you can repeat the bleach wash if necessary to get the stains all the way out.

 If your shirts have color (or are white and include even a small amount of spandex), then wash them in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and Clorox2® Stain Fighter and Color Booster. If the care label recommends cold water, however, then I would at least try warm. It could be the lower wash temperature is recommended to preserve the color of the shirt, but you can also do that by air drying the shirts on an ongoing basis. If the shirts can handle it, washing in hot water will get you the best stain removal results, so if you end up needing to repeat the treatment, try increasing the wash temperature to hot.

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Removing Foundation Marks on Towels

How do you clean makeup (foundation) stains from washcloths that have already been through the wash several times. Can they be restored to the original white color?

This is a great question! How helpful that the washcloths are white—that gives you more options for getting the stains out! Since it sounds like you have a lot of washcloths, I would presoak them using a good liquid detergent before running them through another wash cycle. Start with a capful of detergent added to 2 gallons hot water and stir to mix. Add the washcloths and let them soak overnight (up to 8 hours). The concentrated soaking solution, hot soaking temperature, and extra time will each help dissolve the oily component of the makeup, which is probably what you have left at this point. The next day, drain the soaking solution, and then run the washcloths through a hot wash cycle using detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach. This will help remove any remaining color component of the stain.

After washing, it’s a good idea to let the washcloths air dry so you can check for success. If it looks like the stains are gone, you can always dampen them slightly and then run them through a tumble dry cycle to make them more fluffy. These steps will hopefully restore your washcloths. Your chances of eventual success are higher if the washcloths have not been through a hot dryer (and why I recommend letting items air dry until you know a stain is all the way out).

 For make-up stains you may end up with in the future, another good technique for getting them out is to try pretreating them before washing with a little liquid dishwashing detergent. Apply a few drops directly to the stains. Use just a few drops—liquid dishwashing detergent is very concentrated—and let it soak into the stains for 5 minutes. Next, wash the washcloths using hot water, a good detergent, and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach. The hotter the water the better—if you have a standard deep-fill washer, you may want to monitor the temperature of the incoming water to make sure it’s hot. Clothes washers that are far away from a home’s hot water heater can end up washing in warm or luke-warm water! You may want to start your washer to fill and check the incoming water temperature—once it’s hot, stop the washer and advance the dial to drain the colder water. When you restart the washer you really will get the “hot” temperature you have selected. It may be that your selected wash temperature is on the low end, and why the make-up stains aren’t coming out very well in the first place.



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Removing Deodorant Stains Part Two

I love white and wear a lot of white, but my roll-on deodorant stains quite badly under the armpits – it only takes a few wears before it starts to look really bad! I haven't been able to get rid of them just by using bleach in the washing machine. Just wondering if you have any other suggestions?


Roll-on deodorants need extra time to air dry on the skin before putting on a shirt, otherwise the deodorant can transfer immediately onto clothes, not just along with your sweat over the course of your day.  That could be why the problem happens so quickly and is so pronounced.  Allowing your roll-on deodorant enough time to dry will help keep freshly applied deodorant off your clothes.  But that won’t completely solve the problem—depending on how much you sweat, you will likely still end up with some mixture of perspiration, body soil, and deodorant on your clothes. 

If your body chemistry is such that you produce a lot of sweat, then you definitely want to wear a shirt only once before washing so the deodorant and sweat stains don’t build up too much.  When you wash your shirts, try pretreating the underarm area with a little liquid laundry detergent that contains an enzyme (check the ingredient list to be sure).  Do this every time you wash a shirt—don’t wait until you have a big stain—to prevent the problem from building up in the first place.  All you need to do is apply a little detergent directly to the underarm area of your shirt, wait 5 minutes, then wash the shirt in the hottest water recommended on the care label. 

Adding bleach along with your detergent will also improve your results—I just want to clarify that not all white items are safely bleachable.  You should always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex.  Check the care label to be sure—for your white items that you can safely bleach (cotton, cotton/poly blends, polyester, nylon) add ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach along with your detergent. This should keep the problem under control.

For the stained shirts that you already have, you can try restoring them using a recommendation often provided in clothes washer user’s guides.  Here’s a little more detail on how to do it.

1. Working into a dishpan, pour boiling water slowly through each armpit stain.  This is to “melt” any build-up (a combination of deodorant, sweat, body soil, bacteria, etc.)  It will help if you position the shirt in the dishpan before you start so that you can get to each stain without touching the shirt since once you begin – it will be boiling hot!

2. Don’t rinse the shirt—just pour off as much of the hot water as you can.  This keeps the build-up in a more “melted” state.  And if you do need to handle the shirt either use kitchen tongs or wear gloves.

3. Apply a mixture of 1:1:1 parts baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and water directly to the stain.  Sometimes this is referred to as a paste, but it is actually quite watery, so be sure to mix up enough so you can saturate the stains.

4. Rinse the shirt, and then follow up with a hot water wash with a good enzyme-containing detergent + ½ cup Concentrated Clorox® Regular-Bleach.

5. Air dry the shirt and check for success—heavy build up may require repeating the treatment to fully remove it, and keeping the shirt out of a hot dryer will increase your chances of success. 

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