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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing “potty” smells from children’s clothing

By Dr. Laundry December 12, 2012

I am potty training and my children seem to have accidents. It can stink pretty bad and is hard to get the smell out in the laundry. It’s not just in the underwear but in the blue jeans or pants they are wearing as well. I don’t have an issue bleaching the underwear, but obviously don’t want to bleach jeans or colored pants. What can I do to get rid of the smell?

Oh the memories… I noticed from your question that you said you are potty training children, so it sounds like you may have twins—it was a big enough challenge for me training one child at a time! I have some good news for you—more often than not, denim blue jeans can be safely laundered with Clorox® Regular-Bleach. You can use the bleachability test to check first. Just add 2 teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach (or if you are using New Concentrated Clorox® Regular-Bleach use 1 ½ teaspoons bleach) to ¼ cup water and apply a drop of that solution to a hidden part of the blue jeans (like inside the pocket facing, or the inside hem). Wait one minute then blot dry—no color change means you can safely bleach the blue jeans! You may also find that if the jeans fade slightly where the drop of test solution was applied, the color change is minimal and something you can live with. You can also use this test to confirm bleachability of the other colored pants—just don’t bother testing leggings or other pants that have spandex in them (check the care label) since spandex will yellow when bleached. Surprisingly, khaki pants are also often bleachable, just be sure to check first because it varies from brand to brand.

For pants that can’t be safely laundered with Clorox® Regular-Bleach, unfortunately there isn’t an alternative product that sanitizes any and all colored laundry. To get the pants as clean as possible, first rinse away the solids prior to laundering. Select a hot wash temperature, and be sure to add the recommended amount of a good detergent. Adding Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster along with your detergent will further improve cleaning. Finally, consider washing the pants alone to limit germ transfer to other items in the load. You may also want to try presoaking with Clorox2®—fill the cap to line 1 and add to 2 gallons hot water. After rinsing away any solids, fully submerge the pants in the soaking solution and let soak for 1 hour. Drain the soaking solution, and then wash in hot water using detergent and Clorox2®.

Of course you can also limit your kids to wearing only bleachable pants until they are potty trained!