Tip Tuesday — Dirty Laundry

When I was pregnant, people repeatedly warned me about the increased amount of laundry I would have to deal with once the little bubba came tumbling down and out into the world.

I sort of believed them. I nodded my head and smiled. I thought, “How much extra laundry can she really generate? Her clothes are so SMALL!” And I was right. She did only create about one extra load of laundry per week, a load which I washed in special dye and fragrance-free baby detergent.

And I was wrong, because what they didn’t tell me was how many more pairs of dirty clothes I would go through myself. I am constantly covered with inexplicable goo. I can’t “explic”, for example, the dots of crusty something that are dribbled down the right leg of my jeans as I type this and I don’t much care to solve that mystery.

The mystery we are here to solve today is how to deal with this barrage of filth in a timely and semi-organized fashion and actually get it clean enough to eat off of, because that’s probably what we’ll end up doing with it anyway. (Don’t tell me you haven’t picked up a cheerio or two from your -eh-hem- “nursing shelf” and popped it into your mouth to dispose of it.)

As a mother of two small children, I could tell you what works best to keep me out of the laundry-induced cookoo bin. I actually just did type out our entire laundry routine but it was so boring and obnoxious that I deleted it. I guess you’ll have to buy the book.

Instead I’ll give my number one laundry tip. The tip is called “the special solution.” (Seeing it written out like that, it actually looks sort of sinister.) I’m not sure where my mom got this but it has been a lifesaver many many times indeed. The solution is made by mixing 1 cup of bleach with 1 cup of powder dishwasher detergent, added to a washer full of hot water. Let the water and the other ingredients agitate for a few seconds. Then add the clothes. For really bad stains, you can soak it overnight and then let the load run through.

I use this for cleaning all my whites and they come out beautifully white every time. The real joy of the “special solution” (besides it’s creepy name) is that something in the dishwasher powder makes the bleach semi-color safe. It doesn’t work on everything. It will usually fade bright colors some and sometimes makes the colors totally wonky. However, if you’re desperate, throw a stained colored item in this solution and you’ll frequently have great results. I’ve gotten impossible stains out of khaki pants and pale-colored baby clothes with this. It is a GEM.

One more tip — GOJO. It’s one brand name of the stuff mechanics use to clean the grease off their hands. I can’t find that particular brand here in Washington but I found something similar at the car parts store. It is whitish and comes in a sour-cream sized container. (Don’t get any of the orange or other fruity varieties. You just want the original white stuff.) This works wonders for getting grease stains out of clothes, even if they’ve been through the dryer. Have you ever found an empty chapstick in your basket of clean clothes, only to discover that every article is covered in tiny splatters of set-in grease? If you scrub at it with GOJO, your clothing may just have a fighting chance. Oh, and it’s super-cheap.

That’s what I got. Share yours please.

With my first child the question was “How many times a day can I change her out of dirty clothes into clean ones?” With number two I wonder, “How many times can he spit up on an outfit or get spilled on before I consider it ”˜dirty’?”

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58 Responses to Tip Tuesday — Dirty Laundry

  1. blackbird says:

    I can’t have bleach in my house EVER.
    I would be just MAKING the special solution and ruin what I was wearing.
    (although I suppose I could mix it while nude – but that sounds dangerous as well, ahem.)
    A kind reader told me about Biz and I have been liking it very much indeed.
    The only problem, is, that it is only available at Target and so one bottle ends up costing $150.
    As for the mountains?
    I throw a load in every morning before I wake the kids – which doesn’t necessarily mean I go back down there during the day, but on a motivated day it gets things started.

  2. I have no special laundry tips as I can hardly handle the laundry for two adults in a timely manner, but I just had to say how much I missed you, DYM, and your wonderful blog! Your post on your relationship with Heather made me cry… I’m hoping to catch up with everyone today after being gone for what seems like an eternity. BTW- thanks for the “special solution”- my husband’s shirt could use that!

  3. Kristina says:

    I have one word – OxyClean! No generic version works worth anything. I throw a scoop in each load and it takes out virtually everything. With my new baby, there has not been any spit-up stains (or other varied stains) on one piece of clothing! Amazing. It will even remove blood (one of the boys has nosebleeds constantly) that has dried. Chef Boyardee stained stuff, no problem. The stuff works good for other things as well. If something looks real bad, I will either soak it in a bucket with a scoop or 12 and hot water; otherwise, I just fill the washer up with hot water and let the laundry presoak for a half hour. I automatically presoak all of the baby’s light clothes anyway.

    When the twins were younger, they decided it would be neat to get into my craft paints and squeeze about 30 bottles of it all over my bedroom floor. The reds and purples came out of the carpet with ease. Just, don’t umm, think you are smart and uh, umm, put it into the tank of your carpet cleaner. It will clog up the heater. *whistling*

    The new Spray-N-Wash stuff in the bottle with the 2 different liquids in it works well for crayon-laden clothing that has managed to sneak through the dryer. I sometimes use the Stain Stick to put on stains when they happen (if I think about it) and throw it into the basket until I get around to washing it.

  4. Nettie says:

    With 4 kids I got tired of lugging laundry and have enlisted the help of the masses.
    Each kid has an assigned dirty clothes hamper they sort the contents of into a laundry sorter during their after school routine. Whenever a section of the sorter is full I throw in a load and set the obnoxiously incessant timer on the stove to remind me to finish. On top of the dryer each kid has a rectangular basket that I fold DIRECTLY into from the dryer. The kids put away the contents of their clean clothes basket as part of their after school routine, too. No more walking into my bedroom, ready to crash for the night, only to discover the mountain of laundry on my bed that I MEANT to fold earlier!

    By the way, new to your blog and LOVE IT!

  5. Hey, I love the new header. Did I already tell you that?

    Let’s see, laundry….I’m with Kristina on the OxyClean–a must-have. Also, I’ve found that if I COMPLETELY do a load each day (including fold and put away), I will stay on top of it. Now, don’t ask me how often I actually ACCOMPLISH that.

    Oh, and another one. I”ve started using Sun detergent from Wal Mart (don’t know if it’s available elsewhere). It works really well, but best of all, it is SUPER cheap.

  6. Gabriela says:

    Ok, here’s a tip from a with-it friend and mom of 5 in Washington D.C.: everynight at bath time she would give her kids a stain stick and let them search out and treat their stains from the day before they threw them in the hamper.

    I always thought this was a great idea, but it doesn’t work for me because a) I would have to bathe them everyday (kidding, sort-of), and b) it scares me to give them a stain stick, I have seen their handiwork with a chapstick.

  7. kate says:

    20 Mule Team Borax. It’s cheap, comes in a huge box, and gets any stain out. Even the tri-vi-sol vitamins that somehow escape the dropper and get on my daughter’s shirts (under the bib…crazy!). You can make a paste and smoosh it into the stains and/or add it to the wash load. It’s awesome.

  8. Shan says:

    Delurking to say that I love OxyClean too. We have our change table in our main floor laundry room. So it’s easy for me to soak a stain right after I take an outfit off my younger daughter. I use the two different coloured liquid stuff too. For grease stains I use a squirt of dishdetergent like Palmolive right on the stain and let it sit for a bit. Like long enough to get the rest of the clothes in the washer.

    The biggest help is I’ve taught my 3 year old that laundry is the coolest thing ever. It’s her favourite chore to do. We have a front loading machine so she can easily move clothes from the washer to the dryer. Added bonus that it keeps her occupied for a while. Now that the weather’s getting nicer I just wish she was tall enough to reach the clothesline.

  9. Lynn says:

    I use GOJO, too! I also really like that Spray & Wash with 2 liquids in the bottle. I have to do 1 – 2 loads a day, or there is no keeping up around here. I also have to make myself fold or put on a hanger as I take the clothes out of the dryer or else it never gets done. The boys’ clothes gets put in their piles for them to put away. The younger 2 also fold and put away towels. The 14 yo has started helping actually wash some loads.

  10. I use the shout stain removing gel to pretreat stains. It works well but is pricey, I usually buy it on sale and stock up. Also, any kind of blood stain, I soak in Peroxide before washing. It works real well. Last fathers day my middle dear son had a bad accident which left his favorite shirt covered in blood. I soaked it in the peroxide over night washed it the next day and ALL of the stains were gone.

  11. Aunt Murry says:

    Here is a laundry tip – but it’s not baby related. It’s for anything ‘oil related’ for those stubborn oil stains, hit it with WD-40 first (discovered while trying to be an artist and being messy with oil paints) and then the GOJO. The will disappear. There used to be a product called Grease Relief that worked wonders but it is no longer in production. Oh and for Red Clay stains (for the Oklahoma Moms) Soak it in 409. My Ex hubs played Softball and they always had white T-shirts and bleach would not cut it. Also – Rit Color remover or White Wash is good also. I could almost write a book on Laundry tips…

  12. Liz says:

    My magic trick for stains is stuff like GOJO only it’s called M30 and its $1 at Dollar General. It.rocks. And it lasts forever. I’ve had the same small tub for 4 years now.

    If I fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer, I’m much more likely to go on and put it away right then instead of having the mountain.

    And I’ve decided? to buy cheap towels from now on. Because the nice fluffy ones never dry! It takes 2 dryer cycles, and it’s not the dryer’s fault either. It’s a good little dryer.

  13. Stephanie says:

    I swear by Oxyclean. You throw a scoop in with the baby load and it gets out poop and spit up without pretreating or soaking. And it hasn’t affected my son’s sensitive skin. It also gets grease stains out of my clothes, and those mystery spots. As well as those dribbles down your boobs that you get from trying to cram lunch while holding a baby. Oxyclean gets out dried Kool-aid and hair dye with soaking!!

  14. Julie says:

    I thought I was the only one that had chapstick go through the dryer – again just last week. Can’t wait to try these.

    Sort of off topic – but if you’re looking for an AWESOME carpet spot cleaner try Folex. You can get it at Wal-Mart. It’s in a white bottle w/ purple writing that looks like it’s home bottled or something. Gets wine out of carpet.

  15. smartmama says:

    way to lazy for special solutions — i try to boost the confidence of my tide and washer(dynamic duo) by throwing even the toughest stains into them (with no pretreatment) and if i notice shotty work as i am transferring to the dryer- i scold the dynamic duo, tell them I expect better of them and offer them a second chance (yep thats my tip- give it another round – also a good tip for letting your dishwasher-know you expect them to really scrub-

    you’d be amazed at what they really can handle

  16. Heth says:

    Another plug for Oxy Clean, but I love the spray on stuff, not e powder. I go through a bottle a month, my kids are very, very messy.

    Also, I never pull my clothes out of the dryer and put them in a basket to fold “later”. It never happens. I fold them straight from the dryer into everyone’s baskets. We all have a basket and we are all responsible for putting our own clothes away. I put away the little ones’. I hang all shirts, even t-shirts.

    Laundry, Ugh. I get it all caught up and then everyone undresses and I have another load and a half. Wahhhh.

  17. kfk says:

    Laundry is my enemy and I treat it as such. I stay away from it as long as possible until it reaches its “bubbling point.” I usually can tell this when I no longer have any underwear left in my drawer (I have lots of underwear, by the way). So, when it comes time to fight the enemy, I use Clorox Stain Out, which is great. For seriously stained socks and 4-year old skid-mark underwear, straight to the garbage they go. I use Tide, which I like. I have a front load washing machine, which I hate. Sometimes the enemy stays locked up in its centrifuged state for days and then must undergo the torture chamber for another round of swishy-swashy madness. When it reaches the heating cage, it then must hunker down in there for a while as well before it is allowed to breathe fresh air again in the laundry basket where it remains for days at a time until it has been sufficiently picked through and then the remainder is finally folded and put away. I don’t like ironing either.

  18. Queen Beth says:

    Sheesh….your comment roll is getting as long as Ellen’s. Do you read them all? Is there any point in me commenting after 30 some comments already? I will comment anyway because….well….I just adore you! 🙂

    One word: Stainstick.

    I cannot tell you how many items of clothing that little stick has saved me. I take it on every vacation, picnic, camping, you name it. Put it on the soiled item and as it sits waiting to be washed, it magically works on the stain so it comes out.


  19. Amber says:

    Errr….where does hiring a housekeeper fit into that mix? 🙂

  20. beckylou says:

    My sil uses a special solution somewhat similar to yours. It’s 1/3 Wisk laundry detergent, 1/3 lemon scented sudsing ammonia and a 1/3 hot water (when making and mixing it the first time…it doesn’t have to be hot when applied to the stain). It takes everything out! And if it doesn’t take it out the first time, spray it on and wash it again and it’ll surely come out. But be warned…you will need a mask or a fan blowing directly at your face so that you can breathe while spraying your mound of stained clothes. It’s a sinus-cleaner too. I guess I should have added that before…. 🙂

  21. mimi says:

    This obviously work for very samll children, but even at the age of four, my kids started to do parts of there own laundry. At four they seperate (great teaching aid too!), and then as they get older the more they do. My eight, amost nine year old can do it all, if I don’t care how they are folded. Saves me time and the I don’t end up with a kid that can’t do his own laundry in college.

    My other tip is not exactly something you can pick up at Target, but a front loading washer is amazing!! Less water, bigger loads, less detergent, less wear and tear on your clothes and better stain fighting. I’m not sure how it does better with the stains but it does. The best part however, is that my one year old will stare at the laundry going around (there’s a window) and try to catch the bubbles for hours. Well, 15 min., but that is HOURS in baby time.

    Lastly, Zout Stain Remover. It will get out anything. It was recommended by a store clerk at one of those stores that sells department store cast offs. The pants had ink from one of those ink tag, anti shoplifting things. It’s meant to ruin the pants, but Zout got it right out. It’s also endorsed by that super house cleaning lady, whatever her name is.

  22. Keltybug says:

    With 6 of us in the house I do laundry every other day. I pull everything out as soon as the dryr is done and fold or hang it. I have a huge round coffee table and once everything is washed everyone puts there clothes away.

    We hate Oxy clean….to many dr bills for us. Every last one of the kids are allergic to it. Go figure. I use Borax and spray and wash. Pine sol in the wash is also good for stains. We once had crayons in the wash with my hubbys work clothes but with 2 bottles of goo b gone and the stains were gone. Good as new!

  23. Renee says:

    For berry stains, just boil a pot of water and pour it on the stain. Works for blueberries, strawberries, raspberries – it even removed a pomegranate juice stain from my couch cushion.

  24. andrea says:

    Gads. This place is like homemaker tips central.

    I was listening to a radio programme a couple days ago in which they were discussing “your biggest surprise since having a baby.” I wanted to call in and yell, “LAUNDRY!” I thought I was good to go after the first stopped spitting up every feeding when he was 9 months old. The second turned out to be a full-time drooler for 2 years. So I can relate.

  25. melnel says:

    Fighting different stains in the professional world–PEN or INK on pants!

    Rubbing alcohol takes it right out before you wash it. It’s great. And cheap. And saves a lot on not having to buy new dress pants.

  26. Trivial Mom says:

    Fels Namptha Soap. Thats all I have to say. Put it on anything, lather it up and wash. Its as good as new. You can get it on the laundry aisle usually on the top self. Comes wrapped in a waxy sort of paper, and looks like just a regular bar of soap.

    Seriously. Even stains that have been through the dryer it will get out. The soap leaves a little yellow tinge on the clothes before you wash them, but after they are like new.

    We also use powdered oxiclean, one scoop per load. That stuff works.

  27. Mel says:

    Mix non-chlorine bleach with powdered laundry detergent until it’s paste. Spread that on stains and it will work almost every single time.

    I also vouch for WD-40 on grease stains, even those that have been laundered already. I use it, then dishwashing liquid.

  28. Chilihead2 says:

    I love Carbona stain removers! They come in all different formulas (grass, blood, rust, tea/cola, etc.) and they all WORK. Love. Them.

  29. Leah says:

    Ivory soap.
    My mom could clean anything with Ivory soap. The plain, float in the bathtub, dries your skin out Ivory soap.
    Something to do with it being like a bar of laundry soap.
    But, I swear, I had a pair of white parachute pants as a kid. Grass stains. Blood. Red clay. Really really gross stuff.
    Those pants were always a dazzling white.
    Works wonders on colors as well.

  30. Heidi says:

    GOOP. Really, that’s the name. It’s a cousin (possibly identical) of GOJO.

  31. surcie says:

    I HATE doing laundry because it never gives me a sense of accomplishment. There’s always more to do. But I too like OxyClean (the spray stuff), and I love my new hamper. I bought it from Pottery Barn. It is big and is divided into 3 sections so that you’re sorting your laundry by color as you toss it into the hamper! A small thing, yes, but it makes the chore of washing clothes faster for me.

  32. Amber says:

    I’ve recently decided that we should all be nudists- solves all my laundry issues!

    I’m enjoying everyone else’s tips though… while putting off the stacks and stacks of laundyr upstairs…

  33. GiBee says:

    My laundry tip? Move the washer and dryer on the same level as the bedrooms. Yup! It saves on back pain and laziness, because I don’t have to schlep my clothing two flights down to the basement to wash and two flights up to fold and put away. It’s amazing how much more “on top” of laundry I stay ever since we bought a house with a bedroom level laundry room. In fact, a friend of mine that lives across the street from me made her MASTER BATHROOM smaller (took out the useless soaking tub) and put the washer and dryer in there and made a closet around it. Very clever on her part, and she loves it so close to all the bedrooms.

    Now… what works best to take out those mysterious BABY FORMULA stains that disappear when you wash the article of clothing, and mysteriously re-appear two days after you’ve folded the laundery, put it away, and are now putting something on the baby only to realize… the stain is back???

  34. These tips are so great today.

    Julie – I second the motion on Folex. I’ve tried a ton of carpet spot removers and it is truly amazing.

    Oxyclean check!

    The rest of you, I’m gonna use so many of these tips in the future. Thanks.

  35. dietcokemom says:

    I always say: Unless you’re naked, the laundry isn’t done!

  36. Sugarmama says:

    I’m terrible at laundry. I can barely be troubled to separate darks and whites. I’m just commenting to let you know that I’m catching up on yer blog after a couple days’ absence and it’s just as funny and good as it ever was. Thanks for the naptime laughs!

  37. emlouisa says:

    Oxyclean, baby! I throw in a scoop with the regular wash, and use the spray for stains. If I have a load that needs particular attention (like bibs and stuff) I soak ’em in Oxy for a couple hours. Voila! Beautiful, clean clothes.

  38. Michelle says:

    I wasn’t going to comment since you have a novel’s worth already, but my favorite product isn’t mentioned.
    I’ve just recently discovered Charlies Soap(charliesoap.com). I LOVE this stuff! This is coming from a Texas girl who really “likes” laundry. I’ve had some really nappy, stinky, white towels that I haven’t been able to get a faint sour odor out of for a while. I washed with this stuff and it came out immediately. Not to mention the fact that EVERYTHING I wash comes out wonderfully clean and I don’t even have to use fabric softener. This was a biggie for me, since I’m a little fanatical with softener. Anyway, it’s all natural too –for those of you who are “green”. It also only takes one tablespoon.
    You would think with the plug I’m giving it here that they would give me some sort of commission, huh? oh well. Look it up, it really is good stuff. I’ve already converted two of my sisters (laundry fanatics as well!).
    As long as there are children..there will be laundry. God Bless laundry!

  39. Karen says:

    I second Beth on the Stain Stick, it is far superior to the squirt on stain removers. I’m not kidding. It recently got out four day old chocolate milk spill out of a yellow sweater with no pretreatment. Wowza.

    I also love the Clorox Bleach Pen. It’s awesome. Controlled bleaching on children’s clothes is the best. I can bleach around the little embroidered design on a shirt and get the stains out without ruining the entire shirt. And GiBee- it gets out those magically appearing formula/spit up stains AND banana AND carrot.

    As for getting it done, well, no tips for that. I love the idea from Nettie.

  40. Karen says:

    One more- if any of your are antique linen lovers I highly recommend the bleach pen (in extreme moderation) and OxyClean to soak. I’ve revived some really nasty vintage tablecloths and batiste baby clothing with that stuff. It’s fabuloso.

  41. Kristen says:

    Oh, this is a gem for me!! Everytime I open my dryer and take out my freshly clean clothes, I find some stain that mysteriously appeared between washer and dryer! Always looking for ways to make the evil laundry an easier thing to do! So, I thank you!

  42. Naddin J says:

    I’ve read all 41 previous comments and I guess I’m the ultimate Laundry Loser because no one else has mentioned this yet:

    When I’ve left my washed towels in the washing machine overnight (again) and they take on that not-so-fresh smell, I wash them again on the short cycle with cold water and a cup of vinegar. It takes that musty smell out and I dry them as usual. Good as new!

  43. HLH says:

    BIZ, I swear buy it for baby poop stains, it is the only thing that I have found that works.

    Your special solution sounds good too…I may have to try that on the G’s.

  44. Carrie says:

    I use Oxyclean, too. They have a new Oxyclean spray on for clothes. Love it. Also, for grease stains or run of the mill stains, I just use plain old dish soap and rub it in and let it sit for a bit and then throw in the wash. It works wonders on greasy food stains. All the tips are great.

  45. Kim C. says:

    I like the nude idea.
    In fact, I once heard a mother suggest that we institute a national “Nude Fasting TV Day” to give mothers a break from cooking, cleaning and laundry.
    Who’s with me?

  46. Kim says:

    I have 6 children. My two biggest laundry savers? Okay. Three.

    1. I wash everyday, except Sunday
    2. Diluted Simple Green is a tremendous stain remover
    3. White vinegar is an awesome fabric softener. Love it!

  47. Jessica says:

    Timely post. I got my DYM shirt in the mail yesterday and promptly changed into it the minute I walked in the door from work. Then my adorable daughter proceeded to spit up all over it. Oh the humanity! But now I guess I can try the special solution on it. Question though — have you tried this on your DYM shirt? If so, did it make the color all wonky? Because I don’t want my DYM shirt to be wonky.

    Definitely will try it on my little one’s clothes, however. My hubby doesn’t understand how bibs are necessary so her clothes have a lot of formula and spit up stains right around the collar. Nice.

  48. My tip is this. Don’t bury yourself in laundry waiting for laundry day. Start one load while watching TV at night. Put it into the dryer before you sleep. When you wake up… fold it first thing, and if you do one each morning, you can stay somewhere near on top of it. Of course, that’s having only one kid. The rest of you… I’m so sorry!

  49. House Warden says:

    One thing my mom used and I have in my house, that works pretty well on poop clothes is Fels Naptha, it’s a yellow bar of soap and does the trick most of the time and cost under $2.00 and last for a LONG time

  50. RGLHM says:

    I am so going to go buy that gojo stuff. Your bleach/dishwasher concoction doesn’t work well in a front load washer I am assuming, b/c you have to mix it before loading the clothes?

    I was once given the tip to use liquid sunlight dish detergent for delicate clothes.

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