CLEANING: Laundry – Keeping Whites White and General Stain Removal
We have white towels. We have white washcloths. We have white hand towels and bathmats. Then there are our white napkins, tablecloths, sheets, and pillowcases. While all of these can be “standard issue” in a household, the white can be an underlying issue. Fair warning—long post.
When I was growing up, I thought everything should be white because you could bleach it clean. Put in washer. Add soap and bleach. Wash. Ta da! White again. This, however, was not how our housekeeper saw it. She believed that everything should be dark colours. Her rationale? “If it stains and the spot does not come out, you will never see it on dark colours.”
Enter, my grandmother. Apparently, NOT the right thing to say. And so, the lessons began.
Today, flipping to the back of Grandmother’s cookbook, the secrets of old are shared; many I learned as a young girl. Here we go–
- Lift any solids from the fabric. Do not rub as this only presses it further into the fibers of the fabric.
- Be sure to rinse the area(s) in cold water making the water flows through the fabric the reverse way the stain was created to keep it from permeating further into the fibers. Rinse as much of the residue as possible.
- Pre-treat and wash. Aside: We will forgo the discussions of boiling whites because that is not happening at my house.
End Grandmother’s notes. Now enters Alice and her cleverness, aka, tips/tricks learned through trial and error, and a few friends along the way.
I fully check tablecloths and sheets before they are ever removed to launder. I pre-treat simple stains with Spray ‘n’ Wash® stick where the fabric lays, then I remove and wash.
Some stains are tough! Depending on the stain type, there are ways to fight back. Chocolate, blood, lipstick, mascara, and rust (from hard water and old pipes) have always been challenges. So, here is what works for me—
Yes, definitely complete steps 1 and 2 above.
Protein stains like oil-based lipstick/make-up, blood, cooking oils, meats
- Dawn® dish washing liquid (safe for the environment, so great when camping, too) – Rub concentrate into stain until stain is mostly/all gone. Wash as usual.
- Spray ‘n’ Wash stick – So there is a story behind this. It does tend to work well if you act quickly. Sometimes I can even let it sit in the laundry basket until more pressing things are washed and out of the way; however, the stick does not work as well as the original Spray ‘n’ Wash aerosol from years ago. The reason? Phosphates, which were exceptional for destroying proteins, were removed from cleaners when deemed they were not safe for the environment. Nevertheless, with proper attention, the stick works well. Other people I know use Tide® sticks, but I stick to tried and true for me.
- Wash with laundry soap and a full cup of baking soda. We will come back to the baking soda part.
- LOTS of cold water until you get it ALL out, if possible.
- Pre-treat any remaining visible signs with liberal amounts of Spray ‘n’ Wash stick.
- Wash in cold water, laundry soap, and a full cup of baking soda.
- LOTS of cold water until you get it ALL out, if possible.
- Depending on the fabric and freshness of the blood, hydrogen peroxide works great! I learned that at a hospital when I wanted to save a little baby’s cap for a keepsake. Old blood is more of a challenge.
Old blood/rust/age spots – These are the awesome ones!
- Efferdent! Yes, Efferdent—the denture cleaning tablets. Get a tub and liberally use the tablets, possibly, multiple times or even starting again with new tablets. Do not worry if the Efferdent is blue, the colour will dissipate. Believe me, I panicked the first time I saw the blue. I have never had any issues with the blue adversely affecting the fabric. Be patient! It could take a few days, but if the item is important to you, it is worth it to do it right. I brought a family heirloom Christening gown back to white with absolutely no distress to the gown.
- Hydrogen peroxide—Depending on the fabric and freshness of the blood, hydrogen peroxide works great! I learned that at a hospital when I wanted to save a little baby’s cap for a keepsake. Old blood is more of a challenge. Persevere, but be prepared for less fortunate results, just in case.
- Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover—Use as directed. It even removed dried blueberry juice from my grandmother’s damask napkin; I missed one when initially washing the tea napkins. Warning, in this case, the stain turned black as soon as the spot remover was applied. I shrugged, figuring it would work, or not. No risk at that point. I could not use the napkin with the stains. And, it worked! Absolutely no sign of the stains.
Back to the baking soda discussion . . . This helps keep everything fresh without fragrance and can help keep your washing machine smelling fresh, too. I buy it in large bags and use about two per month; I use it on all the laundry in the house. With regular use, it also helps neutralize body musk in clothing and sheets.
Just for fun, here are renditions of some similar tips I found. Let me know what works for you!
- Sprinkle baking soda over the stain and rub it gently into the fabric with a clean, soft cloth until the stain is gone. Do this before laundering as usual.
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and water and pour it over the stain. Allow the area to saturate for 20 to 30 minutes before gently scrubbing the area with a clean, soft cloth. When the stain is gone, launder the garment as usual.
- Rinse the garment immediately with warm running water to remove as much of the stain as possible. Apply 3% hydrogen peroxide to a clean, white cloth, and dab the area to remove the rest of the stain before washing the garment as usual.
- Cut a lemon in half and rub it all over the stained area making sure that it’s completely saturated. Place the garment outside in the sunshine for at least an hour. Launder the garment as usual.
Please share your tips/tricks in the comments!