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12 Frugal Laundry Tips That Will Save You A Fortune

If you’ve ever suffered the heartbreak of stains, unbearable stink, and other kinds of annoying laundry issues—or just want to know the secrets to get laundry super clean and smelling fantastic—you’re going to love this! These laundry hacks will elevate you to laundry genius in no time.

A kitchen with a sink and a window

Dried on latex paint

Getting any kind of paint on clothes or other items you care about is awful. Even if latex paint is dried on for a long time—on laundry items, car upholstery, or even carpet—here’s the way to remove it: Lacquer thinner. Not paint thinner or mineral spirits. It must be lacquer thinner (find it in the paint aisle of your home improvement store or Amazon).

Do this in a well-ventilated area: Using a clean white cloth (so you don’t transfer dye or color to make the problem even worse), saturate that paint stain with the lacquer thinner. Allow it to soften for a few minutes, then rub and scrub until it’s gone. Launder as usual, or in the case of carpet, rub and scrub then rinse well. 

Or acrylic paint

Acrylic paints can be tricky to remove from your clothes once dry, but here’s a method that will work most of the time. If your shirt is already ruined you don’t have much to lose by giving this a try: 

Soak a clean white cloth with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Now saturate the paint stain. Super saturate it, get it really wet. Use that cloth to really scrub that stain until it begins to lift. Continue with more rubbing alcohol until the stain has disappeared. Launder as usual.  

Laundry scent booster

The only thing I miss about the commercial laundry detergent I used to use (before I stared to make my own that’s cheaper and so much better) is the scent it left behind. Sure, I know I can buy laundry products like Downy Unstoppables or Arm and Hammer Scent Boosters Clean Sensations, but I save a lot of money making my own laundry scent booster—and I know what’s in it. 

Pour 2 cups Epsom salt into a big bowl along with 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil. Hint: 15 drops each of lavender oil and lemon oil make for a wonderful, clean scent. Stir well to combine. Allow to sit and dry in the open air for an hour or so, then transfer to a clean glass jar and apply the lid. Label clearly. 

To Use: Add about 1 tablespoon of Laundry Scent Booster to the washing machine before loading the clothes and or linens. Even with laundry detergent and vinegar rinse you’ll notice a subtle clean, fresh smell once the laundry dries. 

Stinky towels

No matter how many times you wash towels and other laundry items you just cannot get rid of the disgusting sour, mildewy odor. They’ve become stiff and scratchy and have begun to repel rather than absorb water. The problem is clear evidence of a build-up bacteria that continue to live along with soap and softeners that have not been rinsed out—despite having been previously washed and dried.

This will be a two-step process. Vinegar contains acetic acid that breaks down mineral deposits and dissolves the build-up of detergent and fabric softeners. Baking soda is alkali and breaks down dirt and grease and neutralizes odors. Used together they counteract one another. To fix this problem, you want them to do their work independently. This will strip the residue and leaves them fresh and able to absorb more water again.

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Wash #1

Load towels into the washer loosely set it for a long wash cycle and fill with the hottest water you can manage. Turn the water heater up to 140F for this event. Or boil water on the stovetop then carefully transport it to the washer. The point is that the water must be very hot to kill the bacteria. Add two cups of white vinegar to the load. Allow it to run the entire cycle then leave the towels in the washer.

Wash #2:

Fill the machine once more with the hottest water possible. This time add 1 cup baking soda. Run the entire cycle.

Dry completely

Whether you hang the towels outdoors or put them in the dryer, make sure they are completely and thoroughly dry. Now smell them. If they do not smell fabulously clean, repeat Wash #1 and Wash #2 as necessary until the smell is completely gone. The investment you’ve made in these towels makes them worth the effort.

Yellow underarm stains

Armpit stains on white t-shirts are caused by the reaction between antiperspirant ingredients and the salts in human sweat. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum compounds to reduce wetness. It is the aluminum that causes the build-up and yellowing on fabrics. The stains don’t appear overnight, but without proper washing of shirts after each wearing, the stains will start to show and the show will be yellow on white shirts.

You will need these items:

  • Blue Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent
  • fresh* hydrogen peroxide
  • baking soda
  • bristle brush

In a small jar or bowl, make a mixture of 1 part Dawn and 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. Protect your countertop or work area with a thick white towel, fully saturate the stains with the liquid. Now sprinkle baking soda over the stain and with an old toothbrush or bristle brush, scrub the areas well. Allow to sit for at least an hour, then launder as usual.

*hydrogen peroxide dissipates with age and exposure to light. It’s good for up to six months once opened, provided it has been stored in a dark place—completely out of the light. Make sure it’s fresh for this treatment.

Make-up stains

Don’t you hate it when some of that makeup foundation lands on your pristine white top? Not to worry. 

If it’s an oil-based foundation, get it with Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Rub in a few drops, let it sit for at least an hour then launder as usual.

If it’s an oil-free foundation, treat it with shaving cream. Yes! Saturate the stain well, allow to sit for a bit, then launder as usual. 

The big gun

It’s been around like forever, but so few people know about it. Lestoil, an all-purpose, heavy-duty oil and grease remover has been manufactured right here in the USA for decades. Curiously, I’d never even heard of it—let alone used it like a rabid fan—until only a few years ago.

Lestoil (pronounced less-toil … get it?) can be used full-strength on stains—especially really difficult stains; the kind of stains you just give up on like ink, toner, grease, oil, scuff marks, blood, lipstick, nail polish, paint, grass stains, coffee stains, crayon and marker stains on every surface you can imagine. Even the sticky stuff left behind by stickers and labels. While not only for laundry, Lestoil is a laundry room’s best friend.

Lestoil has removed every old stain I’d given up on as well as every new stain I’ve acquired since the two of us met—especially on clothing.

MORE: 10 Things You’ll Be Happy to Know About Lestoil

Grass stain

You’re fresh out of Lestoil and the grass stain on your new white pants or your son’s baseball uniform is more stubborn than a mule. Try this: Mix 1 tablespoon Blue Dawn with 2 tablespoons fresh* hydrogen peroxide. Apply to the stain and follow with a good deal of elbow grease. That should do it! Launder as usual.

Ink stains

I’m talking ballpoint pen ink and ever permanent marker ink. This is amazing. Hit it with the cheapest hairspray you can get your hands on. Why? Because the cheap stuff is mostly acetone, which will take out ink stains. Or if you happen to have a bottle of acetone, of course, that will work as well.

Do-not-dry alert

If something must be line-dried, put it in a zippered mesh lingerie bag before it goes in the hamper. That’s a pretty clear alert and a reminder that item can’t go in the dryer or in some other way will need special treatment. Mesh lingerie bags are fairly inexpensive and a great addition to your laundry room.

No more creases

When using a drying rack, items can come off the rack dry, but with a nasty crease. Here’s a great solution: Slice a pool noodle down one side lengthwise. Next cut the length so it will easily slip right over the rack’s rung. There you go. No more creases.


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4 replies
  1. Eva says:

    ZOUT, is by far the BEST stain remover I have found. I used it 30 years ago, when my twin boys were still using formula. Nothing I had tried would remove those set in stains except that. The trick was to pre-treat the stains well and leave it for at least 3 days then launder as usual. Worked for explosive baby diarrhea stains as well. Now my daughter in law uses this for our new grandchild and still works like magic 30 years later!!

  2. Loni says:

    Also, Stain-X stain remover removes set-in stains, that won’t budge, like nobody’s business. It’s never failed me. I have a bottle in the laundry room for those stains that nothing else will touch.

  3. MaryLou Kauffman says:

    Is there any way to get black mold stain out of clothing?
    I love your column! Thank you for continuing to help us persevere and save in an economy that is not our friend.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      It depends how old those stains are, and if they’ve been set permanently in the dryer. Lestoil is what I would use. And I have. I had to treat a pale yellow top several times, soaking the stains with Lestoil, allowing to sit for 48 hrs then laundering. Finally, after several attempts the stains disappeared. Read this post to learn more.


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