Simple Solutions for 3 Common Laundry Problems

What do stinky, yellowed and crayon stained laundry items have in common? They’re the reason lots of people write to me. Fortunately, each of these problems has a unique method for reversing that particular laundry problem.


No matter how many times you wash those items, you just cannot get rid of the disgusting sour, mildewy odor. The problem is clear evidence of bacteria that continue to live, despite having been previously washed and dried.

Place the offending items in the washer and set it to the hottest wash cycle available. Add the amount of detergent noted in the machine’s owner manual, plus two cups white vinegar (vinegar has some bacteria-killing properties) to the wash cycle. Assuming you can stop the machine once the wash cycle is complete and drained, do that. Stop the machine. If yours is a front loader, hit press cancel. Now, re-start the wash cycle, again with the hottest water available, plus one cup baking soda this time. Allow the washer to go through a complete wash, rinse and spin as usual.

If yours is a front loader, press cancel. Now, re-start the wash cycle, again with the hottest water available, plus one cup baking soda this time. Allow the washer to go through a complete wash, rinse and spin as usual.

Provided the water was hot enough, this should go a long way to removing the stench in the items you are dealing with. If you can still detect traces of the odor, repeat this process making sure you are using very hot water—140 F is ideal for killing bacteria.


Armpit stains on white t-shirts are caused by the reaction between antiperspirant ingredients and the salts in your 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.

Use one part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, one part water. Make a solution of the three ingredients. You will need about 1/4 cup each of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water to treat one shirt. Protect your countertop or work area with a thick white towel, rub the mixture into stains and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Use an old soft toothbrush or bristle brush to loosen any residue and then wash as usual.


For some reason, crayons seem to find their way into little pockets and wreak havoc when the heat of the dryer causes them to melt.

Place a folded white paper towel under the stained area of fabric and then spray WD-40 lubricant directly on the crayon stain. Turn the fabric over and spray the stain on the wrong side of the fabric. Let the WD-40 work for at least fifteen minutes to loosen the waxy part of the stain. Then use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to gently lift any crayon solids from the surface.

Next, rub a bit of dishwashing liquid, such as Blue Dawn, into the crayon mark. Work it into the stained area with your fingers or with a soft brush. Allow the soap to work on the stain for 15 minutes and then launder following the fabric’s care label instructions.

If the stains were caused by crayons that melted in the dryer, it is important to clean the dryer drum. If you don’t, any traces will continue to transfer to other fabrics when the dryer heats up again.

Spray each and every stain WD-40. Allow it to work for a few minutes and then use a rubber scraper to remove the solids. Wipe down with an old cloth. Repeat until no more traces remain.

To make sure you can safely use the dryer again for clean clothes, toss in a couple of old towels and run on high heat for at least five minutes so they can absorb any traces of WD-40 that remain.


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  • Linda

    Shaklee makes a fantastic germicidal product called Basic G that I have used for at least 40 years. I think I am on my third bottle, if that tells you how little it takes to do the job. For the occasional stinky laundry load, just add a little to the washer and soak a few hours or overnight, then launder as usual. It has never failed to work for me. It is not cheap, but when I consider how many years a bottle lasts, the ease of use, and the effectiveness, it is worth it.

  • Loretta Dell

    I very much enjoy your tips and help.
    The best solution to stinky towels is to make sure you hang them up to dry totally before throwing them in a hamper. The only time to dump damp towels together is when they’re going straight into a washing machine. Our daughter-in-law got mildew spots on her baby’s clothing and wondered how to get rid of them. I don’t know of a solution except to make sure they’re bone dry before putting them in a hamper. Prevention is always the best medicine.

  • P Keenan

    another way to get rid of smelly towels is to dry them in the fresh air. always using a dryer helps the smell to sink into the fabrics. i know not everyone can do this (ie apartment dwellers, fire areas, etc) but having your towels air dry outside is great if possible. thats how grandma did it and had fresh smelling towels always. otherwise put lavender into your shelves and let it soak into the towel cupbaard.

  • Lorrie Ney

    I have found that sour smelling clothes after washing often mildew inside thick seams etc which don’t get completely dry in the dryer. It builds up over time. A cup of clear ammonia added to the laundry wash ( pour directly into clothes) will kill the mildew smell. This eliminates sour smell quite well! Great for towels and blue jeans!

  • Connie Pyburn Lancaster

    This stinky clothes column made me remember something I wanted to ask. My farmer hubby often gets a diesel bath (not completely but smells like it) from busted hoses, changing lines, etc. Do you think vinegar would help with this or do you have any other good remedies??? I’ve washed them several times with laundry soap, hung them out in the sun to air. I can still smell it.