A person posing for the camera

Solved: Laundry Problems, Mistakes, and Mysteries

Laundry challenges come in every size, shape, and intensity. Giving up tossing that item into the rag bag may not be your only option. Rather than thinking there is no solution for that stain, shrunken item, or another laundry disaster, consider the ways you can recover and renew situations gone bad.

A person posing for the camera

Photo credit: Northpole.com

Honey, I shrunk your sweater

Don’t be too quick to toss out that favorite sweater that just got shrunk in the hot wash or went through the dryer accidentally set to Hot. Chances are good you can unshrink it if you move quickly:

In a large container, make a solution one-gallon lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons baby shampoo. Soak the shrunken garment in the solution for about 10 minutes until totally saturated.

Now the important part: Don’t rinse! Simply blot out all the excess water with a dry towel and very gently lay it flat on a fresh towel. Reshape slowly and carefully as you stretch it back to its original size. Dry away from direct sunlight or heat.

This technique will work provided the fibers have not become permanently damaged, or “felted.”

Super stains

You’ve washed and dried that item dozens of times and still the ugly grease or other annoying stain hangs on. Before you toss it out, try one more thing, Lestoil.

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.

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.

Melted-on crayon stains

With so many restaurants giving the kids crayons to keep them occupied while waiting for the meal to arrive, it’s handy to know how to remove crayon stains from clothes that have inadvertently made their way through both the washer and dryer.

Melted-on crayon can be removed by first applying WD-40 to the area working it into the stain with your fingers. Once the WD-40 has begun to break down the petroleum base of the crayon, apply a concentrated detergent like Blue Dawn to remove both the stain and the Put back into the washer and launder as usual. It works like a charm on fabric, and will also work to clean up the inside of the clothes dryer from the melted-on crayon wax, too.

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

Yellow armpit 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.

MORE: How to Get Yellow-Stained Bed Pillows White Again

Laundry cash

Keep hearing coins clanging away in the dryer? Annoyed by trying to figure out who left currency in their jeans pockets? Replace your irritation with a new house rule: Whoever finds money in the washer or dryer gets to keep it.

Next, hide a container or piggy bank in the laundry room to collect the stash. Who knows? By the time you need to buy a new washer or dryer, you may have a nice down payment in that stash. You’ll also discover that no one misses the money they left in their pants. 

Hide then seek

Those tags sewn into the neck area of shirts can really bug the wearer. But if you cut them off and throw them away, you could end up laundering the garment incorrectly. That’s a good reason to cut the tag then sew it into a pocket or the inside seam somewhere on that shirt or blouse. You may play hide-and-seek to find it in the future, but you won’t shrink any more clothes.

Targeted treatment

Got a stain on a shirt or garment that’s mostly white but with pictures or colored trim that may be ruined if you wash it with bleach? 

Do this: Apply a gel cleaner with bleach (as usually used on countertops) directly to the stain and the stain will come out, but the gel formula keeps any other part of the shirt from being bleached. I have been doing this for about a month, with great success, and no damage to the fabric. 

Pitch out

Here’s a super way to get pitch stain from firewood out of a garment. Rub an automotive hand cleaner like Goop! onto the pitch then launder the item as usual. Those work clothes will look as good as new! 

Old yellowed linens

Got a stash of old table linens that have yellowed from age. They may be too delicate to for the laundry detergent and bleach in the washing machine, so try this instead:  Soak the linens in Iron Out for about 20 minutes and then hand-wash, as usual, using a mild detergent. Expect the items to come out sparkling clean, almost as if new.

Smelly towels

If your bath linens have become dingy gray, stiff, scratchy and super smelly, chances are very good it’s the result of the build-up of detergents and fabric softeners that have not been rinsed out properly. That condition together with damp, moist conditions can produce a breeding ground for bacteria. No wonder you’ve got a big gross smelly laundry problem.

You are going to use white vinegar and baking soda to fix this skanky problem once and for all. But not together. 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. For this process we want them to do their work independently. This will strip the residue, leaving them fresh and able to absorb more water again.

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.

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.


More from Everyday Cheapskate

Green domestic housekeeping and sustainable cleaning laundry with chic homemade softener made of vinegar and baking soda for fluffy rolled towels on wooden background vinegar in laundry
pristine clean white washing machine
washing soda borax on white laundry
white pillows
A kitchen with a stove top oven sitting inside of a refrigerator
borax brand name and generic
Denim and Jeans

Please keep your comments positive, encouraging, helpful, brief,

and on-topic in keeping with EC Posting Guidelines

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
13 replies
  1. Wendy says:

    I used some diluted Soilove to remove armpit stains from a silk sweater. I wish I took a before and after photo. It was like night and day. I was going to throw the sweater out. I appreciate your blog.

  2. Roscoe says:

    5 stars
    Right here is the right webpage for anyone who hopes
    to understand this topic. You understand a whole
    lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really
    will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a
    topic that has been discussed for a long time. Great stuff, just excellent!

  3. Cathy says:

    My son scrubbed a stain on khaki slacks with a toothbrush and laundry detergent, then washed. The area is now a couple of shades lighter. I told him this is probably permanent. Or is there a fix?

  4. Jeannie says:

    Frustrated with mostly towels/dish cloths having spots/streaks where the color has been ‘bleached’ out…though I do not use bleach on them. I have been making Mary’s laundry detergent for years, but just recently I washed a good coat using the detergent (no other additives to the wash cycle) and got a small spot on the sleeve where the color was removed. Grrr! Anyone else have this issue?

  5. Iris Vivola says:

    Hi Mary
    My washing machine has ugly deposits at the of the drum, I’ve used fine steel wool & it won’t come off. It’s on the plastic part. Please help me get it off. Thank you.

  6. Cheryl Wedemeyer says:

    My dark colored clothes have a lint-like residue after washing. I have tried using less detergent and warmer water but still end up washing them multiple times. Any suggestions?

    • Mary Hunt says:

      My first guess is that that link filter (yes your washer has one!) needs to be cleaned. Check your owner manual to find out where that is and how to clean it. Most modern machines have a kind of “back wash” feature inside the working part of the machine that automatically clears that lint filter. But it can become overloaded so that feature ceases to be super effective, sending lint back into the clothes. It’s not only your dark colored items … its all of your wash, you just don’t see it on the white things. Water temp would not have anything to do with this by the way. Another tip: wash colored items inside out to prevent picking up so much lint and also to prevent pilling.

  7. Jack Voss says:

    Pine pitch can be dissolved and removed with waterless hand cleaner. Works well on the waterproof-sticky-stuff on hands. Probably the alcohol? Rubbing alcohol may be more convenient for use on clothes?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *