Back in January my friend Jen Spiegel wrote an article for this site on how to transform an old T-shirt into a scarf.  It’s a super cute idea, but it turns out that her creativity was born out of her, um, lack of laundry skills. In my family I was once referred to as “The Laundry Gestapo.” In love, though, all in love. Let’s just say I may have been a little overzealous in “sharing” my laundry rules with my sister-in-law when she helped me out after some surgery several years ago.

You see, I HATE to see clothes tossed into the “paint clothes” or the “well, this is toast” pile. Clothes are too expensive to throw away because of stubborn stains. Being as Jen is clearly struggling with her spillage issue, I decided it’s time that I share my stain-busting knowledge. Admittedly, it’s been a few years since I’ve had to deal with grass stains and banana spit-up and I’m sure some new ideas have emerged in the laundry arena, but here are my tried-and-true tips for common laundry issues.

General Tips:Laundry tips

  • Never, EVER, for any reason whatsoever, put stained clothes into the dryer until you are 100% sure the stain has come out. The dryer will set your stain, and once it’s set you might as well kiss your stained T-shirt goodbye – or refer back to Jen’s directions for scarf making. If you’re dealing with an oil stain, the best choice is to let the item air dry because, trust me, no matter how bad it is, you can’t see an oily stain when it’s wet.
  • Those new little Color Catcher sheets are awesome when used for clothes that have multiple colors, but don’t consider them a license to skip sorting your laundry. If you have clothing of mixed colors, wash them and get them into the dryer right away. Don’t allow them to sit around in the washer for several hours after the wash cycle is completed. Actually, that’s a good rule for many reasons, especially if you tend to forget that you’re even doing laundry and realize three days later that the distinct odor coming from your laundry room is actually the towels you washed on Monday starting to mildew.

Common Stain Solutions:

  • Salad dressing, grease stains, spaghetti sauce, or anything oily – The BEST way, hands down, to get rid of them is with Lestoil. I’ve heard Dawn dishwashing liquid also works, but I’ve had the best results with Lestoil. The biggest problem with using Lestoil is finding it, but if you have trouble you can always count on Amazon to come to your rescue! Just pour a little Lestoil onto the spot, let sit for about five minutes, and then throw in with your regular wash. DO NOT allow it to sit on your garment for several days. By the way, it smells nasty – but it works!
  • Grass and mud – If you have little boys (and possibly little girls), you have grass stains and probably mud too. Granted, most moms won’t be as obsessive about getting these out as I was, but I had the best luck with Fels Naphta soap and water. I simply laid the stained items in the laundry sink (or the bathtub), wet down the stained area and scrubbed with the bar of soap. You don’t have to scrub it all away and then beat it on a rock. Just work up a little lather and then throw them into the washer. It’s amazing.
  • Blueberries, bananas, and other frustrating fruit stains – The key with fruit stains isn’t so much in how you treat them before you put them in the washer but what you do with them when they come out. Before putting them in the washer, spray with your favorite pre-spotter. My favorites are Shout and Melalueca’s Pre-Spot. And no, this is not an invitation to join my Melalueca business. I don’t have one, but it’s easy to find someone who does. Anyway, back to the fruit stain problem. Once you’ve washed your item, lay it out in the sun while it’s still wet. Some days I have to go out and move my laundry around the yard as the sun moves. I think the neighbors worry about me.
  • Blood – It’s not actually that hard to get blood out if you get to it right away. If it’s fresh, you can run it under cold water until the stain is gone. Add a little pre-spotter and throw it in the washer. (Again, remember the no-dryer rule until the stain is gone.) If the blood has had days to dry onto the fabric, make a paste of salt and water and scrub it onto the stain. It takes a bit of effort, but this usually works.
  • Chocolate – Chocolate can be tricky, but here’s the deal. It isn’t always the chocolate that’s the problem; it’s the oil in the chocolate. You just can’t go wrong with Lestoil. It’s what I use for 80% of the stains I deal with. Sometimes I double dose the area with Lestoil and pre-spotter.

Hope this helps you save an outfit or two. If you have any great ideas, please share them in the comments. We can all use a little help from our friends.