Solving Your Laundry Problems

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Laundry Problems1

Solving Your Laundry Problems

Many people have questions about how to solve laundry problems. For some people (myself included), this is because they were never taught how to do laundry. Learning how to wash clothes will give you a head start.

Here's a list of the solutions you will find on this page:


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Take a few minutes to read about the causes, solutions and preventive measures. This great information was obtained from the Soap and Detergent Association.


Laundry Problems 4

Laundry Problem -- Grayness Overall/Uneven

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Grayness Overall/Uneven Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase the amount of detergent and/or use a detergent booster or bleach. Use a sufficient amount of detergent.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in the hottest water safe for fabric.
Incorrect sorting -- transfer of soil. Rewash with an increased amount of detergent and hottest water safe for fabric. Use bleach that is safe for fabric. Separate heavily soiled items from lightly soiled ones. Use a sufficient amount of detergent, hottest water and bleach safe for fabric.
Incorrect sorting -- transfer of color. Do not dry items. Quickly rewash with detergent and a bleach safe for fabric. Severe damage may be permanent. Sort carefully by color. Separate white or white background prints that are colorfast, colored pastels in solids and prints, medium and bright colors, and dark colors.


Laundry Problem --Uneven

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Uneven Insufficient use of detergent after treating with prewash stain remover. Treat entire item with prewash stain remover or soak in a concentrated solution of a liquid laundry detergent. Rewash with an increased amount of detergent and in hottest water safe for the fabric. Use a sufficient amount of detergent and wash in hottest water safe for fabric.


Laundry Problems 5

Laundry Problem -- Yellowing Build Up of Body Soil

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Yellowing Build Up of Body Soil Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase the amount of detergent and/or use a product containing enzymes, detergent booster or bleach. Use a sufficient amount of detergent and wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Treating symthetic fabrics as "delicate," thus giving them short, gentle, cool washes. Wash in hot water, at least 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) using a permanent press cycle (with a cool-down that lowers the water temperature before the first spin). Increase the amount of detergent and/or use a detergent booster or bleach. Launder frequently with a laundry detergent and in a washer with water at least 100 degrees F (38 degrees C).
Handwashing synthetic fabrics with a light duty detergent. For extremely discolored synthetics that cannot be bleached with sodium hypochlorite bleach, soak in a product containing enzymes or a detergent booster. Or, treat with a color remover by soaking according to package directions. Then wash in washer. Same as above.


Laundry Problems 6

Laundry Problem -- Yellowing Fabric Discoloration

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Yellowing Fabric DiscolorationUse of sodium hypochlorite bleach on silk, wool or spandex items. Yellowing cannot be removed. Do not use sodium hypochlorite bleach on silk, wool or spandex items.


Laundry Problems 7

Laundry Problem -- Blue Stains

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Blue Stains Failure of a blue coloring in detergent, laundry aid or fabric softener to dissolve or disperse. If caused by a detergent or powdered laundry aid, add 1 cup (240 ml) of white vinegar to 1 quart (.95L) of water. Use a plastic container. Soak item for one hour; rinse. Add product first, then clothes and start washer.
If caused by fabric softener, rub stains with bar soap; wash. Dilute fabric softener before adding to wash or rinse cycle, or to dispenser.


Laundry Problems 8

Laundry Problem -- Yellow or Brown Stains (Rust)

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Yellow or Brown Stains (Rust) Iron and maganese in the water supply. To restore discolored load of white clothes, use a rust remover recommended for fabrics. Follow package directions. Repeat if necessary. Do not use sodium hypochlorite bleach to remove rust stains; it may intensify discoloration. Use a nonprecipitating water softener in both wash and rinse waters to keep the iron in solution. For an on-going problem, install an iron filter in the water supply system.
Iron in water pipes or water heater. Same as above. Before washing, run the hot water for a few minutes to clear the lines. Drain the water heater occasionally.


Laundry Problems 9

Laundry Problem -- Poor Soil Removal

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Poor Soil Removal Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase amount of detergent. Use a sufficient amount of detergent.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Overloading of washer. Wash fewer items in a load. Wash fewer items in a load. Sort clothes by color, fabric and amount of soil. Use proper water level for size of load.


Laundry Problems 10

Laundry Problem -- Grease, Oil Stains

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Grease, Oil Stains Insufficient amount of detergent to hold the soil in solution until the end of the wash cycle. Treat with prewash stain remover or a liquid laundry detergent. Increase amount of detergent. Use a sufficient amount of detergent.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Fabric softener -- undiluted liquid. Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Avoid pouring fabric softener directly on fabrics. Dilute rinse cycle fabric softener before adding to the final rinse.
Dryer added type-- Too small a load. Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Add a few bath towels to the dryer load to provide proper tumbling.
Improper dryer cycle selection. Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Use appropriate dryer cycle, i.e., permanent press cycle with polyester/cotton blends, etc.
Dryer too hot. Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Reduce dryer temperature. Check dryer instruction booklet to be sure dryer is operating properly.


Laundry Problems 11

Laundry Problem -- Residue or Streaks of Powder

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Residue or Streaks of Powder, Particularly Noticeable on Dark or Bright Colors Undissolved detergent Add detergent to the water first, then add clothes and start the washer. Same as solution.
Some powder detergents can combine with water hardness minerals to form a residue. Add one cup (240 ml) of white vinegar to 1 gallon (3.8L) of warm water. Use a plastic container. Soak item and rinse. Increase water temperature using hottest water safe for fabric. Do not overload the washer. Or, use a liquid laundry detergent or use a nonprecipitating water softener with a powder detergent.


Laundry Problems 12

Laundry Problem -- Stiff, Harsh Fabrics. Colored fabrics look faded. Increased fabric wear and abrasion.

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Stiff, Harsh Fabrics. Colored fabrics look faded. Increased fabric wear and abrasion. In hard water, some poweder detergents can combine with water hardness minerals to form a residue. Add 1 cup (240 ml) of white vinegar to 1 gallon (3.8L) of warm water. Use a plastic container. Soak item and rinse. Use a liquid laundry detergent or use a nonprecipitating water softener with a powder detergent.


Laundry Problems 13

Laundry Problem -- Lint

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Lint Improper sorting; mixing items that give off lint such as sweaters, bath towels adn flannels with synthetics, corduroys, velours and other napped fabrics. To help remove severe lint deposition, hand pat dried item using masking or transparent tape. Rewash with detergent and use fabric softener in the final rinse. Dry in dryer. Wash items that give off lint in separate loads from synthetic or napped fabrics. Turning lint collectors inside out may help. Wash very heavy lint shedders alone, such as blankets chenille bedspreads or rugs.
Tissues in pockets. Remove tissues and wash items. Check pockets and remove tissues before laundering.
Overloading of washer or dryer. Wash and dry fewer items in a load. Use proper water level for size of load. Same as solution.
Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase amount of deterent in order to hold lint in solution during the wash time. Same as solution.
Clogged washer lint filter. Clean washer lint filter. Clean filter after each use.
Overdrying in a dryer that creates a build up of static electricity in synthetic fabrics. Rewash and use a fabric softener in the washer or dryer or use a detergent containing a fabric softener in the wash. Remove items from the dryer while they are still damp. Use fabric softener in washer or dryer to reduce static attraction of lint to synthetics. Remove items from dryer while they are still damp.
Dryer lint screen is full. Rewash clothes. Dry in dryer with a cleaned lint screen. Clean lint screen after each use.


Laundry Problems 14

Laundry Problem -- Pilling

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Pilling Some synthetic and permanent press items have a natural tendency to "pill." This happens because fibers break off the surface, ball up and cling to the surface rather than break off like natural fibers. This is due to an abrasion from normal wear and is commonly found on socks, sweaters, collars, cuffs, underarm areas or any other portion subjected to abrasion. Lint may be attracted to the little balls. To remove the lint, use a lint brush or roller with masking tape or transparent tape. Pilling is a wear problem which cannot be prevented completely. It is a natural characteristic of some synthetics and permanet press fabrics. Use a fabric softener in the washer or dryer to lubricate the fibers. When ironing, use a spray starch or fabric finish on collars and cuffs.


Laundry Problems 15

Laundry Problem -- Holes, Tears or Snags

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Holes, Tears or Snags Incorrect use of sodium hypochlorite bleach. Irreversible condition. Never pour liquid sodium hypochlorite bleach directly on clothes. Use the bleach dispenser in the washer or dilute with at least four parts of water before adding to the wash water. For powdered bleach, follow package directions.
Unfastened zippers, hooks and belt buckles that readily snag synthetic knits. Irreversible condition. Fasten zippers, buckles, hooks and eyes before adding to the washer. Turn synthetic knits inside out to wash.
Rips, tears and broken threads in seams. May be irreversible if rips, tears and seams cannot be mended. Mend any visible damage before washing, especially open seams that will fray and become difficult to mend.
Overloading the washer. May be irreversible if holes, tears and snags cannot be mended. Let wash load circulate freely. Use the proper water level for the amount of clothes being washed.
Sun degradation. Irreversible condition. Check items like curtains before washing by gently pulling the fabric to determine condition. If curtains can be washed, use gentle cycle.


Laundry Problems 16

Laundry Problem -- Color Loss or Color Fading

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Color Loss or Color Fading Unstable dyes used in garments. Most common with neon and flourescent colors as well as bright reds, greens, blues, purples, pinks, black and peach. Full strength application of laundry pretreatment products may remove some or all of the color. Sometimes even rubbing with water will cause these colors to bleed or fade. Color loss or fading due to unstable dyes may be irreversible. If garment care label instructions were correctly followed, return garment to the store where it was purchased and ask for a refund or replacement. Read and follow garment care label instructions; the garment may not be washable. To be safe, always test pretreatment products on an inconspicuous area of the garment. Test item for colorfastness before washing. Wash new items separately the first few times to remove excess dye.
Water too hot for colored fabrics. Irreversible condition. Use cooler water.
Improper use of bleach. Irreversible condition. Test item for colorfastness before using bleach. Use an oxygen bleach.
Undiluted bleach applied directly to fabric. Irreversible condition. Do not pour undiluted bleach directly on clothes. Follow package diretions for correct use.


Laundry Problems 17

Laundry Problem -- Wrinkling of Synthetic or Permanent Press Fabrics

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Wrinkling of Synthetic or Permanent Press Fabrics Failure to use correct cycle. Use permanent press cycle on washer and dryer, if available. If not, for the washer, use warm wash and a slower or shorter spin speed in the washer, then use a cold rinse. For the dryer, use high temperature setting followed by 10 minutes of air drying. Remove items from dryer as soon as it stops; hang or fold items. Same as solution.
Failure to remove items promptly from dryer at end of cycle. Remove items from dryer as soon as it stops; hang or fold items. Same as solution.
Overdrying. Put clothes back in dryer. Set control for 15 to 20 minutes on permanent press or time cycle. Heat and cool-down period will remove wrinkles. Reduce drying time and remove items when there is a trace of moisture in them; hang or fold items.
Overloading of washer and/or dryer. Allow wash load to move freely in washer and/or dryer. Do not overload washer and/or dryer. Use fabric softener.


Laundry Problems 18

Laundry Problem -- Shrinking

Problem Causes Solutions Preventive Measures
Shrinking. Overdrying. Irreversible condition. Reduce drying time and remove clothes when there is a trace of moisture in them. Remove knits, especially cotton, while they are still slightly damp. Stretch back into shape and lay flat to finish drying.
Residual shrinkage. Irreversible condition. Many knits and woven fabrics can shrink when laundered. Allow for this when purchasing. Also, check the quality of the item.
Agitation of woolen items. Irreversible condition. Keep agitation in both wash and rinse cycles to a minimum. use slow agitation or soak method for washing and rinsing. Regular spinning does not contribute to shrinkage and will speed up drying.


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For more information on laundry, check the information on these pages:

How to do Laundry How to Wash Clothes How to Solve Common Laundry Problems
Stain Removal Chart Tips on How to Remove Stains Tips on Laundry Room Organizers Tips on Laundry

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