Simple Solutions to Your Six Most Frustrating Laundry Problems
For a seamless laundry experience every time, follow our troubleshooting tips to address everything from yellowed socks to static cling.
Properly doing laundry is actually easier than you might think. With a bit of detergent, a simple rinse, and spin of your clothes in a washing machine (as well as a tumble in the dryer), your laundry should come out fresh and ready to wear. Even so, things go awry every now and then. From unsavory smells to static cling, we're sharing the best solutions to your laundry problems.
There's a mildewy smell coming from your washer.
It's not uncommon for both top- and front-loading washing machines to develop a ring of mildew around the rubber door seal. This is more likely if you live in a humid climate or have a laundry room that is poorly ventilated, two conditions in which mildew thrives. Likewise, if you wash with only cold water—which does not kill mildew-causing bacteria—or leave damp clothes in the washing machine for extended periods of time, you may also be encouraging the development of mildew.
To remove mildew and discourage further growth, clean the rubber seal with a solution of one cup chlorine bleach to two cups warm water. Wearing protective gloves, first wipe the lower portion of the door seal—where water and, thus, bacteria will be most concentrated—with a soft cloth soaked in the bleach solution. Then follow up by wiping down the entire seal. Finally, fill the bleach dispenser with bleach and run the washer (without any laundry) through a complete cycle using hot water. Repeat this process every two to four months to keep mildew in check.
Your clothes just don't seem to be coming out as clean as they used to.
It's time to deep-clean your washing machine. Run a short, hot wash cycle with detergent, then rinse with plain water. If the machine is exceptionally dirty or requires sanitizing, add 3/4 cup of bleach and one tablespoon powdered laundry detergent, fill the washer with warm water and let it sit in the machine for a few minutes. Then drain and rinse a few times with plain water to eliminate any traces of dirt or bleach.
Clothes are still damp when you take them out of the dryer.
Check the exhaust ducting—and make it a habit to do so at least once a year. Any obstructions will restrict airflow and result in longer drying times. It is best to have a qualified technician remove any blockages.
Your whites are turning yellow.
White damask napkins, linens, and even socks can be whitened on the stove. Fill a pot with water and a few slices of fresh lemon; bring the water to a boil. Turn off heat, add linens, and let soak for up to an hour. Then launder as usual. For extra brightening, spread them out in the sunlight to dry. You can also use a solution called "bluing," which is a liquid added to laundry during wash or rinse cycles to combat the yellowing of whites. The blue (usually ultramarine) pigment adds a subtle tint to fabrics, which makes them appear whiter but doesn't actually whiten them. This is because a "blue" white appears brighter and cleaner than a "yellow" white or a "red" white. Bluing must be diluted with water before it's added to the washer. You can still find bluing in some supermarkets, but it is no longer a staple of the laundry section. Other laundry aids that combat yellowing include bleach, chlorine bleach, Borax, oxygen bleach, enzyme presoaks, washing soda, and white vinegar.
Remove clothes from the dryer while still slightly damp (allow to air-dry before folding or putting away). You can stop electrical charges from building up by using a humidifier to add moisture to the air inside your home. When purchasing clothing, keep in mind that natural fabrics like cotton and wool are less likely than synthetic fibers—such as rayon, polyester, and nylon—to produce static.
If the clothes you're wearing are clinging, mist the air with water from a spray bottle, then walk through it to discharge the static. You can also mist clothing with an antistatic spray, which essentially coats the surface of the fabric with salts that absorb moisture in the air. Prevent static cling by using a quarter of a dryer sheet (instead of a whole one) or rubbing one teaspoon of liquid softener into a damp washcloth and placing it in the dryer with the clothes. Dryer sheets tend to be better static inhibitors than liquid softeners.
Your iron leaves rust stains on your clothing.
To clean mineral deposits from steam irons, people used to run vinegar and water through them. Today, some manufacturers warn against that procedure because it may result in a brown substance oozing from the holes. Instead, they recommend cleaning an iron with its own steam. Use the Steam Cleaning setting if there is one. Or place the iron on a metal cooling rack over a surface that won't be harmed by heat or water; turn the setting to steam and maximum heat, and let steam and water jet through the holes.