Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Laundry Tip: Keeping White Clothes White

My mother taught me this trick when I was getting ready to have my first child. She used it for the infamous "diaper load". I was under the delusion that I was going to put my newborn in cloth diapers. (ha!)

After changing four outfits a day for the first week, I was blessed with a friend who told me that using cloth was environmentally equivalent to using disposable. (Thank you,
Arun D'Souza!) Did I check the science on that one? No! I just gratefully gave myself permission to switch.

In certain cases, my environmentalism is trumped by practicality.

So, if you are a mom who is using cloth diapers, my hat is off to you. If on the other hand, you have boys to keep track of (I have two) and those boys happen to go to a school that requires uniforms (particularly, white shirts), I have news. The same trick that works for diapers will keep those shirts looking like the day you bought them.

The trick is to use the temperature settings on your washer.
I'll explain.

My boys have found new and exciting ways to stain their clothing. During the first week of school, I have washed out grass stains, blood, mud, chocolate milk, pizza splat, cherry juice, Popsicle drippings, greasy hand-prints and ice cream.

You may wonder how this is possible.
They are boys. Anything is possible.

So, to do battle with their mess (at least the laundry mess) I start by treating their shirts as I sort the laundry. I use Shout Gel. It has a little brush on top to work the stain remover into the stains and it is thick enough to stay on the stain as the clothes get washed. I've tried other brands and even thinner versions of Shout. Trust me, get the gel.

I then put all the whites in the washer and wash them with just detergent (no bleach) in COLD water. Why start with cold? Protein stains, like blood, milk, or grass need cold water to work loose from the fibers of your clothes. If you wash in hot water before these stains are out, the heat will set the stain and make a permanent mark on the shirt.

When you hear your washer spinning out the cold water to start the rinse cycle, switch the heat setting to HOT and reset your washer back to the beginning of the wash cycle. Then pour your bleach into your washer's bleach cup, but use no more detergent. The hot water will get out any grease-based stains (i.e. pizza splat!) and the bleach will whiten the whole load.

I know this method uses an extra tub of water. But, if you're a parent washing school uniforms, it really is the way to go. And, according to my own mom, there's no better way to take care of those nasty cloth diapers, either.

Good luck with it!
Remember, we're in this together!

Midwest Mom


  1. Thanks for that great tip! I will try to remember it. I have noticed my whites are getting so dingy but never really thought about what the different temp settings do.

  2. Hey, Busymama! Thanks for visiting the blog. :)

    The power of cold water is amazing. Hope the tip works for you!

    Please visit again. :)


  3. Hi,

    Would it work to use baking soda in the HOT cycle instead of bleach? Thanks!

  4. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  5. I love that the booth looks like it is made of real walls.


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