Cooktop Cove: Here's how you get that mildew smell out of your towels (+ 6 laundry tips)
Laundry mishaps happen. Perhaps you forgot about a load of towels in the washer and now they smell funky. Maybe an ink pen snuck its way into the dryer. Don't worry; you won't have to throw away an entire load of clothes.
These hints and tips will walk you through fixing the biggest laundry nightmares. With a few simple ingredients, you can often save clothes, leaving them smelling nice and fresh.
1. Get rid of funky washing machine odors (h/t One Good Thing)
Front loaders and high-efficiency washing machines save on water and electricity. The trade-off is that often detergents and fabric softeners build up in the washer and create mildew smells. To keep clothes and the washer smelling fresh, you need to clean the washing machine regularly. Running a hot water load with vinegar and cleaning the dispenser tray, the door and seals is often all you need to do. If that doesn't do the trick, running a hot wash cycle with bleach added and two rinse cycles can finish the job.
2. Stop towels from smelling like mildew
Sometimes the buildup of detergent and fabric softener doesn't happen in the washer but in the towels. If they sit damp for any amount of time, towels can become rather stinky. The solution is in your kitchen. Wash the smelly towels in hot water with one cup of vinegar and no detergent. If they still smell, wash again on hot with 1/2 cup baking soda. This process help strips the buildup holding onto the mildew smell.
3. Remove ink from the dryer (h/t Kissing the Frog)
An ink pen snuck into your dryer and exploded. Now you are terrified that the resulting mess will work its way onto the next load. After all, the splotches are all over the dryer walls. Kissing the Frog tried several different methods and recommends using Soft Scrub to remove the majority of the ink. The stubborn spots that remained wiped right off with acetone nail polish remover. A quick wipe with soap and water removed the chemicals and left the dryer sparkling clean.
4. Fix a ChapStick mistake
You put lipstick or ChapStick in your pocket and forgot it until you found it in a load of clean (but now stained) laundry. First, wipe out both the washer and dryer to remove any leftover residue and protect future loads from staining. Remove ChapStick stains on clothes with a good soak in an enzyme-based stain remover or laundry soap. If the offending beauty product was colored, you may need to use an oxygen-based stain remover to remove any color stain. Wash as normal and inspect. Repeat the process until all stains are removed.
5. Unshrink a sweater
You didn't pay attention and your favorite sweater now fits someone half your size. Don't pass it down just yet. You can often gently stretch a shrunken sweater back to its original size. Start by soaking it in warm water and two tablespoons of baby shampoo. Gently rinse it in cool water and press out the excess water. Roll the sweater in a towel to get it as dry as possible. Gently stretch out the sweater and pin it down to an ironing board or cork board. Restretch it every few hours until the sweater reaches its original size.
6. Reduce fading
If you notice jeans and darker clothing seem to be fading quickly, you may need to make a few adjustments to make the clothes last longer. Chances are you are using the preset wash temperatures on the washing machine. You only need to wash on warm or hot when clothes are extremely soiled. An outfit you just wore to work or school doesn't need hot water. Reducing the water temperature to cold can reduce wear and tear on clothes. You save money by reducing your hot water usage and by keeping clothes looking new longer.
7. Do laundry when the machine breaks down
Washing machines have a sense of humor and love to break down just when you need them the most. Although this tip was designed for camping, you can use it in a pinch. While waiting for a machine repair tech, you can still wash a uniform that's needed for the game or your daughter's favorite pajamas without wasting hours at the laundromat. A bucket and a plunger do the trick. You can even use a clean plunger in the bathtub to agitate a bigger load of clothes. Rinse, wring out all excess water and hang to dry unless you're lucky enough to have a working dryer.
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