Simple Solutions for 3 Common Laundry Problems

By Mary Hunt

June 4, 2019 5 min read

What do stinky, yellowed and crayon-stained laundry items have in common? They're the reason lots of people write to me. Fortunately, each of these problems has a unique remedy — a way to reverse the stains and get them back to looking good as new.


No matter how many times you wash them, you just cannot get rid of the disgusting, sour, mildewy odor. They've become stiff and scratchy and begun to repel, rather than absorb, water. The problem is clear evidence of a buildup of bacteria along with soap and softeners that have not been rinsed out — despite having been washed and dried.

This will be a two-step process first using vinegar, which is acidic, to break down mineral deposits and dissolve the buildup of detergent and fabric softeners. Then baking soda, which is alkaline, breaks down dirt and grease and neutralizes odors. Used together, they counteract each other. This is the reason stinky towels require two washings.

Wash No. 1: Load towels into the washer loosely. Set it for a long wash cycle, and fill with the hottest water you can manage. Turn the water heater up to 140 degrees F. Or boil water on the stovetop, and then carefully transport it to the washer. The point is that the water must be very hot to kill the bacteria. Add 2 cups of white vinegar to the load. Allow it to run the entire cycle, and then leave the towels in the washer.

Wash No. 2: Fill the machine once more with the hottest water possible. This time, add 1 cup baking soda. Run the entire cycle. Dry completely. Now smell the towels. If they do not smell fabulously clean, repeat wash No. 1 and wash No. 2 as necessary until the smell is completely gone. The investment you've made in these towels makes them worth the effort.


Armpit stains on white T-shirts are caused by the reaction between antiperspirant ingredients and the salts in human sweat. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum compounds to reduce wetness. It is the aluminum that causes the buildup and yellowing. The stains don't appear overnight, but without proper washing after each wear, the stains will start to show.

You will need these items:

—Blue Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent

—Fresh hydrogen peroxide

—Baking soda

—Bristle brush

In a small jar or bowl, make a mixture of 1 part Dawn and 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. Protect your countertop or work area with a thick white towel. Fully saturate the stains with the liquid. Then sprinkle baking soda over them, and with an old toothbrush or bristle brush, scrub the areas well. Allow it to sit for at least an hour, and then launder as usual.


Crayons seem to find their way into little pockets and wreak havoc when the heat of the dryer causes them to melt.

Place a folded white paper towel under the stained area, and then spray WD-40 lubricant directly on the stain until saturated.

Turn the fabric over, and spray the stain on the other side. Let the WD-40 work for at least 15 minutes to loosen the waxy part. Then use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to gently lift any crayon solids from the surface.

Next, rub a bit of Blue Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent into the crayon mark. Work it into the stained area with your fingers or a soft brush. Allow the WD-40 and detergent to work on the stain for at least 15 minutes, and then launder as usual, following the care instructions on the label.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, "Ask Mary a Question," or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Photo credit: ponce_photography at Pixabay

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