30 September 2010

I blunder as I launder

Laundry ex opere operato is not a huge problem here. It doesn't bug me much and I don't often get egregiously behind.

But there's also something about laundry that makes me know I have not given myself over to it completely; namely, that the clothes don't get clean. Sure, there's some overloading of machines involved, and some inattention to major soilings whether at the "You cannot wear that one more day put it in your basket!!" stage or later on at the "It's all going in now and together and that's the end of it" moment of pragmatic triage. I superstitiously believe the washing machine will and must get things clean, though I know not how. If something comes out gummy or muddy, I throw it back into the dirty clothes heap like a madwoman. Dirty stuff goes in the laundry. Stuff that comes out of the laundry dirty goes in the laundry. Then at the end of the summer, I realize that my four year old no longer has a single clean shirt.

Even knowing this, I am lost. A sponsorless neophyte, I have amassed an arsenal of old timey powders and new fangled elixirs. They judge me from their shelves as I purposefully cram wadded boulders of clothing into the machine. But which of you am I supposed to be using right now? They never answer outright, but drip into my insecurity receptors cruel hisses like, All of us for different things, you imbecile! And why haven't you bought any Biz yet? Sssssssssssss!

My experimentation so far has yielded a few results. First, sunshine will take out yellow problems on the southern end of a baby garment but not the northern end (or much else. Sunshine gets way more credit than it deserves). Second, bleach expires. Third, the Shout stuff with the bristly applicator can buy some time for a garment nearing devotion to the ban on account of stank. Fourth, I cannot keep up with the nosebleeds around here and therefore all linens should be dark colors. Fifth, there is absolutely no telling which load had a fortifying scoop of Borax or Oxyclean or baking soda or chitin meal or nothing in it, because nothing works.

Somewhere deep in my brain is an inchoate vision. Through the fog, it looks something like another system, another rule, another basket . . . I can see humanoid forms tossing in their particularly troubled shirts . . . a larger humanoid picking up the basket and analyzing each piece, treating it with the tonic and therapy relevant to its ailment. Later, as she shakes out and folds each item, this large humanoid smiles, gratified at having achieved the level of huswifery which yields such a satisfyingly clean load of laundry; which saves disturbed clothes from ruination; at never having to say, "It's a perfectly fine shirt except for being completely disgusting." Yes, this would totally work, like all the systems and rules around here . . . .

But for now, my shoulders and front bear the marks of the baby of the house even before he begins the day's business, and the cuffs of Dad's tough guy pants are crusted as befits toughness, and my four year old wears at this and every moment a dirty shirt.


AmyBean said...

The best laundry detergent I've found is what I made myself using this recipe:


It doesn't take that long to make, and you can make a whole bucketful at a time, so it lasts a while. And it WORKS. It doesn't do much for keeping whites super-bright, but that's just because they naturally yellow over time -- bleach once in a while takes care of it. It's good stuff.

Leah said...

I'm laughing only because, after we moved, I realized detergent can expire as well. The result of using expired detergent? Let's just say my husband had to wear a clerical that smelled like it had sat in the diaper hamper for a day. Rubbing a dryer sheet over it didn't seem to help much. Great way to make a good impression on the dear folk of the church, I'd say.

Gauntlets said...


I hate laundry.

I think the only way to keep whites super bright is to devote every Wednesday to stirring around and around in the boiling cauldron a batch of bluing. Whatever that means.

And I think the only way to keep clericals from smelling like the diaper pail is to burn them immediately after the first wearing, and to keep an aeviternal stash of new ones under the bed. :D

Anonymous said...

Technology to the rescue?

spray on clothes

Katy said...

I have lots and lots of knee-jerk responses to this post, but here are just a few thoughts:

1. Shout gets almost everything out ONLY if you spray it right away (and don't leave whatever's caked on, caked on). I spray right away only half the time.
2. Mold likes spit up
3. Bananas are the worst. I have a banana peel stain on one of the sheets--it looks like poop. I don't know how it got there, but I did not "Shout it out" in time
3. Stains are not dirt, just dye.
4. When you buy clothes for under a dollar, it's ok to throw them out and then go garage sale-ing again.
5. Don't hang your clothesline under a walnut tree >:( I'm not sure how this happened, since I grew up in a yard with a walnut tree and know all about the evils of walnuts
6. HOW DO YOU GET GREASE OUT? All my maternity clothes have grease spots on the belly

HappyFox said...


Oxy-clean spray got bacon grease out of my Issues, Etc. t-shirt, even after the shirt had been washed & dried once.

Anonymous said...

Dawn dish soap also gets grease out BUT only if you put it on BEFORE you wash the shirt with the grease on it. If you try it after it's been washed once, well, it just won't work. I speak from experience. My pregnant belly always managed to collect the grease!

Pr. H. R. said...

What does everyone do when they accidentally wash a pair of camo pants with a little 1 ounce bottle deer pee in it and that makes it to the dryer before opening?

Where do you find more deer pee on such short notice? What do you do with all the extra deer at the dryer vent?

Rebecca said...

Katy-Amen to the Shout, I usually get it sprayed, not so good at the don't leave it caked part.
Katy and Anon-ditto to the greasy pregnant belly, which is too bad, because when I was pregnant with my first, I got same really awesome hand-me-down shirts that are way nicer than current stuff you can get, but especially after my second, now, they are all covered in stains. I haven't put them away yet, cause they are awesome for nursing, too, especially during these first few weeks. (Dd will be two weeks old tomorrow) maybe I'll get some Oxyclean to try before I pack them away.

Rebekah said...

AmyBean, I've been saving up my buckets to try that. Because, you know, it wouldn't make sense to do a half batch first to see if I like it. I'm very, very sure it will work.

I am SO GLAD to learn I'm not the only one with a grease problem during pregnancy.

Pr. HR, your wife must be an incredibly longsuffering and beautiful woman.

etem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bikermom said...

Hmmm......I have found it effective to grab the clothing I value most, when they get stained, and throw them immediately in a bucket with some up to date detergent poured right on the area effected. This is a recent discovery and it is saving my youngest dear daughters dresses from utter ruin.

etem said...

pr hr should quick wash a bottle of lion pee to chase the deer away but only after he soaks the deer hooves in warm water whilst they sleep to collect the desired amount of deer pee.

i am currently experimenting with spinning (and maybe washing?) the bibs in a salad spinner. i'll let you all know if it's a go.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh.... what better marks to wear on your shirt than the marks of a baby.
As for the house ....
"Cleaning and scrubbing can wait for tomorrow for babies grow up we have learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs dust go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."
I can attest this is a TRUE statement.
Some things I have found to help with the laundry: Wet Ivory bar soap rubbed on new stains works wonderful and sometimes even on older ones. Sometimes it takes a little elbow grease - rubbing the spot with your fingernails before throwing in the washer but worth the effort if it is a good article of clothing.
I like oxyclean spray I buy the large bottle and refill my smaller spray bottle.
Lemon juice rubbed on stains and put in the sunshine. Then wash as usual.
Barbasol shaving cream works great to get stains out of carpets. Wet the stain, spray on the shaving cream, rub with a wet rag until the spot and shaving cream are gone. Then rinse with clear water and pat dry. It works 99.9% of the time.
**Have lots of tye dyed shirts for your children. My one son spilled mustard on one of his and he said "Look it looks just like one of the spots."
IMPORTANT: Teach your children how to do their own laundry. My older children will spray oxyclean on stains now as soon as possible after they happen - they have learned from experience the benefits of working on the stain as quick as possible. One child in college carries a little stain stick in her purse.
Debbie S.
(mother who has done laundry for 13 children-which includes 10 boys)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe no one has mentioned Totally Toddler yet! I love that stuff. It gets out just about every stain - even ones that are crusted on - well, at this point, it's mostly poo and food, so that's not as bad as grass stains, etc.

Melrose said...

I dont even use detergent...or shout...or any stain removers of any kind. hmm, either soap nuts really are that amazing or my 3 male children are walking around like dirty gremlins and I have yet to see it because of my zombie like state from not sleeping in the past 4 years :D

www.naturoli.com 1 GIANT bag of soapnuts = $64= 8 months and counting of laundry (still have 1/3 of the bag left) for 5 people including 2 in cloth diapers.

Glenda said...

Between your post Rebekah and Pr. HR's comment, I'm ROFLOL.

I think what you need the most is Marie Barone - she could get anything clean and tell you exactly what you're doing wrong. :-)

Katy said...

Thanks for all the tips, gals!

Angela said...

I'll second, third, whatever the dish soap for grease...I've had decent luck even after things have been washed. I'm a big fan of soaking in oxyclean and boiling water; I like tide stain release liquid as a pretreater.
A couple of days ago my daughter buttered a now very shiny kitchen cabinet and her dress. I pretty much coated it in dish soap and it came out clean. (Though I think the dress attracts stains...it was marker the first wearing and butter the second!)

Reb. Mary said...

Timely post: I couldn't reply when I first read it, because that there baby on my hip suddenly added some new stains to her clothes and mine :P