Part 10: Maintenance Tips for Clothing

Most of you know how to wash clothes, so we won't go over that.  We'll deal with a few specific issues.

Stains: Most stains will come out with standard pre-treatments, like those sticks or sprays sold next to the detergent in the store.  For stains that resist these (especially oily stains), I recommend a product called "K2R," which seems to have a lot of highly toxic chemicals.  I suspect it is basically dry-cleaner-in-a-can.  It's a bit hard to find, but can be recognized by a blue and white label and a spray-top that has a fuzzy brush surface on it.

Mildew: If you have towels, washcloths, dishtowels, etc, that have developed mildew, your best bet is to *boil* them for 12-15 minutes in a pot of water on the stove.  This will kill the little microrganisms that make the nasty smell. Bleach will remove the mildew stains, but will not necessarily kill all the mildew.

Bleaching things: If you have white items that have become dingy, you can bleach them.  [Remember that some synthetics will get grey and there's nothing you can do about that.]  Use the proportions on the container of bleach, and add a little vinegar.  My science teacher said that vinegar will potentiate the bleach reaction.  And it doesn't hurt, even if she was wrong.  If you bleach white silk, it will turn yellow.

Wrinkles:  I love cotton clothes but hate to iron them.  This is how I deal with the situation: when I get up in the morning, I take out whatever I'm going to wear, and hang it in a doorway.  I then take a spray bottle (like those used for misting plants) and spritz the clothes with water until the surface is damp. This will get rid of most wrinkles.  Spritz a little more if there are a lot of wrinkles.  Don't over spritz.  We're talking about enough dampness that it will be mostly gone in your average house-climate.

Standard Guy-Stains: by which I mean underarm and collar discoloration.  Collar discoloration is caused by a chemical reaction of sweat and oxygen.  The only solution to this is to wash them shortly after you take the shirt off. Considering that usually no one sees the inside of your collar, it's probably not a big deal.  Under-arm discoloration is usually caused by odd waxy buildup from your antiperspirant.  If you use some of the 'organic' antiperspirants/ deoderants, this will be much less of a problem.

Additives in the wash: Some people like to use fabric softeners in the wash, and anti-cling things in the dryer.  I advise against this.  Not only is it extra gunk to buy and fiddle with, but also they make your clothes less absorbtive.  Towels treated with fabric softeners won't absorb as much as towels that are left alone.  A friend uses lots of fabric softener as an easy way to lightly waterproof her tent.

The crunchy towels used in the Downy commercials are towels that have been line-dried, and yes, they are kinda crunchy -- until you pick them up.  The flexing of the towel, or shirt, or whatever, will restore softness to the fabric.  The constant tumbling of clothing in a dryer will also solve the crunchiness problem.

As a last word on this topic, I refer you to Cecil Adams, of The Straight Dope (, but before we get to that, please remember to send me questions if I've not been writing clearly, or if there is something you would like covered.  And of course remember that I can be wrong about some of this, but it's a start on the grand path of knowledge (cue violins and rosy sunset.  ;)

All material, except for the quote from Cecil Adams,(c) 1999 Cynthia Virtue Email Author with comments
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