Iron out those problems the old fashioned way - ask Mom

Mom says...
{A sampling of Mom's mail...}

Removing Candle Wax
Cleaning a Wallhanging
Mineral Oil on Quilt and Bathroom Rugs
Awful Red Dye
What's Wrong With Our Washer?
About Ties

Want to hear one of those classic Mom sayings?
Craving some good old fashioned motherly advice?
Go ahead, ask Mom.

Want to borrow some money?
Ask your Father.

Dear Mom,
I am searching for the number one, best method to remove candle wax from clothes. All the Laundry-Tip books don't address this type of stain.
Can you help here? Thanks so much for your help.
Sincerely yours,
Mary Sullivan
Canton, MI

Dear Mary,
Candle wax is an at home dry clean kind of stain.
The oldest method I know of is to Scrape off as much of the wax with a dull (butter) knife as possible. Place the stained fabric between two pieces of blotting paper or folded paper towles and pressing gently with a warm (Not hot) iron. Keep refolding the paper, and eventually, the stain will 'melt' out. The newer version works well for crayons that were forgotten in someones pocket and melted in the dryer:
Again, scrape off as much of the wax with a dull (butter) knife as possible. Heat a small amount of stain remover liquid by placing a small bottle of it in a pan of warm water. Fold a paper towel under the stain, and apply the warm liquid, flushing the stain through to the paper towel. An old toothbrush can help 'break up' the stain while the liquid works.
Good luck.

Hi Mom,
I have just returned from a trip abroad. I purchased a Wall Hanging that was a bit dirty. I took it to the drycleaners and told them to test for colorfastness. They did and it was not. So, there is a dark blue pattern on a white field and a dark blue border around the whole thing. There is also some red that may run. How do I clean this with out the darks running into the whites? If you do not know I will understand. This was the first thing on the net I found that might be of help.
Thank you,

Dear Mary, I apologize for the delay in my reply, I wanted to be sure I gave good advice. {BTW, the dyes most used in the color red are in fact the most likely of any to run.} You don't say exactly what kind of dirt, so I've got several options for at home 'dry cleaning' you can try.
If we're talking about dusty dirt, a good vacuming should do it.
If the dirt looks greasy, as if say, the piece was hanging in someone's kitchen, apply dry cornstarch to absorb the grease and vaccume.
This last option sounds a little odd, but it's my personal favorite.
Find a paper bag big enough to hold the fabric loosly, add table salt, alot of table salt, close the bag tightly, and shake vigorously. You'll want to do alot of shaking, and then remove the fabric from the bag. It might not look like you've accomplished anything until you run water through the salt - you will be surprised at how much dirt is now in the salt. Of course, this treatment can be repeated, just change the salt.
I hope this can be of some help.

Dear Mom,
My darling two year old son spilled mineral oil on a cotton quilt and a polyester bathroom rug. I have been staring at these items in my laundry room for about three months wondering just exactly what to do with them. I have heard not to put into the dryer any cloths which have been soiled with oils such as furniture polish, so I have been leary about proceeding with laundering the quilt and rugs.
Can you help?
The Laundry Queen,
Dayton, Ohio.

Your Majesty,
The first thing you'll want to be sure of is whether or not the quilt is color fast; dampen the patches with water and dab with blotting paper. If any of the colors run, you'll want to contact the textile curator of your local museum to get the name of a good dry cleaner in your area. Assuming that it passes the blotter test, or that it has been washed before, you are ready to get it cleaned up and back on the bed. Since the quilt has been "soaking in oil" for a while, you're looking at a tough, but not impossible stain. You'll need to:
1) Heavily powder the stain with cornstarch to soak up as much oil as possible. Brush off, and repeat.
2) Brush off the remaining cornstarch, and apply a nice coating of dishwashing soap. Why dishwashing soap? Because it really is formulated to break up grease and oil. If that stuff can get a skillet clean after you've fried chicken in it, then you know it works.
3) Let the soap work for about 20 minutes, and rinse most of it off.
4) Go ahead and wash the quilt. You can do this the by the bathtub method, or in warm water using the gentle cycle in the washer.
Ordinarily, I would not recommend the machine, but Mom knows how busy life can get with a two year old Prince about the house, and just how time consuming the bathtub method is. You may want to rinse a second time to be sure that there is no oily residue left.
5) You WILL want to follow the
drying instructions concerning quilts. though, so there's not too much stress put on the quilt.
As for the rug, same instructions, only it's not necessary to dry it flat.
One last thing, enjoy that darling 2 year old now, one day in the not too distant future, he'll be a big 'ol teenager wanting to borrow the car. {shudder}

Dear Mom,
I just purchased a new, tan, suede jacket on the 17th of January (My birthday). I was so excited. My first coat in 3 years since the birth of my daughter. That same day I found a 100% silk sweater-shirt by {Famous designer who shall remain nameless} marked down from $30 something to $5. It was part of {Famous Department store which shall also remain nameless} winter clearance sale.

I wore the shirt the next day. It bled a little on my jeans where it was tucked in. I wrote it off as my fault - I should have washed it first! I was just happy it didn't do anything to my new coat.

So, I followed the instructions and hand washed it in cold water and dried it laying flat. Tonight, I wore it out to dinner with my new coat and a fairly new pair of tan pants. Half way through dinner, someone pointed out to me that I had red dye on my hands, in my hair, on my coat, pants and skin. My husband and I had to use a mixture of clorox and soft scrub to get it off my body. I cloroxed my bra and got most of it out. It's late and I'm not going to touch the pants tonight.

Here are my questions:
1. Any suggestions on cleaning the pants?
2. Is my coat ruined? I am assuming that would be a big yes!
3. Should I take the shirt, pants and jacket back to the place I bought it and complain? I feel as though I should, however, my husband said they won't do anything about it and I would probably be wasting my time.
4. Do you know any reason this shirt bled more after it was washed than before?
5. I wear alot of red clothing. Any suggestions on keeping this from happening again?
Thank you for your time,

Dear JennELynn,
I can certainly sympathize with your plight. I remember when my girls were babies, and luxuries like a new coat came few and far between.
This is the best advice I can give...

1. Any suggestions on cleaning the pants?
That gosh darned red dye again. Try soaking them in cold water, changing frequently. Eventually, the water will take on a lighter and lighter shade of pink. From what you've told me about this dye already, it's pretty resiliant stuff, so be prepared to change that water ALOT before you finally wash them with soap in the washing machine. Don't forget that the pants will need to be washed by themselves at least once, and possibly twice before they are free from the dye.

2. Is my coat ruined? I am assuming that would be a big yes!
Possibly not, but you'll want to check with a cleaner to be sure. I'm pretty good at getting dirt off of suede, but I can't say that I've had much experience with dye. They will look at the coat and let you know if they think the stain can be removed. If they tell you it's hopeless, you can ask them if they know where you can have it dyed - either a darker color to hide the stain, or since it's your color, a nice shade of red.

3. Should I take the shirt, pants and jacket back to the place I bought it and complain? I feel as though I should, however, my husband said they won't do anything about it and I would probably be wasting my time.
I'm not familiar with the particular store you mentioned, however, I AM familiar with clearance sales. Generally, merchandise purchased at a clearance sale is non returnable, but in this particular case, there is a handy little law which may apply. Known as the Care Labeling Rule, it might be just what you're looking for.

Simply put, the Care Label must list at least one safe way to launder the garment. In addition, the label must also include any necessary warnings. If any part of the recommended instructions could harm the garment or others washed with it, the label must say so. The instructions must cover anything that is permanently attached to the garment, such as buttons, trim, or the lining. If you followed the care label, and still have a problem, which you obviously do, return the sweater to the store. {Tip: take along a piece of white fabric to rub on the sweater to demonstrate the scope of the problem. Most stores want your buisness, and when something is as obviously wrong as this, they will generally work to resolve the dispute, clearance sale or no clearance sale.}

If the store will not resolve the problem, ask for the manufacture's name and address and write to the company. You'll want to tell them the name of the store where you bought the sweater, as well as the store's address. The manufacturer will not care if the garment was on clearance. You'll also want to fully describe the garment, and give all information that is on the labels or tags, and tell them exactly how the garment was laundered, and what the problem is.

Really seeing red about the whole thing? You can also contact the:
Federal Trade Commission
Correspondence Branch
Washington DC 20580
#(202) 326-3693
Although the FTC can't resolve an individual problem, you may give them a lead to a pattern or bad buisness pratice that they WILL want to look into. {like possibly counterfiting of name brand merchandise, the copies are notorious for being inferior quality.} NOTE: the FTC does want to hear from you if you buy a garment without a care tag. Give them the name and address of the store, and the manufacturer's name.

4. Do you know any reason this shirt bled more after it was washed than before?
The best reason that I can think of is that the sizing was successfully removed in the first washing, but that the red dye was not completely rinsed out. {The sizing keeps the garment looking nice while it's hanging in the store. Apparently, it also helps keep this particular dye from rubbing off onto everything it touches.} My guess is that after washing, the dye turned to a very fine powder which, embedded in the texture of the sweater, was not noticable until you had worn it a while, stretching the fibers, and releasing it with a vengance.

5. I wear alot of red clothing. Any suggestions on keeping this from happening again?
Pre-wash. Pre-wash. Pre-wash.
Let me know how it goes,

Dear Mom
The spinner on my 10 year old washing machine isn't working properly. It just stops spinning during the rinse cycle. I look at my wife like she should know 'cause she's a woman and she tells me I'm sexist and that because it's mechanical I should know. Help save our marriage please (We don't want to fight over the $500 we don't have to buy a new one).
Any advice given will be appreciated.

Dear Gary,
Call me sexist, call me old fashioned, but Mom happens to think like your wife - fixing things that require the use of more than one tool and/or a special hand cleaner to remove oily grime is a "Guy Thing".

So, I asked the resident "Guy" around here {that would be MY husband Mike} about your machine. He listened carefully and then said "Is ours doing that?"

Assured that no, our machine was still working properly, he suggested that you check the water pump. He insists that this is easily replaced, and has offered to show me how if our machine should ever have this problem. {I can hardly wait - 'Tool Time' with my Honey Lamb.}

Basically, what you're looking at is either a repair bill, or another machine. Note that I didn't say a "new" machine. Check the classified ads of your local paper, and/or the yellow pages under "appliances" and you will find used, but not necessarily used-up washers for sale.

In our area, they can be had for about $150.00 for a big 'ol family sized model, but we have paid as little as $35.00 for one at a yard sale. {It ran for over two years - quite a bargain.} Folks dispose of a perfectly good appliance for a number of reasons which we won't go into, the point is that there are washing machines availabe for less than $500.00.
Considerably less, if you know where to look.
Happy hunting.

Dear Mom,
I am a college student at MIT and I just recently purchased a second hand tie without laundering instructions. Could you please tell me how to care for a tie? It smells, but otherwise has no obvious stains. I don't know what it is made of so could you send me instructions on how to care for ties manufactured from various materials?
Love you.
Your loving son,

Dear Drew,
Such a good boy. Thrifty and thoughtful. Ties can be tricky. For example, silk has a tendancy to water spot, which leaves unattractive marks. Ties are also cut on the diagonal, and stretch out of shape very easily.

The BEST advice I can give is to let a professional handle it. Most will do the job for about $2.00, which is a bargain if you are really fond of the tie and want to be able to wear it.

If you are determined to "do it yourself", this method should work on all but handpainted ties. You'll need to use a dish pan with leukwarm/cool water and a dab of shampoo. Immerse the entire tie at once, gently swish it around a bit, and let soak for five minutes. Fold it, and carefully lift the tie from the dish pan to rinse. Unfold, and dry flat. DO NOT WRING THE TIE TO REMOVE EXCESS WATER. If you are lucky, it will not shrink or be twisted, and once it's dry, it should do nicely.

But I strongly recomend seeking out the services of a professional. For the cost of a cup of coffe and a donut, you can have a nice, clean, wearable tie, that should stay that way for quite a while if you mind your table manners, and don't use it as a napkin.