Antique postcard image from Raphael Tuck and Sons Co, Ltd.

Mom's Handy Guide
to Spots, Stains, & General Laundry Know-How

Being a practical woman, Mom has accumulated a variety of stain removal tips that you can try right in your own home. Just look for the troublesome spot below. In addition, there are also a few tricks for washing odd items, fixing some of those 'uh-oh's', and what to do with your laundry once you get it clean.

Spot Removal
Blood . Coffee . Glue . Grass . Gum . Ink . Kool Aid . Lipstick
Mildew . Mud . Oily Stains . Protien based stains

More Tricks
Baby Socks . Bath Towels . Feather Pillows . Quilts

Wool Sweaters . Lint . Low on Soap . Soured Clothes

After The Wash
Clothesline Tips . Ironing

Spots & Stains

  • Blood: Soak in COLD water, changing as the water turns pink. For stubborn stains, dab on hydrogen peroxide to bleach. You can also make a paste out of meat tenderizer and apply. Let sit for 15 to 30 minutes, and wash in cold water.

  • Coffee & Tea: Pour boiling water through the stain from the back of the fabric.

  • Glue: When your little cherub comes in with the neatest bean picture you've ever seen, and more glue on their good shirt than on the paper, don't worry. Just hang the artwork on the refrigerator, and soak the shirt in warm water with 3 tablespoons of vinegar. Rinse well.

  • Grass: To remove 'green knees' sponge with denatured alcohol.

  • Gum: Rub an ice cube over the gum until it stiffens, and peel it off.

  • Ink: Where is that pocket protector when you need it? Ah well, most regular inks come out in the wash, but just in case, try applying hairspray liberally to the stain and rub with a clean, dry cloth.

  • Kood Aid: Try 1 tablespoon ammonia added to 1/2 cup water. If that doesn't work, try dabbing on hydrogen peroxide.

  • Lipstick: Soften by rubbing with petroleum jelly {Vaseline} to 'float' the stain. Sponge with hydrogen peroxide or denatured alcohol.

  • Mildew: This one can be really tough, so you'll want to treat it while it's still fresh if at all possible. Here are a few suggestions; 1)Try soaking the fabric in white vinegar. 2) Blot on lemon juice and salt and let the fabric set in the sunshine. 3) Blot on hydrogen peroxide repeatedly. 4) For the really desperate, try soaking the fabric in sour milk or buttermilk overnight.

  • Mud: Let dry completly, brush off. Soak fabric in 1/4 cup detergent and enough water in a bowl to cover for 1 to 2 hours. Wash as usual.

  • Oily Stains: Try applying cornstarch and water as a paste. Let dry and brush off.

  • Protein Based Stains: Most foods {eggs, fish, meat} are handled the same way - plenty of cold water to soak to stain out. Don't use hot or even warm water as it will set the stain. The old meat tenderizer trick works fairly well too, just apply as a paste, let set 15 to 30 minutes, and wash in cold water.

    More Tricks

  • Baby Socks: And other small items like those scrunchi ponytail holders can be washed in a ladie's knee-high nylon. Just make sure that you don't pack the nylon too tight, and remember to test anything you plan to put in the washer for color-fastness. You'll have to remove the items for drying, but at least this way, you'll be able to find everything.

  • Bath Towels: To avoid having lint on everything, bath towles should be washed all by their selves. Adding about 1/4 cup baking soda with the soap when washing will help keep them fresh later when they have been used and are damp.

  • Feather Pillows: Small feather pillows can be washed by hand with the feathers left inside. Scrub the outside in a weak solution of laundry soap and baking soda. Rinse and repeat. Gently squeeze out any excess water. Fluff pillow and dry flat on a rack in yhe sunshine, turning often, and fluffing to keep the feathers seperated. A much better way involves using a pillowcase at least twice the size of the pillow. Open up one end of the pillow, and, using wide masking tape, seal the edges of the large pillowcase over the open end. Carefully shake the feathers into the pillowcase, fold the top down, and slipstitch closed. Wash the feathers in the machine on delicate, and tumble dry on low heat. Wash the soiled pillow as well, and before you replace the clean, DRY feathers, blot on a very stiff starch mixture to seal the 'pores' of the fabric and keep the feathers from working through. Refill the same way it was emptied.

  • Quilts: Your quilt may not be a museum quality antique, just a little something that your Grandma made for you, but hey, Grandma won't always be around to stitch up another, so take good care of it. The first thing you should know is that quilts should be washed as little as possible. If your quilt is hanging on display, the occasional vaccuming using a soft brush attachment is about all it will need. If your quilt is used on a bed, there are times when it must be washed, or more accurately, mashed to clean it.

    Unless you know for sure that it's been washed before, you'll want to test the fabrics {especially red} for colorfastness. Just slightly dampen with water and dab with blotting paper. if it does bleed, you'll want to contact the textile curator of your local museum to find the name of a good dry cleaner in your area.

    If you are going to wash the quilt yourself, here's the recomended method:
  • Pick a nice warm summer day.
  • Begin by folding your quilt accordian style, and placing it in a tub half full of warm, soapy water.
  • Now you'll want to start pressing the quilt down with your hands {'mashing'} to get it all under the water and remove dirt.
  • Turn and refold in the tub as best as you can. This part is not going to be easy, but do your best.
  • You'll want to continue turning, folding and mashing gently until you have managed to cover the entire quilt. Just keep telling yourself that this is a labor of love.
  • Drain the water from the tub, using your hands to press the excess water from the quilt.
  • Refill the tub with clean water to rinse.
  • Drain rinse water, refill, and repeat until there is no more soap to be seen, and the rinse water is clear.{This is going to take quite a bit of time}
  • Drain the water from the tub a final time, using your hands to gently mash the extra water from the quilt. It's a good idea to let it sit a while in the tub so that even more of the water can drain from the quilt.
  • When you are fairly certain that the quilt has drained most of the water, fold it into thirds and carry it outside to dry.
  • The best method is to lay a clean sheet down in a grassy area, unfold the quilt top side down over it, and carefully pin a second sheet on top to protect the back. if there aren't any clean, grassy areas available, the quilt can alternatively lain out over the top of a picnic table, or the hood of your car using two sheets as mentioned before. If you are desperately short of flat surfaces on which to dry your quilt, you can use your clothesline, but the quilt will need to hang across all three lines, and every two hours you will need to go out and carefully rehang it to redistribute the weight and avoid stressing the fabric. Sure makes the dry cleaner sound good, huh?


  • Wool Sweaters: Accidently washed a wool sweater? Soak in tepid water to which you have added a good hair shampoo. Sometimes this will soften the fibers enough to let you re-shape it. It's worth a try. {Also, dry sweaters flat, on a sweater rack, or a clean, dry folded towel.}

  • Lint: Wash clothes right side out. Dry them inside out on the clothesline, and right side out in the dryer.{Don't forget to clean the lint trap before each load} This prevents those "lint stripes' on the sleeves. Don't wash towels with anything else, as they are the #1 source of lint. Oh yea, and masking tape rolled sticky side out on your hand will pick up lint {and pet hair}.

  • Low On Soap: Add 1/4 cup baking soda to the laundry soap, it helps. Dishwashing liquid also works well, as does shampoo for delicate items. You will be surprised at how little it takes to get the clothes clean. {Usually less than a half a cup for most loads.}

  • Soured Clothes: If your clothes have 'soured' in the washer before you could get them dry, wash them again with a little ammonia.

    Clothesline Tips

    All About The Genuine Aerodynamically Designed Solar Powered Clothes Dryer

    Why bother with a clothesline? . Getting set up . Hanging Out

    A few thoughts on Domestic Tranquility...: Although the Dryer is the method of choice in most homes for handling wet laundry, here on the farm, we prefer to use the good old fashioned clothesline. There are a number of reasons behind this decision, but I'll only bother you with three;
  • Dryers are expensive{200.00 and up}, and can only dry one load at a time. They break down, which requires that they be repaired by someone knowledgeable about the workings of major appliances {which I am not}, or replaced. Our clothesline, which can handle three loads of wet laundry at a time, was ridiculously inexpensive to set up; two T-shaped poles: $10.00 at a yard sale. One bag of cement to set the poles: $3.00. One 100 foot roll of galvanized 12 gauge wire: less than $16.00. If, someday, a wire should happen to break, I can replace it myself in less than ten minutes.
  • Dryers cost money to run,{added utility bills}, while the clothesline cost next to nothing to operate {allow about $5.00 a year for clothespins.}
  • The clothesline offers fresh air, sunshine, and even a bit of exercise, and it NEVER shrinks anyone's clothes. If a stain has escaped my eagle eye before drying, there is no harm done,
    I can still treat it. On the other hand, the dryer is hot, generally crammed into some tiny niche next to the washing machine, and it mercilessly reduces the garments of the unwary by at least a 1/2 size, not to mention it's bad habit of permanently baking stains.

    Of course, the clothesline has it's disadvantages; You can't dry clothes when it's damp or raining, your clothes will be a little stiffer, and if you don't know how to properly hang something out to dry, it will look absolutely awful. For us though, this is a small trade off for the smell of towles fresh from the line, the sound of the sheets gently flapping in the breeze, and the simple pleasure of actually 'doing' the laundry. The very act of hanging and gathering gives one a little time to pause and enjoy the day. That said, here are my favorite clothesline tips; from how to set up your very own clothesline, to the proper way to hang the wash.

    Getting Set Up
    Although there are any number of nifty little devices for hanging out the wash that attach to the side of the porch and roll up, the best way is to permanently set your posts in concrete.
    If the idea of drying your laundry on the line is appealing to you, but the idea of guests walking into the lines is not, you can have two pieces of pipe cut that are slightly larger in diameter than your actual poles, and set those in concrete. When you are expecting guests and plan on entertaining, simply slip the poles up out of the pipe and roll the line up.

    You'll need two T-shaped poles that stand about 8 feet tall. If you aren't fortunate enough to already possess a pair, and the local yard sales don't yield any results, you can make your own in about 10 minutes. Head straight for the chain link fencing section at the hardware store and purchase the following items; one pair of eyebolts for each line you plan on having, two short posts{48''}, two top rails, or extra long posts {8 feet}, and two T-connections. Drill the holes for your eye-bolts in the two short posts, slip the T-connectors on the top of the long posts, slide the short posts through the top, attach the eye bolts, and you're ready to set the the thing up in concrete.

    Dig your holes two feet deep and approximatetly one foot in diameter. Mix the concrete, set the poles or pipes, pour it in and allow to 'cure' 24 hours before attaching the lines.
    You'll want to position the holes so that the prevailing wind in your area blows over the wires, not from pole to pole. Make sure your spot is at least 3 feet from any fences that could catch waving garments and tear them. You might also want to situate the lines so that at least 1/3 of the line is in the shade during the mid-day sun so that you can hang bright colors without fear of the sun fading them. {Note: be careful about putting the clothesline directly under a tree, or you might end up with bird bombs all over your nice clean wash.}

    Attaching the Lines
    Ideally, you would have three lines running from pole to pole; one in the center, and two on each end. If it hasn't already been done, you'll need to drill 6 holes in the top of each T-post to hold three eye bolts. Thread the eye bolts through the holes, making sure that the 'eye' is on the inside, facing the other pole. Tighten a nut on the back of the eye bolt and you're ready to add wire.

    About clothsline...Alot of folks just use cotton rope, which works okay, but will sag, and eventually fray and rot. The fact that it's inexpensive and found in most grocery stores next to the detergents is it's main selling point.
    Also available is that lovely green plastic coated cable. Although it doesn't rot, it is practically guaranteed to sag no matter how tightly it's pulled when it's put up. It too is inexpensive and readilly available in practically any hardware store.
    But in order to have a clothsline capable of holding more than one load of heavy wet laundry, you'll need 12 gauge, galvanized wire. {Ask the clerk at the hardware store for a roll of the wire used to tighten chain link fences.}
    If you are planning to have a removable clothesline, have the hardware store cut the line for you and attach heavy duty snaps.{Like the kind on a dog leash, only bigger.} You will need to know the exact distance between each set of eye bolts, and you'll need one done for each line you plan on putting up. When you get it home, just snap the ends on the eye bolts and you're set.

    If permanence is what you're after, buy a pair of wire cutters when you pick up the wire. Thread one end of the wire through the eye bolt, double it back toward the other pole, and using pliers, twist the wire around itself to anchor it. Now stretch the wire out to the other eyebolt on the opposite pole, measure off an extra 8 inches or so, and cut. Thread this end through the eye bolt and pull, pull, pull to stretch it as tight as possible. Twist it back on itself to anchor and you've got the first one done. Repeat for the other eye bolts, and in almost no time at all, you will find yourself the proud owner of an Genuine, Aerodynamic Solar Powered Clothes Dryer that would make your Great-Grandma proud.

    A few notes about hanging out...{the wash}
    There is a right way and a wrong way to do anything, including hanging the laundry on a clothesline. Done the wrong way, your wash will be stiff and wrinkled like a prune. Done the right way, your garments won't feel like cardboard, and ironing will be reduced to a few touch-ups or eliminated entierly. We're talkin' science here, so pay attention.

    How to really hang out...

    The #1 rule is "hang out the laundry as soon as it's finished washing."
    If you're washing at a laundromat, fold the wet clothes in a basket until you get home to hang them out and you won't end up buried under mounds of horribly wrinkled clothes later.
    Now, to the clothesline. We'll take each item one at a time and explain.

  • Socks: Hang socks by the toes.
  • Pants, including jeans: Hang them upside down by the legs, making them look like a giant V. The weight will 'pull' out the wrinkles, and all you might have to iron is the very bottom 3 inches or so on each leg.
  • T-shirts: Hang by the flat shirt tail. About three inches of drape should do it. {the bottom hem}.
  • Shirts with collars: Hang by about 2 inches of the tail. Shirts with long tails will require three pins, and the back of the shirt {the longest tail} will require more fabric draped over. If it is a button shirt, open all the buttons and face the open front into the wind. Adjust until the shirt opens up in the wind like a sail. The breeze will blow open the sleeves, and greatly reduce your ironing time later to a few touch ups on the collars and cuffs.
  • Dresses: Hang by the shoulders for lightweight fabrics, folded in half for heavier garments. A dress will almost always need to be ironed, but this way is the least stressing on the fabric.
  • Skirts: Hang by the waistband.
  • Bathtowels, dishtowels, and washcloths: Hang by about 3 inches of the top corners {the short ends on a towle} By letting the towel 'hang long' you are letting more air reach it and reducing drying time.
  • Sheets: Hang folded in half.
  • Unmentionables: Turn underwear inside out to expose the inside to the sunlight. Hang a bra or girdle folded over in half in the shade.