From my inbox: Laundry stains and pre-treating

Carey wrote,

"I wanted to thank you for all of your posting on line drying clothes for me! It has been very helpful. I also made a more concentrated version of "the homemade laundry detergent" and I'm having trouble with it not washing out fat based stains on my boys' shirts. Have you noticed this, do you have to do a lot of pretreating?"

Carey, you're quite welcome! I love line-drying my laundry, so it was a pleasure to write about it. :)

To answer your question, no, I don't do a lot of pre-treating on my laundry. I don't think I've ever found a detergent that takes out grease stains without pouring the detergent right on the stain and scrubbing a little.

Most of my laundry is not very greasy. It's just the four of us, and my boys are still young. Yehoshua (2.75 years old) still wears a bib at every meal! And I wash his hands whenever he eats. I'm pretty particular about food -- it stays in the kitchen, at the table, etc. We still have dirty laundry, obviously, but I try to minimize the mess and work involved.

I wash my husband's work clothes separately, since they're the dirtiest things I launder. I wash those in warm-cold water and use extra soap/detergent. They still have stains sometimes, but they have holes, too, and I'm not too concerned. I feel like they're clean, and they just get dirty the next day anyway. ;)

Here is my "take" on laundry stains.

We have some nice "church clothes" and we are very careful when wearing those items. (And we wear them for a limited amount of time, not just all day!) I change my clothes right before we head out the door. This clothes rarely gets stained, but when it does, I pre-treat or do what's needed to remove the stain if possible.

We also have decent, every-day clothes. We try to keep this clothes in good shape (like I mentioned earlier, Yehoshua wears huge bibs at mealtimes, which seems to be one of the worst culprits for messy shirts!) but we also don't really worry if it gets stained or worn. It's clothes, after all.

I hardly ever pre-treat anything. I do line dry the clothes, so sometimes if a stain doesn't come out with one washing, I'll pre-treat it the next time (since the heat of the dryer hasn't gotten to it to "set" the stain). Other times, not.

And then we have the clothes (mostly just Yehoshua's!) that is always stained. Bibs, cleaning rags, dish rags, and some t-shirts. It's around-the-house clothes and I don't bother to try to keep it looking perfect. If we have to go out, we wear something nicer.

At any rate, this is what works for us! Most of our clothes was either given to us or purchased at rummage sales or garage sales, and we've always been blessed with a supply of nicer things just as the older was getting worn-looking. :)

P.S. Baby poo stains I do try to get out, if they're in a noticeable place on the baby clothing. :) Usually some scrubbing and some sunshine will do the trick! :)


I am so bad about stains. I rarely remember to put bibs on Malachi. His clothes stayed near perfect for so long because he wasn't eating solids that I kind of forgot to change my ways (put a bib on! change clothes when they get spilled on!) once he was consistently eating solids. Ah well, he's a toddler who spends lots of time literally sitting and playing in the dirt so he has plenty of clothes for THAT activity anyway.

Hey, as far as getting grease/fat stains out of detergent usually works better for me than laundry detergent. Tammy, since you like cloth diapering talk ;-), I was also going to mention that I have read that using original Dawn dishwashing detergent (just a few drops) works well if you encounter build up on diapers. I don't knowo why Dawn is the brand to use but I actually ran out of laundry detergent not long ago and used a small amount of my dish detergent. (NOT Dawn...I don't think we have it here. My brand was Earth Choice or something like that.) It seemed to do the job very nicely. My diapers actually seemed softer afterwards but that could have been a coincidence. (I almost always use vinegar in the rinse and I could have used more that time or something. I have a very unscientific washing method.:-P) Anyway, it was nice to know it worked for the times when I run out of soap. I'm wondering if it would be okay to do it long term,t hough...using a few drops of dish detergent is sure a lot cheaper than my laundry detergent. The brand I use is kind of expensive but it's the only brand I can find that has no scents, enzymes, optical brighteners, etc. AND still gets things clean.


Thanks for your comments, Ruth! You leave such great comments! :)

I learned rather quickly that the only sure way to keep a boy's clothes clean or stain-free is to never let him wear them! ;) After having some nice articles of clothing meet fates such as permanant marker or impossible food stains, I know to reserve the truly special outfits for only truly special occasions. ;)

And that way I'm relaxed and I don't care if Yehoshua gets grass stains on his pants or mud on his shoes... it's just part of life. :)

Thanks for going into detail about the Dawn dishwashing detergent on diapers. I remember you mentioning that in the past. That would be cheaper, but like you said, it would be good to know the long-term effects. It seems like my pre-folds can be washed or handled a certain way for several months before the adverse effects start popping up, like when I used to use so much detergent (I think maybe almost a whole cap full, but I can't remember!).

One thing I have noticed is that sunshine and fresh air really keeps diapers in good shape. During the winter, when my diapers can't always get a lot of sunshine (I hang them inside or use the dryer), they seem most prone to smells, build-ups, and (of course) stains. Has this ever happened to you? How many rinses do you do on your diaper loads?

I work as a cook in a restaraunt and get ALOT of grease stains on my clothes. I have been adding baking soda to my wash and while the old stains are still there, there are no new ones to speak of. And not just grease either. I have a son who thinks it is his job in life to get as dirty as he can, which is not hard for him since he sweats mud. His clothes are clean too! I buy a giant box of baking soda from walmart for less than 2 bucks and it will last about a month. I also works to keep my whites white. My daughter has very sensitive skin, so alot of detergents and soaps will not work for us but this baking soda isnt harming her at all. I love this stuff!

Tammy, I love your practical advice! I think they should make boys pants either grass or mud colored, with rubber knees. :)

I'm also a big fan of the plastic baby bibs with the scoop pocket on the front. They rinse off easily, catch most of the food that is dropped, and eliminated the washing of bibs in my house. In fact, I would just drop the cherrios into their bib and let them eat out of it...and they loved to get a popsicle in their bib and run around outside with it. :)

Here is a trick that I've found for removing grease stains. It works on 'fresh' (never laundered) grease spots, as well as the stubborn set in stains that have previously been laundered. I frequently remove grease stains from really nice items that I find at the thrift store.

First, the grease needs to be re-hydrated by adding more grease to the spot. The fresh grease bonds with the dried residue from the old grease, kind of like fresh water bonds to the dried residue left from water based stains. I like to use WD-40 for this ;)

Next, treat the fresh grease with a pre-treat solution or some detergent. Dawn and Ivory dish soaps are both effective at removing grease (formulated to remove grease from dishes, and it works well on clothing too!) Make sure to treat the whole area with the pre-treat, a little beyond the grease stain.
Scrub a little and wash as usual.

Sometimes, it takes a couple of passes through to remove all the grease, but this method works well for me.

I'm also a recent Biz convert after hearing about it from other Mom's at the church playground :) Biz is an oxygen activated chlorine free bleach plus enzymes. I use it for pre-treating really dingy or dirty items, and removing tough stains like baby poo and fruit and berry juices. It's a bit pricey, but it lasts a long time, and I just save up the stained items and do a pre-soak once every few weeks.

Hope this helps!

P.S. My kids love to play hard after church, so they both pack a little bag of play clothes and change before going out to play. That has made life much easier!

If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands? –Milton Berle

A product on the market called Zout. Not to be confused w/Shout. It's in a red squirt bottle. (well, like a Dawn detergent bottle)It does have a slight smell to it, but is laundered out. I squeeze this on ANYTHING before laundering and it ALL comes out. Even blood, and chocolate!

I also use Tide-to-go for those stains you get on yourself, and don't have time to remove and pre-treat. I've used it on a number of things, tea, marinara sauce etc, all come clean.

I do know they cost a few dollars each, but if they work, I try them. And it saves on throwing out stained clothes (I don't give away stained, ripped etc clothes) or ripping up clothes to make rags.

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