February 8, 2013

Laundry Tips from a Busy Mom of Four




As you know we love messy play.  Painting is Peanut’s (18 months) favorite hobby at the moment.  Some days the paints come out more than once.  The number one question or comment I get is how do I keep the kids’ clothes clean?  With six people in the house and all the sensory play we enjoy I have to have a good system, or the laundry will take over the house.




Last winter when we made our Body Paint Slip and Slide I posted photos on my personal Facebook page.  Many of my friends commented with horror that I ruined my boys’ nice clothes.




Let me let you in on a little secret:  I have never met a stain I couldn't get out.  Those clothes in the photo above came out of the wash just as nice as before.  I had to learn how to best care for clothes.  In addition to being a mom of four young boys, I am a spiller.  I don’t know how.  I can’t explain why.  I spill everything I eat or drink.  My mom said that when I moved out she no longer needed to buy laundry boosters or stain removers.  She taught me many tricks growing up, and I’ve learned a few of my own to keep our laundry fresh and stain free.

You might be wondering what a laundry post is doing on a kids’ activity and homeschool blog. I believe so strongly in the importance of sensory play and letting kids get messy that I’d hate for stains and messes to be the reason parents avoid it.  It is my hope that with these tips you will be confident enough to let your kids dig in and get dirty!

Before I get to stain prevention and treatment, here is a glimpse into my routine:

1.  Schedule
This is going to vary from household to household, and you have to find the routine that works for you.  Some people do one load every single day.  Others catch up on the weekends.  I tend to do 2-3 loads every other day.  I can’t stand doing a load every single day.  It makes me feel like I never ever get anything accomplished.  It’s mental really.  On the other hand, I can’t wait until the weekends and avoid laundry all week long.  There are too many of us, and the hampers would overflow quickly!




My advice is to find the routine that works best for you and your family.  The best routine is one that allows you to wash, dry, fold and put away.  Laundry isn’t done until it is put away.  (Don’t tell my husband I am giving advice on putting away laundry – ha ha!)  In all fairness, the only time during the week that I can accomplish household chores is when my youngest three boys are napping or in bed for the night, and I can’t put their laundry away when they are sleeping in their rooms, can I?  Once the twins are a bit older I’ll be able to get more chores done during the day, and I hope to keep up with putting the laundry away right after it is dried and folded.

2.  Sort
We all know that we need to sort lights and darks.  I like to take it a step further and sort adult and kids clothes, especially darks.  Most of our sons’ clothes need to be washed in warm water, and ours can be washed in cold water.  Also, separating clothes aids with tip number one.  When I fold a load of my husband’s and my clothing I can actually get it put away that same day.  I can’t use the kids are sleeping excuse.  In addition to lights and darks and kids and adults we wash whites together and towels together.

3.  Pockets
Have you ever left a tissue in your pocket?  Take my word for it, check your pockets.  I have also left chapstick in my pockets, and that leaves greasy stains all over clothes if it makes it into the dryer.  Not fun.  Check every pocket before washing.  My mom trained us well.  I don’t put my clothes in the hamper without checking every single pocket.  Her rule was if she found money in someone’s clothing, she got to keep it.  Now that I’m the mom I like that rule!

Detergents:
Not all detergents are created equal.  If you don’t spill often or have young children you might be able to get away with a less expensive detergent.  My mom buys hers at the dollar store and is very happy with the results.  She and my dad aren’t as clumsy as I am apparently.

I like Tide.  When I use Tide I don’t need to add stain removers or boosters.  Tide keeps clothes bright and smells good.


For a few years I made my own detergent.  My only complaint with the recipe I used was that it was hard on the clothes.  Our clothes faded faster than ever before.  With four boys I hope to pass clothes down to each child and get good use out of everything we buy.  Faded clothing weren't cutting it for me, so I went back to store bought.

Homemade recipes:

  • A three ingredient detergent that works for front and top loading washers from Happy Hooligans.
  • A detergent with a bold scent and an optional added stain remover from Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails.
  • A recipe for detergent as well as a frugal substitute for fabric softener and a multi purpose cleaning detergent from Housing a Forest.
Homemade recipes will save you quite a bit of money, and they have the added bonus of being green.


My husband loves the smell of Kirkland brand detergent.  He is the least picky person in the world.  There are very few things he has a strong opinion on, so even though I prefer Tide I concede to him on this one.  (If I’m being honest I think the driving factor behind preferring Kirkland is that it is so much cheaper.)  Regardless of the reason, Kirkland works for us!

Stain Prevention and Treatment:



1.  Pretreat
With four kids five and under I can’t always drop everything and run a load of wash every time there is a spill.  My solution is to pretreat clothes.  Anything with a potential spot gets sprayed with Spray and Wash (or comparable product) and left on top of the washing machine.  Leaving stained clothes on top of the washing machine is crucial.  Do you think I’m going to remember the marinara sauce all over a T-shirt two days later if it is in a hamper along with the dirty clothes from all six of us?  Not a chance.  By leaving the pretreated article of clothing on top of the washing machine I am able to remember which clothes need extra care when I get the chance to run a load.

2.  Water Temperature
Almost all stains need to be treated with WARM water.  Water that is too hot or cold will set the stain.  Unless your WARM setting is unusually hot or cold, always wash stained clothing on WARMThis includes chocolate, coffee, tomato sauce, paint, avocado, food coloring, grease, poop and anything else that could stain clothes.

The one exception is blood.  Blood needs to be washed in COLD water. 

3.  Soak
Leave stained clothing to soak for a few hours or even overnight.  If you wash clothes right after the mess is made you might be able to avoid the soaking step since the stain doesn’t have a chance to set.  In most cases I don’t have the chance to wash immediately.  Waiting works for me, because in the course of three days we likely have several articles of clothing that need to be soaked.  Be sure to follow the rules of sorting when you soak.  A pair of grass stained blue jeans soaking with a white polo shirt pretty much guarantees you a blue polo shirt with an uneven dye job.

I soak clothes in Oxi Clean.  Oxi Clean is strong enough that I typically only use 1/3 scoop per soaking load.  I soak overnight then add clothes with similar colors to the load in the morning, add a scoop of detergent and wash.  Most of the time I don’t rinse or spin the load that was soaking overnight.  If the water that the clothes soaked in has turned a dark color then I do a quick spin to avoid the color stained water from coloring the rest of my laundry.  This usually isn’t an issue with dark clothes, but I am cautious with lights.

4.  DO NOT DRY
If you remember only one thing from this post let it be this.  Until a stain is completely gone do not dry the clothes!  Drying sets a stain.  Like I said before I have never met a stain I can’t get out.  The only time stains are permanent in our wardrobe is when I forget to check the clothes before tossing into the dryer.  Inspect any clothes that were soaking for any remnant of the stain.  If you can’t tell for sure don’t dry.  When in doubt, lay flat to dry.  This is especially common with grease stains.  Grease stains blend in with wet clothes but rear their ugly heads once the clothes are dry.  I air dry all grease stains either by hanging or laying flat.

If a stain persists try the routine again:  pretreat with Spray and Wash, soak overnight in Oxi Clean and check before drying.


For extremely persistent spots make an Oxi Clean paste.  Put a tablespoon or so of Oxi Clean in a bowl and add a tiny bit of water.  Mix with a spoon then put the paste directly onto the stain and leave overnight.  The next day toss the entire thing, clothing and paste into the washer.  




Red tends to be the only persistent color when we paint or use food coloring in our play.  Sometimes if I don’t pretreat it right away, red takes more care than normal.  I have noticed that Crayola red paints come out much easier than Colorations brand.


I’ve mentioned Oxi Clean and Spray and Wash.  The other must have stain fighting tool is Dawn.  Dawn fights grease.  That’s how it gets dishes clean.  Grease stains won’t respond to Oxi Clean or Spray and Wash.  When I pretreat a grease stain I rub a little Dawn onto it.  When I wash clothes that I wore while cooking bacon or sweet potato fries or the outfits my boys wear while playing with cloud dough I add a good sized squirt to the load.  (One of the ingredients in cloud dough is oil.)  I don’t measure, but I roughly use a tablespoon of Dawn or slightly less.  Dawn is also the magic trick to keeping cloth diapers and towels absorbent.  It gets rid of any build up that could be causing the fabric to repel liquid instead of soaking it up.  Regardless of the main detergent you use, with these three stain fighters and proper steps you too can be stain free!




Another tip that naturally occurred after becoming a mom is avoiding clothes that need to be hand washed or dry cleaned.  If you work out of the home that might not be a possibility, but for me I prefer clothes that can be washed.  I don’t mind hanging or laying flat to dry, but hand washing is not going to happen in this house.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

As you can see from the photos I have a top loader.  For those of you with HE machines, here is a fabulous post from Creekside Learning on how to clean your H.E. washer without buying tablets.

As you can see we love messy play, and stains don’t get in the way of our fun.  All of the clothing worn during our messy play comes clean every time!  For ideas for messy play follow my Messy Fun board on Pinterest.



For more tips and tricks for cleaning and saving money follow my Household Items board.

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Be sure and read my post on Tips and Tricks for Messy Play.  With these laundry tips don't let the mess stress you out  Have fun and let kids get messy!



36 comments:

  1. What a thorough post, Allison! Thanks for all the great tips, and for including our detergent recipe!

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  2. Why dont you just put them in overalls when painting?! You'd save time and money surely! But thanks for the tips, Ana :)

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    1. Yes it definitely would save money, wouldn't it. :) But they'd still get food on everything, and so would I LOL.

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  3. I am also a spiller and do lots of messy activities with my kids, two of them extra-messy boys. I had to switch to Tide- I agree it's worth the extra money. I've never heard that Dawn helps the absorbency of towels- great tip! I've used it directly onto clothes as a stain fighter, but do you add it to the wash cycle with (or instead of) detergent?

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    1. I add a little (between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon) to loads that need it like towels and loads with clothing that might have oils on it. I also use detergent with those loads.

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  4. We have 5 kids ages 2-8 and I had the same problem with only being able to laundry at naptime and not able to put it away. I turned the hall linen closet into the family closet. It has 5 shelves and everyone got a shelf with 7 outfits and pjs. On the floor I put sterilite cd storage holders one for socks and 1 for underwear for each kiddo. Also a sock trick I learned was gold toe socks have one and 2 stripes. Now the boys can match socks on their own and I don't despise whites anymore!

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    1. What a great idea for storing your clothes so you can get them put away! Love it!
      -Brooke

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    2. That's a brilliant idea! We've been talking about redoing the hall closet. Hmm...

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  5. What a great post! Thank you so much for sharing!! Luckily I already knew about not drying anything until the stain is out. My mom taught me that! LOL I only have one little one and so I just check each garment as I load it in the washer and if it needs to be sprayed, I will spray it then. Unless it is chocolate, I will usually spray that right away and put in the hamper, that way I spray again when I put it in the wash. I will definitely try some of your suggestions!! I've always washed in cold because I was always told that warm/hot water will shrink and I really can't afford for clothes to be shrinking...she outgrows them fast enough. LOL

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  6. LOVE this post -- thanks for sharing so many specifics with us. I only have one, but many other kiddos are over at my house on a daily basis, so this is great. Pinning now!!

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  7. Excellent post. Thanks for all of the info. I have 2 boys and can't ever seem to tackle stains well.

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  8. This is really, really helpful. Really helpful. My 3 year knows more about doing laundry than I did when I went to college, and I haven't learned nearly enough since then.

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    1. It's so great that you include him! My boys love "helping" me, and even though it slows down the process I bite my tongue and let them join in. My husband is very helpful with household chores, and I hope my boys are as well one day!

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  9. Very nice! I have a daughter who loves to paint and thinks she should share everything she eats with her clothes!I, too, swear by OxiClean but I appreciate your suggestions on a routine. I am great at washing and drying. I am even decent at folding. It's the putting it away that kills me.

    Visiting from SPP.
    :-)
    Traci

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  10. After reading I went and bought OxiClean. I just did my first soak of hard to remove stains and they lightened up but not all of them came completely out. I only have 1 kid and find it hard to remember which clothes had stains on them before i put into the dryer so I bought a lingera bag and have it hanging by the changing table to stained clothes go into there and be treated! Thanks for the wonderful post!

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  11. Thanks a million! I started soaking stained clothes and I forgot about the bucket for a few days...oops...but the stains that had been on there for months came out! So I threw my play winter coat in a bucket and just checked it after overnight soaking in OxiClean and it is getting clean!!! Thanks for all the great advise!

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  12. Great tips!

    Would love for you to link it up at my new Empty Your Archive link party which is a chance to dust off great posts from your archive - there is a focus this week on laundry - would really love to see you there, Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

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  13. Thank You so much for your post. Your thoughtful time!!! Many Blessings.

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  14. Thank You so much for your thoughtful posts. It helped me so much!
    Many Blessings.

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  15. This is nice information blog. Thanks for Sharing.

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  16. One trick I learned for getting out even [most] dryer-set stains is a variation on your oxi-clean soak. I put about 2-3 scoops into my large stock-pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, stir in the stained clothes and cover. After an overnight soak, I wash as usual. The ONLY thing this hasn't removed for me is ground-in mud from a white shirt that my mother washed, untreated, before I could get to it.

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  17. One trick I learned for getting out even [most] dryer-set stains is a variation on your oxi-clean soak. I put about 2-3 scoops into my large stock-pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, stir in the stained clothes and cover. After an overnight soak, I wash as usual. The ONLY thing this hasn't removed for me is ground-in mud from a white shirt that my mother washed, untreated, before I could get to it.

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  18. I just found you on Pinterest and have to send you a HUGE thank you! My 4-year-old is starting therapy for eating issues because of a sensory processing disorder. We need to start sensory play at home to reinforce her therapy. And I have a husband with a severe aversion to messes of all kinds (he vacuums as soon as he comes home from work everyday). I think you are going to be a life-saver for me!

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  19. This is awesome! I have two boys ages 5 and 7 and stains are everywhere. I need to be more proactive about it and your tips are totally doable. I can't use Tide because I'm allergic so I make mine.

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  20. I know this is an old post but if you still check I'm curious; what recepie were you using when making your own that seemed to wear clothes out faster? Thanks

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    1. Borax, washing soda, and grated soap. I'm actually back to making my own, this time with a homemade recipe I created. I haven't posted about it, because it's pretty involved LOL.

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  21. I have a few questions -- how do you handle just everyday laundry (not necessarily "stained" but just dirty from outside play? It seems like dirt stains here at my house and I don't have time to treat every single article of clothing that has just dirt on it. I am willing to soak all my loads in oxyclean if you think that'll help? Would that also help with whites and colors be a little brighter do you think? I'm just tired of everyday dirt staining my kids clothes!

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    1. This is where using a good detergent comes into play. Tide gets every day stains out, in my experience. If you don't use Tide or another comparable brand adding Oxiclean to every load should help. You don't necessarily need to soak it as long as you wash on warm with a good detergent. I try to check all the clothes before throwing them in the dryer. It's a pain, but it keeps me from drying something that still looks dirty.

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    2. Thanks for replying :) Would Gain be a "comparable" brand? Tide is just a little pricey for us.

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    3. I think Gain is really good and worth a try. Plus it smells great. :)

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    4. Awesome! Okay sorry another question -- this part of the post totally confused me: "Most of the time I don’t rinse or spin the load that was soaking overnight. If the water that the clothes soaked in has turned a dark color then I do a quick spin to avoid the color stained water from coloring the rest of my laundry. This usually isn’t an issue with dark clothes, but I am cautious with lights." Isn't the rinse and spin just part of the cycle? How do you skip it? Don't the clothes need to be washed with detergent after soaking in just Oxiclean?

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    5. Yes, sorry. I run a complete new cycle, so yes they ultimately get rinsed. I just meant that I don't rinse and spin what is soaking before washing it. Usually what I do is add more clothes (that didn't need to be soaked) and detergent to the clothes that were soaking and run a new cycle. Does that make sense?

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  22. My 2 boys love to play outside and wrestle like every 5 minutes. Grass stains and ground in mud on knees! Tide and OxyClean work well for us!

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  23. AMazing tips! You are so right that drying will set the stain. I did this mistake several times. That's right, I didn`t learn my lesson from the first time. Greetings!

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