Secrets of a Laundry Obsessive

Photo: Corbis

1. Rubbing alcohol works like magic on grass stains. Sponge isopropyl directly onto the fabric, allow to dry, and rinse with cold water. Apply a regular liquid detergent or enzyme stain remover to the same spots, let sit for at least ten to fifteen minutes, and rinse again in cold water. Allow to air dry and then launder as normal.

2. Accidentally sat in gum on the L train? Remove gunk from your jorts by putting them in a Ziploc and freezing for several hours. When the gum is nice and hard, scrape it off with a butter knife, treat the area for fifteen to 30 minutes with a half-and-half paste of white vinegar and dish soap. Wash as usual.

3. Syrah splashes can be treated by pouring a small amount of white wine (yes, you’re countering red with white) on top and using a napkin to gently blot—aggressive rubbing will only set the stain deeper. If you don’t have a bottle of white handy, grab the nearest saltshaker and apply liberally to the stain to keep it from spreading (the sooner you salt, the less it spreads). After you’ve stumbled home, treat the stain with a half-and-half mix of dish soap and either white vinegar or peroxide. Allow it to soak for fifteen to 30 minutes before washing as usual.

4. If your whites need de-grunging, soak them in lemon juice and set them in the sun near an open window. UV rays will gently bleach and disinfect the fabric within a day or so. Delicate items like lace should get indirect or filtered sunlight. Once the stains have faded, wash and dry normally.

5. Namaste no more if you launder your yoga pants with dryer sheets or fabric softeners. Their ingredients cling to the performance fabrics used in workout clothes, diminishing their breathability and sweat-repelling properties.

6. For unsightly pit stains, resist the temptation to use bleach, whose reaction with the stain can yellow it even more over time. Instead, crush and dissolve two aspirin (they contain salicylic acid, which helps neutralize stains) in a cup of warm water, then apply to the affected cloth. Let it sit for a couple of hours before laundering.

7. If caked-on deodorant is marring your littlest black dresses, turn it inside out and soak in pure white vinegar for several hours. Turn it back out before running it through the wash cycle at the warmest temperature possible (check the label for specifications). The acid in the vinegar breaks down the minerals, allowing them to be washed away.

8. Place a sheet of aluminum foil underneath your ironing-board cover to speed up the process; it reflects heat, so you’re effectively ironing from both sides at once.

* Don’t try these tricks on dry-clean-only garments.

Secrets of a Laundry Obsessive