I never thought I’d need to know how to get melted crayon out of laundry. I remember leaving crayons in the car when I was a kid, where they melted into a congealed mess in their box. But I never remember leaving any in pockets to go through the wash. (Why would you put crayons in your pocket, anyway?)

Yup, that little orange thing is what made the big mess.

And then, about a month ago, I went downstairs to collect a batch of laundry that my husband had removed from the dryer.

What he’d neglected to mention is that inside the dryer he also found a tiny little stub of orange crayon, no bigger than an ibuprofen caplet. (In fact, at first that’s what I thought it was.)

I didn’t realize this until the girls and I were trying to fold the items and put them away. First I found Essie’s chambray shorts. Her (formerly) nicest pair of shorts. Which now appeared to be covered in rust spots.

greasy crayon stains on green sheets

Yuuuck!

Then I saw some dark-green kiddo sheets. They looked as if someone had puked on them before slipping them into the clean-laundry basket by accident.

As I realized that piece after piece of “clean” laundry was covered in waxy orange splotches, the reality began to dawn on me: I had a batch of items that had gone through the dryer with a piece of orange crayon.

Essie’s blue-gray chambray shorts looked like they were covered with rust stains.

Which meant I now had to figure out how to get melted crayon out of our otherwise-clean clothing. Including

  • aforementioned nicest pair of Essie’s shorts,
  • a brand-new dress and only-worn-twice handmade nightgown, both gifts my mother had given Essie for her birthday, and
  • my new favorite summer top, a comfy cool charcoal-gray shirt I’d worn only once.

How to get melted crayon out of laundry?

On the slim chance that my memory was off, I called my mother and asked her if she’d ever faced this particular laundry dilemma. She laughed and assured me that she was an expert at getting pen out of my father’s work shirts, but had never had to remove melted-in crayon.

The sheets, towels, and PJ bottoms in this batch were no biggie. But I WAS upset about the nicer items that were too ridiculous-looking to wear in public – including the gray top I’d been waiting to pack for a conference over the weekend.

So I turned to the internet to see what I could learn about getting dryer-set crayon out of fabric.

Caveat:

As longtime readers of SuperMomHacks know, this blog is as much about my parenting failures and near-misses as it is about the things I manage to get right on the first (or third or tenth) try. (Toilet-training our youngest would be a prime example of this.)

This post is about the four “THIS is what works, trust me!” solutions I tried from the internet, followed by the six trusting-my-instincts efforts that came next (and the “really, THIS is what works!” ideas I never got to try).

After ten attempts, the crayon is gone from all but a handful of items. And of those that still have orange marks on them, it’s hard to find the stains if you don’t know where to look.

Essie’s cargo shorts, before any attempts to remove crayon stains (see teal circles).

Maybe you’ll be lucky. Maybe you’ll have a less offensive color than orange to remove. I cannot guarantee you that any one trick below will work for you. But I CAN assure you this:

  • The first four worked for at least ONE someone, somewhere; and
  • The latter six (drawn not from online ideas but from my own arsenal of laundry-room must-have’s) were generally more successful for ME than other people’s suggestions.

So take your pick. Start with whichever hack(s) below involve ingredients you already have. Or try them all in order, if you prefer.

Either way, here’s the rundown of

What I did to try to get melted crayon out of laundry

I. Consult the Internet

1. Warm iron, paper towels

Directions:

After scraping off any chunks of wax that you can with a knife, layer the fabric between layers of plain paper towel. Press with a warm iron. Don’t rub the iron back and forth, or you may spread the wax further. Swap out paper towels for clean ones as needed.

Ironing did nothing for the orange stains on Essie’s cargo shorts.

This is one of several hacks I tried from WikiHow, who got it from Good Housekeeping. If you have crayon that’s only slightly melted onto thinner fabric, I could see this working.

I started with this hack because it seemed like the easiest. However, most of the crayon-dappled fabric in question had crayon thoroughly melted into fabric, as opposed to more superficial stains.

I tried a pair of Essie’s cargo shorts first, since they were among the few items that had visible wax on the surface. The ironing technique didn’t do squat. On to the next hack:

2. Detergent, vinegar, dish soap, super-hot water

  • Regular amount of laundry soap for one load
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 4-6 tbsp. liquid dish soap
  • Super-hot water, as hot as you can get it

Directions:

Add ingredients plus clothes to your washer; add the hottest water you can get; let soak for 15 min. with lid shut (to keep the heat in), then run your normal wash cycle.

This hack comes from Tasty Cheapskate, who got it from Diary of a Doctor’s Wife. They both admitted a) their skepticism beforehand and b) how amazed they were that it WORKED! (Though Dr.’s Wife noted it doesn’t work for everyone.)

Seems I’m part of that “doesn’t work for everyone.” Attempt #2 left my orange-coated laundry looking about the same. Even though I started by cranking our water heater up to the maximum setting, and waiting for it to get up to temperature.

Furthermore – fearing an overflowing washer – I was leery of using that much regular dish soap in my washer, since dish soap gets super-sudsy. Especially since we upgraded to a HE washer last year when our old one died.

For those of you who haven’t used HE washers, here’s how they work: minimal water plus maximum agitation. Given the “let soak for 15 min.” instructions  and the fact that my “filled” washer hardly had enough water for things to “soak” in, I added several gallons of scalding-hot water from our laundry-room sink into the washer – just enough so the laundry actually could “soak.”

Then I let the 15 min. presoak and heavy-soil (i.e. heavy-agitation) wash cycle do their thing.

I’m not sure if it was the dish soap, or the added water, but when I checked at the end of the cycle, I had two unpleasant surprises:

  1. My laundry was still covered with melted orange crayon marks;
  2. My laundry room floor was flooded.

NOT good. So once I mopped up the mess, on to Attempts #3-4.

solution number 3 baking soda3. Detergent, baking soda, super-hot water

  • 1 capful premium detergent
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • Super-hot water (see above)

Directions:

Add ingredients plus clothes to your washer; add the hottest water you can get; run your normal wash cycle.

solution number 4 bleach or oxygen bleach ie Oxi-Clean4. Detergent, bleach/oxygen bleach, super-hot water

If you still have crayon stains after [#3 above], repeat the process, substituting bleach or oxygen bleach for the baking soda, and allowing the mixture to pre-soak for 30 minutes before running the wash cycle.

new fave shirt BEFORE any attempts to remove crayon

new fave shirt BEFORE any attempts to remove crayon

new fave shirt AFTER attempt #3

new fave shirt AFTER attempt #3

These solutions also come from Good Housekeeping via WikiHow. For #3, I let the baking soda solution soak for a good 30 min. before running the cycle. (Figured it couldn’t hurt!) Not much difference overall.

BUT, a couple of the least-marked items appeared clean after attempt #3. Happily for me, this included the super-lightweight summer top that I was waiting to pack for that conference. To be safe, I line-dried these items before final inspection confirmed that they were good to go.

For #4, since the batch of clothes was colors/brights/darks, chlorine bleach was not an option. So I used a full cup of Oxi-Clean instead. Our water heater was still on maximum temperature. Again, I did an overnight soak, just to be sure.

The result? Really not much different from the things I’d tried so far.

II. Trust your gut, and use what you have

By this point I was getting frustrated with my lack of results, especially on the nicer things of Essie’s that were at stake. For my next move, I had three choices:

  • Hunt down some WD-40 (the next ingredient to try in many of the online solutions) in the garage;
  • Try Martha Stewart’s multi-step procedure; OR
  • Trust my gut.

I’ve had good luck with Martha Stewart’s hacks on removing other challenging stains, like red wine – but they ARE multi-step processes. Having spent my spare time over several days tending to laundry, I needed to move this project to the back burner.

So I separated out the half of the load that was sheets/towels/underwear and declared a truce on them. Then, for the next several weeks, each time I did a dark batch of laundry, I added in the remaining items with a different stain-treater applied. (And as soon as I’d filled the washer for attempt #5, I also reset our water heater to its normal 120 degrees F. We were sick of running up our electric bills while risking hot-water burns for everyone.)

The next six attempts are based on tools I keep on hand in my laundry arsenal:

5. Overnight soak in Borax

Same idea as what I did for attempts #3-4, this time using 20-Mule Borax Laundry Powder . Some continued lightening in many areas, but problem not yet solved.

A pair of Essie’s blue pajama shorts, at various stages in the treatment process.

6. Clorox Power Stick

As I’ve noted before, this product can work miracles on lighter-colored clothing IF you break the rules and let it dry on. (I’ve also had decent results getting out other stubborn stains by following the directions and NOT letting it dry on.)

Since these were colors instead of whites, I didn’t take the risk of bleach stains by letting the substance dry onto the clothes. Instead, I let them sit for 10 min. between treatment and laundering, as per the instructions.

A few of the stains continued to get lighter. But you could still tell there was something staining the fabric, especially on the chambray shorts, new nightgown, and new dress.

7. Lestoil

Lestoil is my long-time favorite tool for getting greasy stains out of clothing. Since the girls were still grossed out by the greasy-looking stains on their green bedsheets, I threw the sheets back in with this load. First I wet each stain with Lestoil. Then I let them sit overnight, for insurance. Next I ran the batch with hot water (and an extra rinse cycle, since Lestoil has a pretty strong odor).

The greasy stains diminished some. But not enough to stop the girls from pointing out their persistence the next time I tried to swap the green sheets onto their beds. As for the bright orange marks, there was (once again) little noticeable difference.

8. Mötsenböcker Sticky/Greasy Formula

Kimmie’s new shirt BEFORE

I’ve been a fan of Mötsenböcker’s formulas ever since I discovered them. Though I have a bottle of their Sticky-Greasy Formula, I don’t use it much because Lestoil usually does the trick for me.

Kimmie's new shirt after #4 (same blue but under different lighting)

Kimmie’s new shirt after #4 (same blue but under different lighting)

In this case, NOT using it much was a bad thing. The general rule for Mötsenböcker formulas works like this: Spray on, let sit for a minute, scrub/agitate the fabric, repeat a few times if you can still see the stain, wash as normal.

This is the pattern I followed. Because I didn’t reread the directions on this particular bottle, I did NOT thoroughly rinse out all the residues from the spray treatments before throwing the treated things into the next load of laundry.

Kimmie's new shirt after #8 - crayon gone, but blue noticeably lighter around the stain

Kimmie’s new shirt after #8 – crayon gone, but blue noticeably lighter.

Apparently, I should have. (Always reread the directions!)

The good news: some major progress on removing the remaining orange residue. The bad news: large lightened rings on several of the items outlining where the spray had been. It was as if the spray residues had bleached the fabric some, including on the back of a still-pretty-new T-shirt that Kimmie had received from her grandmother’s recent travels.

(Fortunately, these rings came out with the next load of wash.)

9. Shout Advanced Formula for Set-In Stains

Finally clean!

Next, I tried Shout’s Advanced Formula for Set-In Stains. I’ve also had pretty decent luck in the past with getting out some of the toughest stains by pre-treating clothes, and then (as per directions on the bottle) letting them sit for up to a week before laundering.

In this case, travel and other commitments meant that the clothes sat for closer to ten days altogether.

Of all the hacks I tried, this one was the most successful at removing the remaining orange residue from the clothes I was still actively treating. Following this batch of wash, the last traces of orange crayon residue were completely gone from Kimmie’s new T-shirt. (Thankfully, so was the lightened ring left by the residue of attempt #8.)

Essie’s shorts before

Moreover, after this round of stain-removal effort, you’d need me to point out the remaining orange on Essie’s nightgown, dress, and chambray shorts.

But since I had one more Shout formula on hand, I figured I’d give it a final go with that version:

10. Shout Advanced Formula for Heavy-Duty Stains

After the Mötsenböcker residue mishap, I reread the directions carefully on the Heavy-Duty Stains version of the Shout Advanced Formula – noting that leaving the product on longer than overnight was NOT a good idea.

Essie’s shorts after

So after sitting overnight, I gave the remaining half-dozen items one last laundering with that day’s dark batch.

No, every last trace of orange crayon is not gone. Something about that orange crayon dye is very persistent. But you’d definitely need me to point out what’s left of it to you.

On the dress and nightgown, the remaining orange is somewhat camouflaged by the prints and colors, But Essie’s chambray shorts are back to being her nicest pair of summer shorts.

III. Things I didn’t try

After 10 attempts to get out those orange crayon-marks, I called it quits. But if any of you have equally-persistent crayon stains, and/or want to try something different, here are the two main approaches I didn’t get to before my time and patience evaporated:

11. Martha Stewart’s Solution

You can find Martha Stewart’s solution for how to get melted crayon out of laundry here. While I’ve had good luck with many of her complicated laundry-stain techniques in the past, a quick glance at the link will give you a hint of why I never quite got around to this one. (According to Martha, you’ll need ingredients ranging from artist-grade odorless mineral spirits to cheesecloth. Um, yeah. Though I suppose you could get by without the cheesecloth.)

12. The WD-40 Hack

Several websites, including this one, listed using the lubricant spray WD-40 to get off crayon stains. (At the same time, they noted that once you use the WD-40 to remove the crayon, you’ll need something else to remove the WD-40.)

If I had some WD-40 within reach of my laundry room, I probably would have tried this hack much earlier in the process. But since the ingredients for the ten things I DID try were already in my laundry room, I never quite got around to this one.

So there you have it! I sincerely hope you never need to know how to get melted crayon out of laundry. But if you do, you now have a rundown of how well the most common solutions you’ll find online – as well as several other common laundry stain-removal techniques – worked in my own efforts to get out those orange stains.

I hope you have complete success a lot sooner in this process than I did!

Your turn:

Have YOU ever tried to get melted crayon out of laundry? If so, what worked best for you? Please let us know in the comments!


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