Or laundry-routine must-haves, if your laundry “room” is the nearest laundromat. These laundry hacks have saved my clothes more than once over the years. They’ve also helped keep the girls’ fave outfits in the rotation, especially after major mealtime mishaps.
Far as I’m concerned, keeping things organized around a home with small children starts in the laundry room. Stain-free clothing will inspire kiddos to take care of their clothes (and other belongings) more effectively than clothes that read like a diary of everything they’ve done and everywhere they’ve been.
But as any laundry-washing parent knows, sometimes kiddos have an uncanny way of keeping their “play clothes” spotless, while getting all sorts of crud all over their school uniforms, fancy attire, and that special outfit from the grandparents that (given its origins) is all but sacred.
Hence, 16 laundry hacks. And by laundry hacks, I mean my 16 must-have laundry-room items for dealing with daily life in a house with kids. Or one accident-prone adult (i.e. me).
1. Leave-in stain removers
One reason I love leave-in pretreat laundry hacks is because you can apply whenever you have a minute, then set the item aside if you don’t have a full load yet. My go-to’s are the Shout pre-treatments for Heavy-Duty Stains and Set-In Stains. While you CAN put them on right before tossing something in the wash, you can also treat fabric up to a week in advance, without damaging the item.
I like this best for unspecified-food-origin stains on whites. I’ve gotten out set-in stains that even bleach pens didn’t touch.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This product is NOT safe to let dry on all fabrics! I learned this the hard way, when I accidentally let the Power Stick gel dry on a pastel T-shirt. The gel left a bleached-out area on the shirt, but the stain was gone.
By letting the product dry on the fabric, I’ve had good luck getting out stubborn stains on whites after one or two tries. But if you use this pre-treatment, either follow the directions (treat and wash within 20 min), or be choosy in what you use it on.
3. Plastic bin for pre-treats
Use a plastic bin to corral pre-treated items until laundry time:
- so they have a place to hang out while drying/don’t get mixed up in the regular wash, and
- so you remember they’ve got pretreated stains on them when it’s time to toss them in the washer. (See #9)
Mötsenböcker products aren’t cheap. But they’re an amazing last resort (especially Lift-Off #1, the “Food-Drinks-Pets” version) for that favorite blouse or dress that nothing else works on. Or those mystery stains caused by who-knows-what, on any clothing your child acquires in a “gently used” state. Or that non-washable paint you accidentally spattered onto something. (I even got red latex paint out of a favorite pair of powder-blue kiddo PJs once!)
5. Old toothbrushes
For gently scrubbing in Mötsenböcker products (or any other stain treatment that needs to be worked into clothing) without harming the fabric. Be sure to keep them out of your kiddos’ reach, lest they try to reclaim them for tooth-brushing (you’d be surprised…).
If you use powdered whitening products, as I do (Biz, Oxy-Clean, Clorox 2 powder), sometimes making it into a paste and allowing the paste to dry on the stain (see plastic bin, above) works better than just tossing a scoop of powder into the wash. Having an extra cap is great for mixing the paste; use the non-brush end of those old toothbrushes for stirring water into the powder. Bonus: many of these hold approximately a half-cup (120-125 mL), which helps when measuring ingredients into the washer (see below).
Preferably 91% (the higher the number, the better). Great for removing permanent inks (ballpoint pen, permanent marker), though you may need to do this process more than once. Put a clean rag or folded paper towel under the stain; saturate with rubbing alcohol; dab surface with another paper towel or clean cloth. Some of the stain will come out on the dabbing cloth, but most will push through onto whatever is underneath. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone.
I’ve used Lestoil on greasy and oil-based stains since my mother first taught me this hack. (Note: You’ll find Lestoil concentrate with the cleaning products on U.S. store shelves, NOT in the laundry section.) You can dump in as much as 1/2 cup if you have a really messy load (add an extra rinse to help get out the odor). Or you can pretreat a stain and allow to dry, or apply right before tossing a stained item in the washer. As long as the stain isn’t set, I’ve only had to apply and wash a second time on a few occasions. I’ve even gotten out some dryer-set greasy food stains with it.