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Laundering Problems & Solutions

The majority of laundering questions that arise today have to do with poor cleaning results, poor soil and stain removal, residues of lint and scum, and fabric damage. Here are the typical problems with causes and treatments most likely to solve them. Ways to prevent problems from occuring are also given.


Greyness-Overall / Uneven
Yellowing - Body Soil Build up
Fabric Discoloration
Blue Stains
Yellow / Brown Stains Poor Soil Removal
Powder Residue
Dark / Bright Colors
Greasy, Oily Stains
Stiff Harsh Fabrics
Fading / Abrasion
Lint Pilling Holes, Tears, Snags
Color Loss / Fading
Wrinkling
Synthetic / Permanent Press Fabrics
Shrinking


Problem

Causes

Solutions

Preventive Measures

Greyness
Overall
Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase the amount of detergent and/or use a detergent booster or bleach. Use a sufficient amount of detergent.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Incorrect sorting
    Transfer of soil





    Transfer of color
Rewash with an increased amount of detergent and hottest water safe for fabric. Use bleach that is safe for fabric.

Do not dry items. Quickly rewash with detergent and a bleach safe for fabric. Severe damage may be permanent.
Separate heavily soiled items from lightly soiled ones. Use a sufficient amount of detergent, hottest water and bleach safe for fabric.
Sort carefully by color. Separate white or white background prints that are colorfast, colored pastels in solids and prints, medium and bright colors, and dark colors.
   Uneven Insufficient use of detergent after treating with prewash stain remover. Treat entire item with prewash stain remover or soak in a concentrated solution of a liquid laundry detergent. Rewash with an increased amount of detergent and in hottest water safe for the fabric. Use a sufficient amount of detergent and wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
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Problem

Causes

Solutions

Preventive Measures

Yellowing Build up of body soil Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase the amount of detergent and/or use a product containing enzymes, detergent booster or bleach. Use a sufficient amount of detergent.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Treating synthetic fabrics as "delicate," thus giving them short, gentle, cool washes.

Handwashing synthetic fabrics with a light duty detergent.
Wash in hot water, at least 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) using a permanent press cycle (with a cool-down that lowers the water temperature before the first spin). Increase the amount of detergent and/or use a detergent booster or bleach.

For extremely discolored synthetics that cannot be bleached with sodium hypochlorite bleach, soak in a product containing enzymes or a detergent booster. Or, treat with a color remover by soaking according to package directions. Then wash in washer.
Launder frequently with a laundry detergent and in a washer with water at least 100 degrees F (38 degrees C).
Yellowing Fabric
Discoloration
Use of sodium hypochlorite bleach on silk, wool or spandex items. Yellowing cannot be removed. Do not use sodium hypochlorite bleach on wool or spandex items.
Blue Stains Failure of a blue coloring in detergent, laundry aid or fabric softener to dissolve or disperse. If caused by a detergent or powdered laundry aid, add 1 cup (240 ml) of white vinegar to 1 quart (.95L) of water. Use a plastic container. Soak item for one hour; rinse.

If caused by fabric softener, rub stains with bar soap, wash.
Add product first, then clothes and start washer.

Dilute fabric softener before adding to wash or rinse cycle, or to dispenser.
Yellow or brown stains (rust) Iron and manganese in the water supply. To restore discolored load of white clothes, use a rust remover recommended for fabrics. Follow package directions. Repeat if necessary. Do not use sodium hypochlorite bleach to remove rust stains; it may intensify discoloration.

Use a nonprecipitating water softener in both wash and rinse waters to keep the iron in solution.

For an on-going problem, install an iron filter in the water supply system
Iron in water pipes or water heater. Same as above. Before washing, run the hot water for a few minutes to clear the lines.

Drain the water heater occasionally.
Poor soil removal Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase amount of detergent. Use a sufficient amount of detergent.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Overloading of washer. Wash fewer items in a load. Wash fewer items in a load. Sort clothes by color, fabric and amount of soil.

Use proper water level for size of load.
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Problem

Causes

Solutions

Preventive Measures

Greasy, oily stains Insufficient amount of detergent to hold the soil in solution until the end of the wash cycle. Treat with prewash stain remover or a liquid laundry detergent. Increase amount of detergent. Use a sufficient amount of detergent.
Wash water temperature too low. Increase wash water temperature. Wash in hottest water safe for fabric.
Fabric softener
    Undiluted liquid
Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Avoid pouring fabric softener directly on fabrics. Dilute rinse cycle fabric softener before adding to the final rinse.
    Dryer added type _
    Too small a load.
Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Add a few bath towels to the dryer load to provide proper tumbling.
 &nbspImproper dryer     cycle selection Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Use appropriate dryer cycle, i.e., permanent press cycle with polyester/cotton blends, etc.
 &nbspDryer too hot Rub fabric softener stains with bar soap; wash. Reduce dryer temperature. Check dryer instruction booklet to be sure dryer is operating properly.
Residue or streaks of powder, particularly noticeable on dark or bright colors Undissolved detergent Add detergent to the water first, then add clothes and start washer. Same as solution.
Some powder detergents can combine with water hardness minerals to form a residue. Add one cup (240 ml) of white vinegar to 1 gallon (3.8 L) of warm water. Use a plastic container. Soak item and rinse. Increase water temperature using hottest water safe for fabric. Do not overload the washer.

Or, use a liquid laundry detergent or use a nonprecipitating water softener with a powder detergent.
Stiff, harsh fabrics
Colored fabrics look faded
Increased fabric wear and abrasion
In hard water, some powder detergents can combine with water hardness minerals to form a residue. Add 1 cup (240 ml) of white vinegar to 1 gallon (3.8 L) of warm water. Use a plastic container. Soak item and rinse. Use a liquid laundry detergent or use a nonprecipitating water softener with a powder detergent.
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Problem

Causes

Solutions

Preventive Measures

Lint Improper sorting; mixing items that give off lint such as sweaters, bath towels and flannels with synthetics, corduroys, velours and other napped fabrics. To help remove severe lint deposition, hand pat dried item using masking or transparent tape. Rewash with detergent and use fabric softener in the final rinse. Dry in dryer. Wash items that give off lint in separate loads from synthetic or napped fabrics. Turning lint collectors inside out may help.

Wash very heavy lint shedders alone, such as blankets, chenille bedspreads or rugs.
Tissues in pockets. Remove tissues and wash items. Check pockets and remove tissues before laundering.
Overloading of washer or dryer. Wash and dry fewer items in a load.

Use proper water level for size of load.
Same as solution.


Same as solution.
Insufficient amount of detergent. Increase amount of detergent in order to hold lint in solution during the wash time. Same as solution.
Clogged washer lint filter. Clean washer lint filter. Clean filter after each use.
Overdrying in a dryer that creates a build up of static electricity in synthetic fabrics. Rewash and use a fabric softener in the washer or dryer or use a detergent containing a fabric softener in the wash.

Remove items from the dryer while they are slightly damp.
Use fabric softener in washer or dryer to reduce static attraction of lint to synthetics.



Same as solution.
Dryer lint screen is full. Rewash clothes. Dry in dryer with a cleaned lint screen. Clean lint screen after each use.
Pilling Some synthetic and permanent press items have a natural tendency to "pill." This happens because fibers break off the surface, ball up and cling to the surface rather than break off like natural fibers. This is due to an abrasion from normal wear and is commonly found on socks, sweaters, collars, cuffs, underarm areas or any other portion subjected to abrasion. Lint may be attracted to the little balls. To remove the lint, use a lint brush or roller with masking or transparent tape. Pilling is a wear problem which cannot be prevented completely. It is a natural characteristic of some synthetic and permanent press fabrics.

Use a fabric softener in the washer or dryer to lubricate the fibers.

When ironing, use a spray starch or fabric finish on collars and cuffs.
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Problem

Causes

Solutions

Preventive Measures

Holes, tears or snags Incorrect use of sodium hypochlorite bleach. Irreversible condition. Never pour liquid sodium hypochlorite bleach directly on clothes. Use the bleach dispenser in the washer or dilute with at least four parts of water before adding to the wash water. For powdered bleach, follow package directions.
Unfastened zippers, hooks and belt buckles that readily snag synthetic knits. Irreversible condition. Fasten zippers, buckles, hooks and eyes before adding to the washer.

Turn synthetic knits inside out to wash.
Rips, tears and broken threads in seams. May be irreversible if rips, tears and seams cannot be mended. Mend any visible damage before washing, especially open seams that will fray and become difficult to mend.
Overloading the washer. May be irreversible if holes, tears and snags cannot be mended. Let wash load circulate freely. Use the proper water level for the amount of clothes being washed.
Sun degradation. Irreversible condition. Check items like curtains before washing by gently pulling the fabric to determine condition. If curtains can be washed, use gentle cycle.
Color loss or color fading Unstable dyes used in garments. Most common with neon and fluorescent colors as well as bright reds, greens, blues, purples, pinks, black and peach. Full strength application of laundry pretreatment products may remove some or all of the color. Sometimes even rubbing with water will cause these colors to bleed or fade. Color loss or fading due to unstable dyes may be irreversible. If garment care label instructions were correctly followed, return garment to the store where it was purchased and ask for a refund or replacement. Read and follow garment care label instructions; the garment may not be washable. To be safe, always test pretreatment products on an inconspicuous area of the garment. Test item for colorfastness before washing. Wash new items separately the first few times to remove excess dye.
Water too hot for colored fabrics. Irreversible condition. Use cooler water.
Improper use of bleach. Irreversible condition. Test item for colorfastness before using bleach.

Use an oxygen bleach.
Undiluted bleach applied directly to fabric. Irreversible condition. Do not pour undiluted bleach directly on clothes. Follow package directions for correct use.
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Problem

Causes

Solutions

Preventive Measures

Wrinkling of synthetic or permanent press fabrics Failure to use correct cycle. Use permanent press cycle on washer and dryer, if available. If not, for the washer, use warm wash and a slower or shorter spin speed in the washer, then use a cold rinse. For the dryer, use high temperature setting followed by 10 minutes of air drying. Remove items from dryer as soon as it stops; hang or fold items. Same as solution.
Failure to remove items promptly from dryer at end of cycle. Remove items from dryer as soon as it stops; hang or fold items. Same as solution.
Overdrying. Put clothes back in dryer. Set control for 15 to 20 minutes on permanent press or timed cycle. Heat and cool-down period will remove wrinkles. Reduce drying time and remove items when there is a trace of moisture in them; hang or fold items.
Overloading of washer and/or dryer. Allow wash load to move freely in washer and/or dryer. Do not overload washer and/or dryer.

Use fabric softener.
Shrinking Overdrying. Irreversible condition. Reduce drying time and remove clothes when there is a trace of moisture in them.

Remove knits, especially cotton, while they are still slightly damp. Stretch back into shape and lay flat to finish drying.
Residual shrinkage Irreversible condition. Many knits and woven fabrics can shrink when laundered. Allow for this when purchasing. Also, check the quality of the item.
Agitation of woolen items. Irreversible condition. Keep agitation in both wash and rinse cycles to a minimum. Use slow agitation or soak method for washing and rinsing. Regular spinning does not contribute to shrinkage and will speed up drying.