I’m introducing a new weekly feature based on reader dilemmas over cleaning, cooking, laundry and organization. As you may know from following my Facebook page, I try to answer questions as fast as I can. (I wouldn’t recommend doing it on Twitter, though — 140 characters just isn’t enough space!) But when a problem is one that many face, I plan to privately help the reader right away (because who wants to wait a week to get help fixing a problem?) and also post the Q and A here where it can help others, too.
This week’s questions involve laundry: getting the smell out of a HE washing machine and the oily stain off of a pillowcase.
I left the door closed on my front loader washer while on vacation. Now I have a great tan, but the washer has a musty smell… and sometimes our clothes do, too. I’ve run a ‘bleach load’ through it, but the smell is still there. Anything else I can do??
Sandy in the Cracks
Most times when HE washers develop a musty smell it’s from using too much detergent. As you’ve figured out, though, leaving the door closed for long periods of time encourages mildew growth, and that stinks. So let’s focus on killing the mildew to get your washer smelling like clean laundry again. Here’s how:
1. Kill mold and mildew spores in the washer drum. You didn’t say whether you used hot water in the “bleach load”, so I’m going to assume you went the energy-efficient route and used cold. Even if you did use hot water, though, let’s be thorough. Add 1/2 cup of bleach to 2 cups VERY hot water. Dip a cloth in, and wipe every surface inside the machine, including the glass on the inside of the door.
2. Clean the rubber gasket. Put a towel down on the floor in front of the machine, because this next part is messy. Carefully pulling the rubber gasket open with your fingers, clean it with bleach water and a fresh cloth. You may need to use an old toothbrush to scrub away any particularly nasty buildup. Get the area between the rubber gasket and the machine very wet and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Change your bleach solution and, using yet another clean cloth, wipe the inner seal again. Follow with a clean, dry rag.
3. Scrub the detergent tray. As I mentioned above, sometimes the source of the smell is a detergent buildup. That’s particularly true if mildew and mold is growing on the buildup. So let’s get rid of it! Remove the tray and soak it in hot, soapy water for 30 minutes, then scrub well and rinse. Wipe it down with bleach solution, too, to kill any lingering spores. And, before you return the tray, clean inside the tray compartment with another clean rag and bleach solution. Wipe it with a clean, bleach-free cloth and return the detergent tray to its place.
4. Run the cleaning cycle. Add 1/4 cup of bleach to the detergent tray and run the machine on its “clean” setting. (Or whatever yours labels that cycle.) NOTE: if you’ve turned your water heater down to the ‘vacation’ setting, or anything less than 120F, you’ll want to turn it back up so the water is hot enough to sanitize the machine and its hoses.
5. Wipe it again. Yes, you’ve previously wiped it but the cleaning cycle has probably loosened more crud, so repeat steps 1 and 2.
6. Let it breathe. Leave the door propped open overnight so the machine and its hoses can fully dry out. Give it the sniff test the next morning and, if needed, repeat the cleaning cycle using white vinegar this time. (Repeat steps 5 and 6, too.)
Let me know how it turns out and don’t forget to send me a postcard next time you go on vacation!
My husband has horrible allergies that make his eyes itch, even while he’s asleep. He rubs his face on his pillowcase at night due to the itching, and his pillowcase always looks dirty even when it’s clean. What’s causing this and is there anything that will get rid of this ugly stain?
First off, my sympathies to your husband since I, too, have horrible allergies. In fact, that’s how I learned the advice I’m about to give you. See, one reason his pillowcase is getting stained is because oil builds up on faces as people sleep. Rub that oil in and add some skin cells or dander and, voila, you’ve got a nasty pillowcase.
Here’s how to get the grease out of pillowcases: Dawn liquid dish soap. The original blue stuff, not the girly scented kind. That soap is one of the most powerful grease cutters I’ve ever used, and it makes an incredible pre-treatment for oil-based stains. So grab the pillowcase and squirt some Dawn on it. Scrub it in with a good, stiff brush or simply rub the dirty sides together between your hands vigorously. Let it sit overnight, then rinse it in a sink of very hot water. (Cold water doesn’t do anything to power away grease stains, no matter what the detergent manufacturers claim.) Once you’ve got most of the soap out, toss it in the washer on the highest setting possible and add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle. It, too, is a powerful grease fighter.
Once clean, skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets since they simply add a layer of wax to clothes, and wax attracts grease. Besides, they’re also one of the biggest nighttime triggers for allergy sufferers, so by not using it on the bed linens maybe he’ll stop rubbing his face against them, too!
Notice, I didn’t lecture your husband about how allergy sufferers really should take a shower before bed (or, at least, wash their hands and face thoroughly). That’s your job, so get to it!
Do you have a housekeeping problem you’d like help with? Send me a note using my contact page! Be sure to let me know if you’re fine waiting a week or so for an answer, or if you need help right away. (Though keep in mind, I do sleep and I have something that vaguely resembles a life away from the computer. Oh, who am I kidding? Just keep in mind that I do sleep.)