Here’s a surprising Housewife How-To: you can use cornstarch on laundry stains! Although cornstarch is most often used to thicken sauces, gravies, and soups, there are three types of laundry stains it can power away.
Greasy stains on fabric. Don’t panic when that pizza cheese dribbles onto your favorite t-shirt. Just grab a clean white cloth and blot it as well as you can, then heavily dust both sides of the fabric with cornstarch. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then shake the powder off before dabbing at any remaining grease with white vinegar. Launder immediately at the hottest temperature permitted by the manufacturer’s label and you should be stain-free. (Always check that the stain is gone before putting clothes in the dryer, or you’ll set the stain.)
Greasy stains on suede or leather jackets and furniture. Carefully blot the grease with a dry cloth, then heavily sprinkle on cornstarch. Let it sit 12-24 hours to absorb the grease and then brush the item clean.
Zinc or petroleum ointments. Scrape off as much as you can with a butter knife, then dust the remaining goo with cornstarch and let it sit for an hour or two. When the cornstarch has had a chance to do its absorbing thing, brush it off and dab at any remaining stain with a grease cutting dish-soap (I like Dawn) and a washcloth. Launder and check to ensure the stain is gone before transferring the item to the dryer.
Ink on clothing. Make a paste of hot white vinegar and cornstarch, and rub it into both sides of the stain. Let it sit for an hour or two and then launder on the hottest water setting permitted by the manufacturer’s label. Check for complete stain removal before drying.
Cigarette smoke Although technically not a stain, cornstarch can help eliminate the stale, sooty smell of cigarette smoke.
- For clothing: Place the item in a plastic shopping bag and add 1/2 to 1 cup of cornstarch then seal and shake. Allow it to sit overnight then remove the item and shake off as much cornstarch as possible before laundering. (Obviously, you’ll want to do this outdoors if you can.)
- For carpeting and upholstery: Sprinkle liberally with cornstarch and use a brush to work the powder into the fibers or fabric. Wait at least one hour (overnight if possible) and vacuum thoroughly. For carpeting, consider steam cleaning or shampooing your carpet to complete the task.
Bonus: Get the stink out of shoes. Smelly tennis shoes are unpleasant. If you can’t simply toss them in the wash (leather tennis shoes, for example), mix cornstarch with tea tree oil and sprinkle it liberally inside the shoes. Stuff with newspaper and allow the shoes to sit overnight. The cornstarch and newspaper will both absorb moisture and odors, while the tea tree oil will kill of the bacteria that causes them.
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