Over the years you may have purchased clothing that faded from its brilliant color after cleaning or laundering. The same thing has happened to me. You may have also heard about “home remedies” that were suppose to “set” dyes. I know I have had people recommend to me such things as vinegar and water; salt, alum and water; or a combination of vinegar, salt, alum and water to be added to the wash or rinse cycle to help prevent color loss. Unfortunately none of those methods substantially reduce color loss. Those remedies are basically a waste of time, energy and money. So it was interesting to me when I recently purchased a new top that the store included the two care cards you see pictured. When I asked about them the store clerk helping me said it was because the top was black.
Dyes can bleed in dry cleaning solvent or in water and cause the original color to fade or stain other colors. If excess dye remains on the surface of the fabric it can cause dye loss or transfer in water or solvent both by crocking or rubbing. If you have ever worn a new pair of jeans and sat on something light colored or worn a light colored top and seen blue streaks appear on the lighter color it is because the excess dye has rubbed or crocked off.
If excess dye is the main cause of color bleeding, the dye transfer may stop after a number of washings or cleanings but the color will fade as well. There are some things you might want to consider the next time you are contemplating buying a black or brilliant colored piece of clothing. Be a label reader. If the tag says “wash colors separately”, you could expect dye will bleed in washing. Washing your garments inside out in cold water will help some. There are commercial dye fixatives you might want to try. Retayne is a popular one on the market. Retayne is a liquid cationic dye fixing agent used as a pretreatment on commercially dyed cotton fabrics that tend to bleed easily. Retayne does NOT work in energy efficient front laoding washing machines. Those machines do not supply enough water to properly treat the fabric. Use a top loading washing machine or treat the garment in an old enamel canning kettle or plastic bucket that is not used for food. For the machine or the pot, use enough 140 degree water for the fabric to move around freely. If the hot water that enters your washing machine is not 140 degrees you will want to heat water on top of the stove to add to the machine. Leave the garment in the 140 degree water for 20 minutes, launder in cool water and rinse in cold water. This treatment only needs to be done once. After that continue to launder in cool water and rinse in cold water. Do not wash the garment in hot water. Synthrapol is often used in combination with Retayne. Synthrapol can be used as a pre-wash or an after-wash. As a pre-wash it works best in hot water to wash out excess loose dye molecules that have not been chemically bonded to the fabric. Used as an after-wash it keeps loose particles of dye in suspension so they don’t stain other areas of the fabric.
Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative is another popular product on the market. It is designed to also lock in color and reduce bleeding and fading. The procedure is much the same as with Retayne. Hot water is used again and you treat the garment before the first laundering.
Shout makes a product called Color Catcher Dye-Trapping Sheets. They are used in the wash water and the sheets are designed to lock up loose dyes found in the wash water to help prevent dyes from bleeding onto other clothes and helping preserve the bright vibrant original colors of your garment. If you are using a front loading machine it is recommend you put the Color Catcher in a mesh bag and place it at the back of the washer drum before adding the load of clothes to wash.
If you look at the reviews online or talk to people who have used any of these products you will find that none of them are 100 percent reliable. There are a lot of variables involved. If you decide to use one of the commercial products it is important to follow the directions as stated on the package. The use of vinegar to “set” color is not recommended however.
The warm weather makes me want to finish up cleaning and storing winter items. I typically wash all our winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves. The flannel sheets and heavy blankets are clean and stored away. The next thing I need to do is wash or dry-clean all our woolen sweaters and shirts and store them to prevent damage from clothing moths.
I did a little research on clothing moths since it has been a while since we had any questions from AnswerLine callers on this topic. These moths like to lay eggs on woolen and other animal fiber articles of clothing. There are actually two different species of clothing moths.
The case making clothes moth and the webbing clothes moth both appear very similar. They are both yellowish in color and about ¼ inch long. They look a bit fluttery when flying and both avoid the light. Their fully grown larvae are about ½ inch long and white when brownish-black heads. Both will spin a feeding tube or protective case into the fabric that they are feeding upon.
This larval stage is the only life stage when the insect feeds; the eggs and adult moths do not damage clothing. The clothing moths prefer quiet dark areas like closets, attics and seldom used drawers or trunks. If you store an item for a long time in one of those quiet spots the item is particularly at risk. Moths typically will not damage anything in a high traffic or use area.
You may be wondering how to prevent a clothing moth infestation. The best answer to this is to be meticulous in keeping both the storage area and the garments clean. Vacuuming will remove eggs and laundering or dry cleaning will also destroy the eggs. Cleaning items will also remove food stains and body oils which will also attract moths. You may need to brush or leave items in the bright sunlight to get rid of larvae or eggs. Remember to brush the items outdoors so you don’t re-infest your home.
Freezing is another alternative to control the larvae or eggs in an item that you cannot wash or dry-clean. You must leave the item in a freezer set at 0F for at least 48-72 hours. This will be great if you have stuffed animals or items with feathers on them.
After your items are cleaned, store them in a tightly sealed container. You may want to choose a tightly sealed plastic tub. Cedar does contain oil that acts as an insecticide but is only effective if tightly contained. A cedar closet is not typically tight enough to actually kill the moths. Moth balls can be effective if placed inside a tightly sealed container but they are toxic and you may want to avoid using them. The odor of the mothballs is very long lasting so you may choose to just use the tightly sealed tub alone.
It looks like I have a project for this weekend, but once I get everything cleaned it will be safely stored for the summer.
We just got home from one of our favorite places to vacation, the mountains in Colorado. The weather was deceivingly cold. Even when the sun was out and our skiers and snow boarders came home with many spots that needed to be warmed up! Fortunately we didn’t have any cases of frostbite, but I thought it would be helpful to review how to dress for the cold weather and what to do when someone does show signs of frostbite or hypothermia.
Here are some important things to remember when you are outside exposed to the elements for long periods of time:
- Wear a hat to prevent thermal loss from your head. Even better; a mask that covers your nose and cheeks will help keep more parts of your face from getting frostbite. Mittens that are water resistant (mittens are said to keep your fingers warmer). Warm wool socks (again not cotton) and well insulated boots that will stay dry and will keep your feet protected and warm.
- Dress in layers. Avoid cotton since it is not a good insulator. When cotton gets wet it takes longer to dry and your body temperature will rapidly drop. Better materials are synthetics like polypropylene and performance fabrics or wools that wick wetness away from you skin. The middle layer should offer some insulation even if it gets wet from snow or sweat. Wear a thick insulating fabric over your wicking layers. Have waterproof or at least water resistant outside layers.
- If you feel body parts getting really cold it is time to come inside and find shelter to warm up. Waiting too long can cause your body temperature to drop which could become life threatening.
- Remember you burn more calories in cold weather so make sure you have snacks and liquids to refresh yourself.
According to Mayo Clinic Frostbite occurs in several stages:
- Frostnip. The first stage of frostbite is frostnip. With this mild form of frostbite, your skin pales or turns red and feels very cold. Continued exposure leads to prickling and numbness in the affected area. As your skin warms, you may feel pain and tingling. Frostnip doesn’t permanently damage the skin.
- Superficial frostbite. The second stage of frostbite appears as reddened skin that turns white or pale. The skin may remain soft, but some ice crystals may form in the tissue. Your skin may begin to feel warm — a sign of serious skin involvement. If you treat frostbite with rewarming at this stage, the surface of your skin may appear mottled, blue or purple. And you may notice stinging, burning and swelling. A fluid-filled blister may appear 24 to 36 hours after rewarming the skin.
- Severe (deep) frostbite. As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin, including the tissues that lie below. You may experience numbness, losing all sensation of cold, pain or discomfort in the affected area. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large blisters form 24 to 48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard as the tissue dies.
Rewarm mild frostbite areas by using warm water (101 to 104 degrees) NOT hot water or by applying warm cloths to the area. Make sure you remove any jewelry before rewarming since swelling may occur and NEVER rub or massage the frozen area.
Seek medical attention for frostbite if you experience:
- Signs and symptoms of superficial or deep frostbite — such as white or pale skin, numbness, or blisters
- Increased pain, swelling, redness or discharge in the area that was frostbitten
- New, unexplained symptoms
Get emergency medical help if you suspect hypothermia, a condition in which your body loses heat faster than it can be produced.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Intense shivering
- Slurred speech
- Drowsiness and loss of coordination
The winter weather offers many fun things to do but care needs to be taken to make sure you are not endangering your health. Remember to dress correctly and watch to make sure that frostbite is not going to spoil your fun in the snow!
I was recently doing some laundry for a family member and double checking the care labels. If you are anything like me, some of them can be confusing! Here is a basic primer on care labels with links for more information if you are interested.
Anything wash related has a pictogram that looks like a wash tub with waves representing water on the top. If that is the only symbol showing, it is okay to wash the garment normally. Any lines under that tub indicate permanent press or a delicate/gentle cycle depending on the number of lines.
The bleach pictogram is a triangle. If there is a blank triangle, any bleach is okay to use when needed. If there are lines in the triangle, only non-chlorine bleach should be used when needed.
A square represents the dryer. A circle inside the square means normal drying. Again, any lines under that square would mean less heat on either the permanent press or delicate/gentle cycle depending on the number of lines. A blank circle in the square means any heat is okay while a darkened circle in the square means no heat/air only. Between those two extremes are circles with dots in. Three dots for high heat down to one dot for low heat.
The ironing symbol looks basically like an iron. Unless the pictogram shows lines representing steam coming from the bottom of the iron with those lines crossed out, you may use a dry or steam iron. Again, maximum temperatures for ironing are shown in dot form with three dots being high temperature down to one dot for low temperature.
A circle on its own is used for dry cleaning. An X through the circle means “Do Not Dry Clean”. Additional information in or around the circle is for the drycleaner.
The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Care Labeling Rule which requires manufacturers and importers to attach care instructions to garments.
This was a good refresher for me and I hope helps you read the care labels in your garments more easily.
In a previous blog, we discussed methods for cleaning the quilts you may have in your home.
Here are a few tips for hanging that special quilt:
- If the quilt is an older one or a on the delicate side, consider sewing a lining to the entire back of the quilt. The lining will help protect the quilt from dust and will help support the hanging weight of the quilt. Use an unbleached muslin that you have washed and dried a few times. This will soften the lining and allow the quilt to drape or hang more naturally.
- You can also make a casing the width of the quilt. You can use leftover scraps from the quilt if you have them, or use the unbleached muslin again. This casing helps distribute the hanging weight of the quilt more evenly.
- If you put a casing at both the top and bottom of the quilt, you can change the direction it is hanging occasionally.
- Remember not to hang the quilt in direct sunlight. Even indirect sunlight can cause the fabrics in the quilt to fade. Dark fabrics are affected more rapidly than other colors.
- Avoid areas with extreme temperature changes; such as near a heat duct or a window. Over time this can damage the quilt.
- Change the quilts you have on display periodically. Old quilts may stretch or tear if hung on display for long periods of time.
- Avoid hanging quilts in kitchens were dust and grease fumes can soil the quilt rapidly. Also avoid areas where people or pets will often touch the quilt. Skin oils will also add to the soil and stains on a quilt.
- NEVER hang a quilt by directly tacking or nailing it to the wall. NEVER hang a quilt with clip-on metal curtain hangers. The weight of the quilt gradually creates small tears where it is clipped.
If you have a number of quilts, you will want to store them carefully between the times that you choose to display them on your wall. Of course, the easiest way to store them is to use them on a bed that is seldom slept on. Otherwise, the best methods for storing quilts are:
- Acid-free boxes or papers would be best for storing quilts, but if unavailable, quilts can be wrapped in clean cotton sheets or washed, unbleached muslin.
- Quilts can be stored folded in acid-free boxes or storage units or rolled around cardboard tubing. If you choose the rolled method of storage, it’s best to purchase acid-free cardboard tubes from an archival supply vendor (see attached list). If an acid-free tube is not used, cover the tube with a protective barrier layer of tin foil, then muslin or acid free tissue. If quilts are stored folded, folds should be padded with acid-free tissue paper in the folds
- .Plastics should generally NOT BE USED for storage. They contain harmful vapors which contribute to the deterioration of the fabrics. Plastics which are particularly harmful: dry cleaner’s bags, heavy duty garbage bags, garment bags and Styrofoam.
- Newspapers and cardboard boxes are NOT OKAY because they are full of harmful decaying agents — just remember how your newspaper looks after being out in the sun for only a few minutes. Think of what contact with your quilt can mean!
- Don’t stack too many folded quilts on top of each other or else the weight of all of the quilts will create creases that are hard to get out. For the same reason, unfold and refold your quilts every 3-6 months to avoid severe creasing.
Enjoy the quilts in your home. I have quilt racks in most of the rooms in my home; several rooms have two or three quilt racks. I enjoy rotating the quilts seasonally.
Quilting is my favorite hobby, and the one that consumes most of my time. Since quilting has been popular for quite a few years now (I got started in 1980) it seems possible that you may have a quilt in your home that you need to clean.
If you have been using the quilt on a bed, it is possible that the quilt has stains from food or body oils. A quilt that has only used for display will probably have more dust and dirt from the air than stains. Quilts can best be cleaned using one of two methods.
You can choose to vacuum a quilt or wash it with water. Vacuuming the quilt puts the least stress on the quilt. You will want to use a small screen and a small vacuum. The screen will be placed between the vacuum and the quilt. The screen prevents damage to the quilt from the suction of vacuum on the quilt as you clean it. You should vacuum both the front and the back of the quilt. Pay special attention to the creases in the quilt and try to remove all dust from those areas. Resist the urge to give the quilt a good shake outdoors. The shaking can stress both the quilting stitches and the piecing stitching. Additionally, if the fabric in the quilt is old and delicate, shaking can damage it, too.
If you must wash the quilt, you will want to check to be sure that all the fabrics in the quilt are color fast. If the dyes run while washing, you will have more stains to clean than just oils and dirt. Use the largest place possible to wash the quilt. This may mean washing it in the bath tub. Avoid over agitating the quilt and wringing it out. Be sure to use a very mild soap, preferably use one designed for washing quilts. Rinse the quilt well and allow it to drain as much water as possible before moving it to dry. You can dry the quilt outside, in the shade on a sheet. If you want to use the clothes line to dry it, make a hammock out of a large sheet and lay the quilt on it. You may want to lay it over several different clothes lines to spread the weight of the quilt out over a larger area. If the wet quilt hangs by itself, you may cause irreparable damage to the stitching in the quilt.
If you have more questions about cleaning your quilts, please call or email us at AnswerLine. We would love to help you.
Summer is here and we have shed our dark winter clothing for our light colored clothing. Spills and stains are inevitable but they can cause laundry challenges when it comes to stain removal. Remember the sooner that you treat the stain the easier it will be to remove. Here are some common food stains and some suggestions on how to remove them.
- Kool-Aid: Dye stains are difficult to remove. First, pretreat the stain with a liquid laundry detergent. Allow it to work for several minutes than rinse the spot in hot water in your sink. If it is still there a colored garment can also be soaked in a dilute solution of enzyme pre-soak like Biz or Clorox 2. If the garment is white, soak in a dilute solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water. Be sure that your bleach is fresh and soak no longer than 15 minutes. When using bleach if the stain is not removed in 15 minutes it can’t be removed and further bleaching will only weaken the fabric.
- Catsup or barbeque sauce: Scrape off any excess. Rub liquid laundry detergent into stain before washing in warm or hot water if safe for the fabric. If stain remains, soak colored fabrics in an enzyme pre-soak which are color safe and rewash. Make sure stain is gone before putting in the dryer.
- Butter: Pretreat with liquid laundry detergent. Allow to work for several minutes then rinse the spot in hot water in your sink. After, treat again with detergent then wash in the temperature that is safe for the fabric. Do not put in the dryer until you are sure that the spot is out.
- Watermelon: Make sure that these spills are rinsed out as quickly as possible. Many times as the spots dry the stain seems to disappear. Unfortunately if left over time, the stain oxidizes into pale yellow or brown stains. To make sure this doesn’t happen launder it in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.
- Berries: Berries are tannin stains. Fresh tannin stains can usually be removed by laundering the fabric using detergent (not natural soap) in hot water, if safe for the fabric. If hot water is not safe for the garment rinse the spot in hot water in your sink before washing. Natural soap (bar soap, soap flakes, or detergents containing natural soap) makes tannin stains more difficult to remove. Old tannin stains may need a bleach solution.
So enjoy the warm weather. Eat and drink knowing that if you spill something we are here to help you get the stain out!
The weather is starting to warm up during the days and into the evenings so I determined that it is time to take off the flannel sheets and the electric blanket! Have you ever wondered how to wash and store your electric blanket so that it is ready to use next winter? Here are some suggestions to keep it in top working condition.
Laundering an electric blanket is as easy as laundering a regular blanket. Follow the specific manufacturer’s care instructions for best results; generally manufacturers indicate electric blankets should not be dry-cleaned. Dry-cleaning solvents will cause deterioration of the wiring insulation. Consumers should select the laundering method most suitable for them.
- Machine wash for a limited period of time; generally one to five minutes is suggested. Dissolve detergent in the suggested water temperature before placing the blanket in the washer. Do not use bleach. Evenly distribute the blanket in the washing machine. Use a gentle cold water rinse and spin cycle. If a conventional washing machine is used, do not use a wringer to extract the water.
- Hand wash by soaking the blanket for 15 minutes in detergent and lukewarm water. Squeeze the suds through the blanket. Rinse in cold water at least twice. Do not vigorously twist or wring the blanket.
- Machine dry by preheating the dryer at medium temperature. Add the blanket and allow it to tumble dry for ten minutes. Most manufacturers suggest the blanket finish drying by draping the blanket over two parallel clothes lines. If the blanket is dried completely in the dryer or dried at a Laundromat, blanket shrinkage and damage to the thermostat could result.
- Line dry by draping the blanket over two parallel lines, gently stretching it to the original length and width. Do not use clothes pins as they will damage the blanket wires.
- Store electric blankets by folding and placing them where heavy objects or other blankets will not be put on top of them. It is not necessary to use moth preventive sprays or materials as synthetic fibers are not consumed by moths. Also, moth preventive chemicals could cause deterioration to the wire insulation in the blankets.
These tips should help you keep your electric blanket in good condition and it will be ready when you want to use it again next year!
This year for Christmas new clothes were on everyone’s list. As I was getting them ready to be washed I looked at the care label and found that some of them only had pictures rather than written directions for washing. Some of the symbols were easy to interpret but with others I didn’t have any idea what they were telling me!
Here is what I found out when I did some investigating on clothing labels. In 1971 the Federal Trade Commission issued the Care Labeling Rule. This rule said that manufacturers must have a tag in their clothing with at least one safe cleaning method. Beginning July 1, 1997, manufacturers could use certain care symbols in place of the words on these care labels. The symbols and their written meaning were required for the next eighteen months. After January 1998 either written or symbols must be provided by the manufacturer but they don’t have to put both on.
So if you have an item to wash and the label only shows symbols print this helpful chart and keep it in your laundry area for your reference. If you have any questions about laundry and stain removal give us a call at AnswerLine. We would love to help you!
Spring can bring some interesting laundry problems. Here is some help if you come in contact with some of these stains.
- Removing pollen from clothing.
Pollen from plants can be very difficult to remove from your clothing. If you notice that you have some pollen on your clothing don’t try to brush it off with your hand. Instead use scotch or masking tape to lift it off the fibers. Brushing off the pollen by hand can set the stain. If you have a stain rub liquid laundry detergent into the stain and launder in as warm water as is safe for the fabric. If color remains use a bleach solution for white clothes or color safe bleach for colored clothes.
To remove perspiration stains apply liquid laundry detergent on the stains or soak in warm water with an enzyme presoak (Axion, Biz or Clorox 2) according to package directions. If it is on a white t- shirt you could put salt on the stained area then squeeze fresh lemon juice on the salt. Put it in the sun and allow to dry.
Mud is a protein stain and needs cold water to remove. Try rubbing the fabric against itself under cold running water to dislodge the mud. If hot water is used first it cooks the protein, causing it to coagulate between the fibers in the yarns of the fabric, making it more difficult to remove. If you also have a grass stain you treat the mud first then when the mud is removed use a pre-treater or liquid detergent to rub into the stain. Allow 10-15 minutes for it to start breaking up the grass stain then rinse under hot water in your sink while rubbing the fabric together. Pretreat again before washing as usual. If the stain is not completely removed you can soak white items in a diluted bleach solution or colored ones in color safe bleach.
Tar stains are treated as a combination stain. First you remove the oily/waxy portion of the stain by using a dry-cleaning solvent (Aerosol Shout, Spray’n Wash or K2R Spot Lifter) or stain stick and allow it to work to break up the stain for 10-15 minutes. Then rub with a liquid laundry detergent and scrub in hot water. If it is not completely removed rub liquid detergent into the stain again before washing.
With all stains check to be sure the stain was removed before putting in the dryer. The heat from the dryer can set stains and make them almost impossible to remove. Get out and enjoy the outdoors knowing that even if you get a few stains we can help you get them out!