12 Common Laundry Problems and How to Fix Them

Doing laundry can sometimes feel like a tedious chore. No matter how careful you are, issues inevitably crop up that complicate the process and leave you with less-than-clean clothes. However, most laundry problems have simple solutions. Here are 12 of the most common laundry troubles and tips for fixing them easily.

Stinky Washer

A front-loading washer can develop a foul odor over time. This typically happens when water and detergent get trapped in the rubber gasket, allowing mold and mildew to grow. A stinky washer not only makes laundry unpleasant, but the odor can also transfer to your clean clothes.

To clean a smelly washing machine:

  • Run a hot wash cycle with either white vinegar or bleach to kill bacteria and disinfect the washer. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that removes musty odors. Bleach sanitizes the machine.
  • Leave the door open between loads so air can circulate and dry out any moisture.
  • Wipe down the gasket thoroughly after each use and allow time to air dry before closing the washer.
  • Clean the detergent dispenser and run an empty rinse cycle regularly to prevent residue buildup.

Following these steps will keep your washer fresh and odor-free. Be sure to leave the door open if you won’t be washing clothes for a few days.

Lingering Detergent Smell

It’s frustrating when you can still smell laundry detergent on your clothes after they’re washed and dried. The scent of cleaner may seem nice at first, but it can get old fast. Luckily, there are a couple of tricks to remove excess detergent and the lingering soapy smell from your laundry.

  • Use less detergent. It’s easy to accidentally use too much detergent, which doesn’t dissolve fully and remains stuck in fabric. Measure carefully using the recommended amount.
  • Add vinegar to the rinse cycle. The acid in vinegar removes traces of detergent and neutralizes odors. White vinegar is inexpensive and works great.
  • Skip fabric softener. These products can trap detergent rather than rinse it away. Softener sheets and liquid softener can be skipped when trying to eliminate detergent residue.
  • Run an extra rinse cycle. Choosing the “extra rinse” setting helps to fully flush out any excess detergent suds that remain after washing.

With these quick tips, you can successfully remove the stubborn soapy scent from laundry. Soon, your clothes will smell clean and fresh instead of like the detergent bottle.

Pilling Clothes

Finding those annoying little balls of fuzz, or “pills,” on your garments is a common wardrobe woe. Certain fabrics like cotton blends are prone to pilling, which happens when shorts fibers loosen and tangle into knots on the surface. While pilling doesn’t damage the actual material, it can make clothes look old, worn, and unkempt.

Luckily, there are some simple solutions to return pilled items to their former glory:

  • Use a fabric shaver/defuzzer. This handy tool quickly shaves away pills without damaging the fabric. It’s fast, effective and inexpensive.
  • Try an electric razor. For pills on delicate fabrics, an electric razor can remove fuzz balls gently. Place a nylon stocking over the garment to catch loosened fibers.
  • Use a pumice stone. Rubbing the fabric over a pumice gently lifts pills so they can be brushed off. Rinse the stone and repeat as needed.
  • Hand pluck pills. For small jobs, carefully pulling the pills off by hand works. Just be cautious not to tear the material accidentally.

With some basic tools and techniques, you can keep your wardrobe looking fresh and pill-free. It’s a simple fix that extends the life of your garments.

Removing Dye Stains

Accidentally washing a colored garment with whites can lead to dye staining on your laundry. Bright pink or purple splotches from runaway dye ruin the look of your nice white shirts and sheets. While dye stains seem stubborn, there are a few household products that can tackle even the most set-in spots.

  • Rinse with cold water immediately when you discover the issue to prevent the stain from setting. Hot water can set a dye stain permanently.
  • Try white vinegar. The acidity cuts through dye. Soak the stained item in a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts cold water.
  • Use hydrogen peroxide. Its bleaching power helps lift both new and old stains without harming fabric. Let it sit for 30 minutes before laundering as usual.
  • Make a baking soda paste. For tough stains, mix baking soda with just enough cold water to form a paste. Gently rub it on the spot and let sit briefly before rinsing and washing. The alkaline soda dissolves dye staining.
  • Apply lemon juice. Lemon juice can work similarly to vinegar at removing many fabric discolorations. Soak the item or sponge lemon juice directly onto the stained area.

With a little time and elbow grease, you can outsmart impossible seeming dye stains. These DIY methods are effective alternatives to commercial stain removers.

Mold and Mildew in the Washing Machine

Opening your front-load washer to find dark spots and slimy residue is never a pleasant surprise. Mold and mildew growth is a common problem in high-efficiency washers because of the rubber gasket around the door. Excess moisture gets trapped inside, allowing smelly microbial growth. Luckily, mold is easy to eliminate with some routine cleaning.

  • Wipe down gaskets thoroughly after each load. Pull back the rubber seal to remove lint and water buildup. Leave the door ajar until the next wash.
  • Clean with bleach. Run a hot wash cycle with bleach to sanitize the machine’s interior monthly. Bleach kills mold and mildew effectively.
  • Use vinegar. White vinegar is a natural anti-fungal. Fill the detergent dispenser with vinegar and run a wash cycle to clean the machine.
  • Dry out the washer. If you won’t be washing clothes for more than a few days, prop the door open. This allows all moisture to evaporate.
  • Remove pet hair. Mold feeds on organic matter like pet fur. Use lint rollers and keep pets away from the washer.

A little upkeep keeps your washer fresh and prevents smelly mold growth. It’s simple to stay on top of it with regular cleaning.

Removing Musty Smells

Laundry that comes out of the wash smelling musty is never pleasant. That damp, mildewy odor means bacteria or mold has built up somewhere in your washing machine. However, a thorough cleaning to remove the source of the smell, along with extra rinses, will have your clothes fresh again in no time.

  • Clean with bleach. Run an empty hot cycle with bleach to sanitize and kill mold that causes odors. Clean all the hoses, the detergent dispenser, and the rubber gaskets.
  • Use vinegar. The acid in vinegar cuts through unpleasant odors. Fill the detergent cup with white vinegar and wash on a hot setting.
  • Dry thoroughly. Make sure clothes aren’t left damp in the machine, which allows smells to develop. Dry items completely.
  • Add baking soda. Baking soda absorbs and neutralizes odors naturally. Add 1⁄2 cup of baking soda along with the laundry detergent.
  • Increase rinses. Set the machine to finish with an extra cold water rinse to remove more of the soap residue or grime left behind.

Regularly cleaning your washer prevents the growth of stinky mold and mildew. With some minor adjustments, your clothes will smell fresh and clean again.

Removing Odors from Clothes

No matter how well you launder your clothing, odors can still linger even after the wash. Sweat, food smells, and smoke odors especially can get trapped in fabrics and resist normal detergent and water. Don’t resign yourself to living with smelly workout gear or smoke-scented jackets. Here are tips to remove those stubborn laundry odors for good:

  • Add white vinegar to the wash cycle. The acid in vinegar destroys odors and acts as a natural fabric softener. Use it along with detergent.
  • Use baking soda. Baking soda absorbs lingering odors instead of just masking them. Add 1⁄2 cup per load along with detergent.
  • Try lemon juice. Lemon juice removes odors and whitens clothes naturally. Soak clothes in a lemon juice solution before washing.
  • Hang clothes in the sun. The heat and sunlight naturally sanitize fabrics and eliminate odors. Hang clothes outside if possible.
  • Sprinkle with cornstarch. For smelly shoes and athletic gear, sprinkle cornstarch inside to absorb perspiration odors and oils overnight before brushing off.

With some extra attention and natural cleaning methods, you can keep your clothing smelling fresh. These tips tackle embedded odors that regular detergent alone often misses.

Removing Grease Stains

Greasy food stains on clothing can be tricky to remove in the laundry. Oil-based spills don’t dissolve easily in water. However, there are a few simple kitchen ingredients that can pre-treat even heavy grease spots on fabric. With a little effort, you can save that favorite top or pair of pants.

  • Use dish soap. Apply a few drops of dish soap directly on the stain and rub it in lightly before washing. The degreasing power helps cut through oily messes.
  • Try borax paste. Make a thick paste with borax powder and cold water. Let it sit on the grease stain for 30 minutes before laundering as usual. The alkaline borax breaks up oil and grease.
  • Sprinkle corn starch. Cover the spot in corn starch, let sit for an hour or more, then brush off. The cornstarch will draw out and absorb grease so it can be washed away.
  • Use lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice is acidic enough to dissolve oil-based stains. Pour lemon juice onto greasy spots and let soak before washing in warm water. The juice also acts as a natural whitener.
  • Try hairspray. Spray hairspray onto greasy fabric stains before washing. The alcohol solvents in most hairsprays help dissolve and remove traces of oil and grease marks.

With the right pre-treatment and stain remover, even notoriously difficult grease stains don’t stand a chance. A little strategic scrubbing restores the look of a grease-stained garment.

Scorch Marks on Clothes

Finding scorch marks or shiny spots on your clothing after doing laundry is frustrating. Scorching happens when excessive heat damages fabric fibers. Clothes can get scorched if left to sit against a hot dryer surface for too long. However, you may be able to salvage lightly damaged items.

  • Use white vinegar. Soak scorched clothes in undiluted white vinegar, then wash in warm water. The acetic acid can help remove new scorch stains.
  • Try hydrogen peroxide. Gently sponge full-strength hydrogen peroxide onto marks before laundering as usual. Its bleaching powers help fade shine and discoloration from light scorching.
  • Use lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice works similarly to vinegar at dissolving heat damage on fabrics. Concentrated juice can make scorch marks nearly disappear.
  • Sand down shine. For small dull areas, gently rub the scorched fabric surface with very fine sandpaper to reduce remaining shine or hard texture.
  • Buff with toothpaste. Rubbing a small amount of whitening toothpaste onto fabric scorch marks using a soft toothbrush can minimize discoloration from light heat damage.

Scorch marks don’t have to ruin clothing. With the right stain removal methods, damage can be reduced and oftentimes reversed, saving your favorite pieces.

Eliminating Lint and Pilling

Few things can make clothes look older and more worn than covered in lint fuzzies and pilled fabric. That’s why properly preventing and removing lint is essential to keeping garments looking their best. With the right tools and laundry techniques, you can banish lint and pilling for good.

  • Use a lint brush. Brushing clothing with a sticky lint roller before washing removes lint, hair, and fuzz so it doesn’t end up on other items. Check pockets too.
  • Separate lint shedders. Fabrics like terry cloth and fleece should be washed separately to avoid pilling other materials with excess lint.
  • Clean the lint filter. Make sure to thoroughly clean the lint filter in your dryer before each load to keep fuzz from accumulating inside the machine.
  • Add vinegar. A cup of distilled white vinegar in the rinse cycle acts as a natural fabric softener and reduces static cling that causes lint sticking to clothes.
  • Invest in a fabric shaver. This inexpensive tool quickly removes existing fuzz balls and pilling without damaging fabric. It gently shaves pills away.

With some care, prevention, and lint removal, your clothes will stay fuzz and pill-free. Properly controlling lint extends the life of clothes and linens.

Removing Makeup Stains

Smudged mascara, foundation, and lipstick are common makeup stains that can be tricky to remove from clothing and upholstery. However, most makeup contains oils that dissolve with the right stain removal techniques. Removing even stubborn makeup doesn’t require expensive cleaners.

  • Use rubbing alcohol. Apply a small amount of plain rubbing alcohol directly on makeup stains. Gently dab and rub the spot to dissolve and lift the makeup.
  • Try hairspray. Spritz hairspray liberally onto makeup spots. Let it sit briefly, then blot the stain gently with a clean, damp sponge or cloth. The alcohol in hairspray dissolves makeup effectively.
  • Use petroleum jelly. Dab a little petroleum jelly onto stuck-on makeup and let it soak in and dissolve the stain for 10-15 minutes before rubbing it between fingers under cold running water. The oil base lifts oil-based makeup.
  • Try shaving cream. Spray shaving cream onto makeup spots and let sit for 5 minutes before rinsing with cold water and washing as normal. The soap helps break up oils.
  • Use vinegar. White vinegar breaks up stains and removes residue. Make a solution of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water and sponge it onto makeup spots before washing.

With the right oil-fighting stain remover, makeup spots on laundry don’t stand a chance. A little targeted scrubbing will dissolve and remove any lingering traces of makeup.

Whitening Whites

Even using bleach and hot water, white clothes and sheets can start to look dingy and dull over time. Fortunately, you don’t need harsh chemicals to get them bright and white again. Some common kitchen staples naturally whiten fabrics safely and effectively.

  • Use lemon juice. The citric acid in fresh lemon juice acts as a natural whitener and bleaching agent. Add 1⁄2 cup of lemon juice in the wash cycle for brighter whites.
  • Try hydrogen peroxide. The chemical bleaching powers of hydrogen peroxide whiten clothing without chlorine. Add 1⁄2 cup to the washer with detergent to lift stains and yellowing.
  • Use baking soda. Baking soda is a gentle abrasive and whitening agent. Make a paste with water and rub it onto stained areas before washing to lift discoloration.
  • Try whitening toothpaste. Apply regular (not gel) toothpaste to dingy spots and gently scrub with a toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly before washing. The baking soda and peroxide provide whitening action.
  • Soak in vinegar solution. Soaking whites in a solution of 1 part vinegar diluted in 6 parts cold water over several hours can dissolve dinginess.

With some simple natural cleaning methods, you can brighten up laundry and keep whites looking fresh without using harsh bleach.

Removing Dinginess from Whites

Seeing your bright whites turn dingy and gray over time is disheartening. Repeated washing in hot water and using chlorine bleach can wear them down. But you don’t have to live with dull, lackluster laundry. Restoring whiteness is simple with some easy everyday products you likely already have on hand.

  • Use borax. Add 1⁄2 cup borax along with detergent to help lift stains and yellowing that makes whites appear dingy. It whitens without chlorine.
  • Try lemon juice. Lemon juice naturally bleaches and deodorizes laundry. Add 1⁄2 cup of fresh lemon juice to whites for brighter color.
  • Soak in vinegar solution. Letting whites soak in a diluted vinegar bath of 1 part vinegar and 6 parts cool water for a few hours before washing can dissolve dull buildup.
  • Hang dry in the sun. The sun’s UV rays provide natural bleaching. Hang whites outside on a clothesline in bright sunlight to lift some discoloration.
  • Use baking soda. Make a paste with baking soda and water and gently rub it onto stained and yellowed areas before washing to lift dinginess without fading.

With just a few simple laundry additions and techniques, you can restore the brightness and whiteness of clothes and sheets over time.

Removing Mildew Smell

That damp, musty odor you notice when pulling clothes from the washer means mildew has started growing somewhere inside the machine. Mildew thrives in the moist environment. Get rid of the smell by sanitizing and cleaning your washing machine.

  • Clean with bleach. Run a hot wash cycle with bleach to kill mildew and sanitize all components. Target the gaskets, hoses and detergent dispenser where mildew grows.
  • Use vinegar solution. Wipe down all surfaces with equal parts water and vinegar solution to cut through mildew odors and remove buildup. Fill the detergent cup with vinegar and run a wash cycle.
  • Dry the machine. Prop the door open between uses so the interior can dry out completely. Mildew needs moisture to survive.
  • Clean filters. Remove lint filters and clean out any