Clothing Care Tips

clothing care tips
I’m no domestic goddess, friends. I can manage the basics of cleaning, cooking, and chores but will admit to paying others to do said services on occasion. (Well, not chores. I can’t seem to find anyone who’ll take out the garbage for me … even when offered a reasonable fee.)

But, over time, I’ve slowly gathered a small pool of Heloise-esque hints – all of which, unsurprisingly, relate to clothing and shoes – that I’d like to share. Because I use them on a regular basis myself and am certain that they could change your life as they’ve changed mine. Unless, of course, you’ve been using them for ages yourself already.

Deodorant removal

When you accidentally leave a large, unsightly swath of white deodorant residue on your black sweater, the most effective way to get it out is to rub the gooped-up area with a clean section of the same cloth. If you can’t contort your body to rub sweater with sweater, any rough cloth (your jeans, your coat, etc.) should work. The deodorant will come off without contaminating either surface. This technique works well for almost anything powdery – blush, baby powder, cake flour, etc.


Palmolive is like liquid magic, if you ask me. I’ve removed year-old grease stains with this stuff, I shit you not. It takes out everything you can think of, barring permanent marker and India ink. Douse the affected area in Palmolive, let it sink in for a day or two, and then wash in the machine. If it helps but doesn’t completely remove the stain, repeat the process. You’ll be amazed, I guarantee it.

Sweater Shaver

If you don’t own a pilly sweater, you probably live on the Equator and don’t own ANY sweaters. If you own a pilly sweater – infested with tiny wads of condensed-sweater in the armpit region – get ye a sweater shaver. Sink $6 into one from Target, and make your sweaters look good as new. Obviously, this tool works on anything that pills: Scarves, blankets, hats, you name it.

Clear nail polish on sharp edges

Once upon a time, I made a necklace from a bunch of old brooches. I was able to get most of the brooch backing off, but couldn’t seem to clip all of the jagged metal bits. Which meant that it was quite painful to wear! I layered drops of clear nail polish over a series of days to create clear, unobtrusive barriers between the sharp edges and my tender flesh and eventually, it was 100% wearable. This method can be used on any piece of costume jewelry that’s causing you discomfort and needs an invisible buffer.

Cold water/blood

I feel like most female humans know this one, but just in case: Relatively recent bloodstains can be removed by rinsing with and/or soaking in cold water. NEVER use hot, as it will set the stain. If you’ve got a bloodstain that’s begun to set, put it under a cold tap for a couple of minutes, and then give it the Palmolive treatment.

Stinky shoes in the freezer

I’ve written about this one before, but it bears repeating. When your shoes start to stank up the joint, it’s generally because they’re full of bacteria. Put them in a ziploc bag and throw them in the freezer for a day or so. Bacteria generally thrive in warm, moist conditions … and expire when it’s dry and cold. You may have to repeat this treatment a few times for optimum effectiveness, but it does work.

Originally posted 2009-02-26 07:24:00.

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58 Responses to “Clothing Care Tips”

  1. Bizzy

    Hi Sal. I’m a new subscriber!

    I just wanted to say that most of these tips are new for me. I especially like the cold water trick and the freezer stink-be-gone advice. I plan to try that one out real soon…

    Thanks so much!

  2. Gillian

    Funnily enough, I’m paid to take out garbage out for the elderly. And no, I don’t think you’re elderly.

    Have you done a post on hand-washing? I hate it, and I would love some tips.

  3. Couture Allure Vintage Fashion

    Window cleaner also works for deodorant mark. The blue stuff.

    Hydrogen peroxide also gets out blood stains.

  4. Shrinky Inky

    this is one from my grandmother when i was little:

    for oily stains cover the area with corn starch or any talcum powder and let it soak up the stain for a day or two, then wash as needed.

    I splattered my new red sweater on thanksgiving and appreciate my mom reminding me of this old tip – it works every time!

  5. Christina Lee

    I also use peroxide for blood and baby wipes (the other magic elixir) on deodorant stains -we even used them on photo shoots (when I was a stylist)to get make-up off clothes long before I was a mom. BUT Palmolive is a new one for me- I must try it- it may become my new thing besides baby wipes and 409! thanks!

  6. Cal

    Clear nail polish–brilliant! I hadn’t thought of that before…good call my friend, good call.

  7. Q's Daydream

    wow, fantastic! I’ve been trying to get a stain out of one of my vintage dresses (put there by me) I’ll have to try Palmolive! Thanks! :o)

  8. Anonymous

    For rubbing stains, I use those washclothes Target sells in a stack tied with a ribbon. They are used for face and shower duty and then retire to laundry, then cleaning duty. I like that new colors come out periodically, so that I can keep track of what set is being used for what. Also, the colors are nice enough that the stack looks OK left out on the top of my dresser.

  9. Heather

    Windex (you have to use the name brand) will take out blood stains in a flash, even if the garment has already been washed and dried. I was skeptical at first but when I got a stain on a beloved shirt I figured it was worth a try. Just dab a bit of Windex on the blood stain and watch it disappear!

  10. Nina (femme rationale)

    i love the palmolive method – do it all the time. baby powder on grease (before u wash) works wonders, too. let it stay on the stain for a few hrs, a day is better, than just throw in the wash. i also love clear nail polish applied the inside of cheap rings. this prevents ur finger from turning green. haha

  11. Kate Coveny Hood

    Some yes – some no. That freezer thing is great though (particularly helpful if you live with stinky feet guy).

    Here are two more:

    Ball point pen
    Use rubbing alcohol to remove. You have to be ready to blot quickly on both sides of the cloth as the ink starts to bleed (you want to lift this out not create a bigger stain). People swear by hairspray (I used to) – but really it’s the slcohol in the hairspray that take out the stain. Hairspray will leave a sticky residue that will also have to be removed – so just using alcohol eliminates that issue.

    My dry cleaner would kill me for saying this (because he can usually get grease stains right out), but if you have no other option, you can often list some of it out with baby powder. Cornstarch is better – but babypowder also works.

    I need to get all of this in a list to keep in my laundry room. I say things like this all the time – but I never actually do it.

  12. kittyscreations

    I’ve seen a couple of these tips before (like the shoes in the freezer one), but it never hurts to be reminded again. Another tip I have (although it seems obvious) is keeping several lint rollers on hand (one at work, one at home, one in my car). Between knitting and cats, I use them frequently. In a pinch, scotch tape works too.

  13. Jennfer

    Tip: don’t iron the garment if the stain is still there. The heat will set it and it’ll stay forever. Instead try some other cleaning method. Also, always pre-treat stains before washing, for the same reason.

  14. futurelint

    Forget the tips, let’s talk about that necklace YOU MADE! I had no idea! It’s beautiful!!! How did you make it???

    Ok, and as a school nurse I will vouch for the hydrogen peroxide for blood stain removal, although it works best if you do it before it dries. I am also in love with the stain removal liquid that comes with Dryel. I’ve never had it harm a fabric and it has gotten out some stains from vintage items that have been set for like 40 years! I’m going to have to pick up some Palmolive to try though!

  15. Casey

    These are so great–the Palmolive one is my favorite! Definitely going to bookmark this one. Heck, print it off and post it by the washing machine! 😉

  16. Heather

    That nail polish idea is GREAT. I’m going to use it on a cheap ring I have that is always digging into my other fingers…. Thanks Sal!

  17. Sal

    futurelint: Hahaha. I’m pretty proud of the necklace, though I’ll admit that, like most of my DIY projects, it’s pretty slapdash.

    Basically, I collected a bunch of vintage and new brooches, clipped off the backs, superglued a few together, and hooked the rest together with jump rings. Add a little silver chain from Michaels, and voila! Cheap and sparkly statement necklace. 😉

  18. Big Sister

    I all of these tips are great. I immediately e-mailed by husband to tell him about the Palmolive for grease stains, the bane of his existence.

  19. Sharon Rose

    Hi there-fabulous tips, I shall invest in some Palmolive asap, thanks!!

  20. lisa

    Great tips! I can’t live without my sweater shaver. If I get deodorant marks on my clothes I tend to wet a terry washcloth and just rub them off. I didn’t know about the Palmolive or the freezer/stinky shoes trick–I’ll have to try those!

  21. Cupcakes and Cashmere

    i was almost bouncing up in down in my chair as i read (and took notes) of all of your genius little remedies. and OMG is that brooch necklace amazing!

  22. lopi

    I’ve heard of most, but I didn’t know about the freezer one! Does it really work? I’m kinda skeptical, because bacteria exist because there is dirt and even if they die in the freezer, won’t new ones take their place if the shoes don’t get washed?

    Sal. more pictures of the fabulous brooch necklace please!

  23. pretty face

    Never heard any of them!

    Apparently (according to Elle magazine…) spraying a piece of clothing giving you static with hairspray helps. I haven’t tried it, because I don’t happen to own any hairspray, but if I was sure it would work, I would do it in an instant because that issue bugs me soooo much!

  24. dapper kid

    Ahhh now this is my topic lol. I swear by organic cleaners for the washing machine, and never use a dryer for my clothes. I turn almost everything inside out, and any stains are presoaked as soon as possible. Salt water or baking powder are seriously blessings in disguise. And the freezer technique is also recommended by denim manufacturers for jeans, or actually leaving them to air in the garden or ‘sun out’ in the summer.

  25. a cat of impossible colour

    Aaaaah, I used the Palmolive-for-everything trick too! I thought I was the only one! You have no idea how happy this makes me. 🙂


  26. Sal

    a cat of impossible colour: Hahaha, YAY! The wonders of Palmolive are internationally acknowledged!

  27. Kelly

    Cold water, you say? I always get tripped up with that. In my mind, since I wash white linens in hot water, I should be trying to get stains out with hot water, too. I never actually researched this, I just decided that that’s how it went.

    Also, the best deodorant removing idea I have is to rub it with pantyhose. Just cheap drugstore pantyhose. I don’t know how it gets the white off, but it does, every time! After I get a run in some nylons, I stick a section of the leg into my purse to use for emergency touch-ups.

  28. Audi

    I read recently that you can get rid of that skanky thrift store smell by spraying the garment with one part vodka mixed with 2 parts water. I tried it and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work! Thankfully I just happened to have a giant bottle of cheap-ish vodka on hand, since I wouldn’t waste my good stuff on a $2 thrift store find!

  29. Anonymous

    I second Audi’s comments on the vodka. Doesn’t work at all. Hydrogen peroxide + cold water on blood stains works wonders.

    New “Already Pretty” banner! Pretty!

  30. Erin

    I can vouch for Kelly’s pantyhose-deodorant tip. It works flawlessly. A woman at a bridal salon showed me that trick. It’s a good thing to know when you’re at a store and something you want has deodorant streaks on it. Just a little rub with a pantyhose footie thingy (for trying on shoes), and you’re good to go.

  31. Iheartfashion

    I didn’t know any of these, Sal, except for the sweater shaver. I guess that just demonstrates my total lack of domesticity. I’m going to have to go buy some Palmolive-for my husband.

  32. Stacy

    Here’s my tip: hand wash itchy wool sweaters in castille soap and let air dry. I can’t resist an Irish wool cable turtleneck, but they’re often too scratchy at the neck. I use Dr Bronner’s magic soap (which is good for much much more!)and they are the softest garments I own. Oh, and they are also clean!

  33. Jeanne

    I use a pair of old tights to remove deodorant marks.

    Also, toilet seat covers work equally well as face blotting paper.

  34. Summer

    Thanks for sharing us such a great tip..=)
    I’m sure you can tell us more tips..
    I hope you could put my blog link in your site.I would really appreciate it.=)
    Have a nice day..

  35. Imelda Matt - The Despotic Queen of Shoes

    Once leathers been infected with bacteria I’d suggest your shoes are ready for the bin – otherwise this post has booked marked for future reference.

  36. Sabina

    Red wine stains come out completely with white wine – I fixed a massive spill on white jeans once without leaving the table. Ok – I got up after about 15 mins to use water in the bathroom to wash out the white wine smell.
    Sweater shaver is genius! Now I can have fine wool and cashmere – before it was money unwisely spent as my body or something about me seems to just encourage pilling.
    I also find that dishwashing liquid gets almost anything out or off of anything.

  37. Sharon

    These are great, and I have one to add. Wax! Wax is such a pain if you get it on stuff. If you carefully iron on a coffee filter over the area, the coffee filter paper will stick to the wax and lift it from the cloth. I heard this tip originally using baking paper, but coffee filters work, too.


  38. Anonymous

    Seeing the castille soap suggestion reminded me that itchy sweaters can be tamed by adding a bit of hair conditioner to the final rinse water.

  39. enc

    I’ve heard this stuff before, but I prefer your way of discussing it. 😀

  40. Anonymous

    BE CAREFUL with sweater shavers! Always skim them very lightly across the surface, no pressure at all, or they can slice right into the fabric, especially on thinner sweaters. I wasn’t paying attention recently as I took the pills off a favourite lightweight pink sweater, went over a slight wrinkle in a sleeve, and SLIT!

    I picked up a stick of a stain remover called Kiss-Off at the hardware store (paint section – and it is well-nigh miraculous. Takes off blood – even old, accidentally washed blood – grease and oil, oil paint, and lipstick, that I’ve tried.

  41. Gladys

    Does Dawn work as well as Palmolive?

    I am living in a condo a million miles away from home. We have to go to the laundry mat. I pack a container of Clorox wipes in my laundry bag and wipe both the washer and dryer out before I put my clothes in them.

    I have noticed that my whites have all turned yellow since doing the laundry mat thing. Is there anyway to correct this?

  42. Imogen Lamport

    I love dishwashing liquid on stains – works so much more effectively than many official laundry ‘destainers’. I’m always advising my clients to try it.

    Love babywipes for that quick, oh I’ve just spilled my lunch on my top moments we all have (or I do anyway). Keep them in your desk drawer and handbag.

  43. Erin

    This is great! Linking!

    Even though I do my best to check pockets, I still sometimes have issues with chapstick making it through the washer AND dryer before I discover it has melted all over my clothes. I wonder if Palmolive or baby powder will remove these grease stains?

  44. Down Comforter

    Another tip to remove latex paint from fabric – dip an old toothbrush in rubbing alcohol, brush the affected area, & wipe with a cloth. It may take a few minutes to completely dissolve the paint, but this really works 🙂

  45. rb

    The only one I can add is one I think every mom knows (or will have to find out at some point.) Peanut butter removes chewing gum stuck in hair.

    It also removes gum stuck to other things, but then you have a peanut butter stain.

  46. The Living Laid-Off

    Great shoesicle tip, thanks! I’m going to put a pair of the bf’s in right now.

  47. Jess

    Hmm, I’ve never tried Palmolive. I’ve used Dawn – “Dawn cuts grease.” LOL And I have NEVER heard of putting shoes in the freezer though it does make sense.

    My dad is a hunter and, in order to de-scent his hunting clothes, he would hang them outside in the freezing winter coldness. It works for stinky, smokey clothes too. If you have ever gone to a club or bar or place where it is smokey and your nice, clean “dry clean only” coat gets smokey, hang it out in the cold. I suppose, though, it only works in the winter. One could try throwing it in the freezer too.

    haha…oh this cracks me up!

  48. Shannon (A beautiful Dream)

    When pegging clothes to a line hang stuff in half and peg in the arm pits – means no peg marks in between your boobs!
    Also, NEVER hang anything by the straps. Wet fabric + wind = heavy and stretched.

    Also you can use nail polish remover to clean stains from high heels. Just don’t saturate them. And get a non greasy nail polish remover that will completely evaporate.

  49. CrankyOtter

    Thanks! I use palmolive but not for clothes. I’ve heard about half those things and saved a green sweater with the shaver.

    I’ve been having good luck with scent free Method detergent from target and a scoop of scent free Oxyclean. Got out an ancient, dried in, set in grease stain on a comforter that I’d given up on. And Dreft spray stain remover. I try it first now, even on blood and fruit juice.

    Here’s a fruit juice trick if your kids like to climb mulberry trees. It’s a tad strange but works. Stretch the cloth with the stain lightly over a wide jar or medium bowl. Boil water. Drip the boiling water drop by drop onto the stain and watch it vanish. Do not soak in boiling water, try not to douse it with a stream. Do not put cold water on dark fruit stains either.

    My other trick is for how to sort laundry. I wear bright colors. I don’t really wear whites. If I were to wash all brights together my clothes would look like mud. The biggest trick is how to wash bright yellow – with greens and browns. Wash it with white and it will make them yellow. Wash it with red and it will turn orange. Wash it with green and brown? No trouble. Other loads are orange/red/dark pink/light purple; black/blue/grey/super dark other colors like purple; for the whites, I toss in the pastel blues and greys too since I’d never have enough for a load otherwise.

    To turn yellowed whites white, try hanging them in the sun (by the armpits, says Shannon – good tip!), or using old fashioned bluing, or perhaps washing with some blue clothing. But they could just be yellow now.

  50. Anonymous

    VINEGAR!! Best clothing care item ever. I keep a spray bottle full of it with my laundry soap and spray the pits of all my shirts before I wash them. It helps dissolve the deodorant residue and salt build up from perspiration. You can also use it as a fabric softener/static fighter during the rinse cycle. And it's ok to use on all fabrics. This would probably work to get rid of funky smells too. Once it dries, the vinegar odor goes away.

    For white shirts with yellowed pits or collars, you can use 1 part peroxide, 1 part water and 1 part baking soda to make a runny paste. Put this on the yellowed stains on white shirts (other light colors are ok too, but check colorfastness because of the peroxide) and leave for 20-30 mins. Wash in warm water and the stains should be gone, or at least significantly diminished. May have to repeat a couple times for really set in stuff.