Ask The Clothing Doctor

Welcome to the CSC ServiceWorks laundry forum! I am Steve Boorstein, The Clothing Doctor. I will be your clothing care expert. I spent 20 years in the high-end drycleaning business, but I've also written four books on laundry and hosted two DVDs on clothing care, so I know about dirty laundry! Write me about caring for everything made from fabric; washing, cleaning, stain removal and storage.

Before I begin answering questions, let's get a few facts straight:

Before you treat a stain, make sure you know if it's watery or oily!

  • Water-based stains contain water, NO oil.
    • You can identify water-based stains such as coffee, wine, beer and blood because they have a ring around the outside (like a road map).
    • Water-based stains need water or club soda (and an occasional "stain stick").
  • Oil-based stains contain oil, but NO water, so water and soap will not help to remove them!
    • Oil-based stains such as butter, mayonnaise, and olive oil will look blotchy and have NO ring around the stain.
    • Most oily stains require drycleaning.
    • Oily stains that do not come out in the wash will look blotchy after washing.

Know a few first aid hints:

  • Never rub a fabric — blot only with a dry white cloth or napkin.
  • Be careful about putting water or club soda on dryclean-only clothing, such as silk and acetate, because they can bleed the dye and cause rings.
  • If in doubt, blot with a dry white cloth and STOP, until you can write me or show the garment to a professional.

Click on a category below to see frequently asked questions along with my helpful hints to keep your laundry clean!

Clothing Care
Color Bleeding

Do I just need to separate my laundry by lights/darks, or fabric type, too?

Answer: The short answer is yes. It is always best to sort and classify — even with the challenge of doing laundry at college — and here’s why:

  • Black, red, green and other deep colors can bleed onto other lighter garments even in cold water, at least the first time the garment is washed. So, keep the dark colors together. You may want to wash red and black separately for the first washing.
  • Keep “whites” and light pastels together to keep them bright.
  • Heavy or “hard-tailored” items such as jeans should not be in the same load as delicate clothing.
  • Lastly, very soiled clothing, be it beer splashed or vomit covered, should be rinsed in the sink and then washed separately!

Can I wash my white-tanish cargo pants with blue jeans or dry them together?
- Roland Sanchez

Answer: Hi Roland, thanks for writing. As funny as it may seem, I can't give you a simple answer because of the variables:

If the blue jeans have been washed before
How deep the blue is in the jeans — or how faded they are
How much synthetic there is in the fabric (or blend)
The temperature of the wash water ...

With that being said, I would wash the jeans alone, or with a white towel, to see how much the color bleeds onto the white towel or rag. If there's dye on the white item, then you have your answer. Removing blue dye from Cargo pants, without ruining them is very complicated and risky. If the blue jeans don't bleed onto the towel then you're probably okay, especially if you use cold water. Feel free to write back with any questions.

I hope this helps!

Steve Boorstein, The Clothing Doctor

I wasn't very careful with my laundry and didn't separate the colors. I looked at 2 of my white shirts and noticed that where there had been armpit stains, they've turned greyish. Will bleach help to get the stains out or is there any alternative?

- Mellissa

Answer: Hi Mellissa,
Thanks for writing. Discolored underarms are the number one problem we face, and it's the most asked question. I am not sure that the greying is a result of failing to classify colors when washing. Perspiration starts out clear, but once the sweaty garment is "left alone" at he bottom of the closet or in a basket for a few days or a week, the clear stain oxidizes and can take on color ... yellow or sometimes grey. I don't have a quick fix for you, but I do have some preventive advice for your other clothing — and maybe a solution for this particular shirt.

Preventive Care

  • Do NOT wear a soiled garment more than once, as the perspiration will become twice as hard to remove!
  • After wearing a shirt, once, take a toothbrush and some soapy water and "work" the underarms to break up the sweat. Then you can throw it in the wash pile for a few days — or as soon as you can wash it — with fewer worries. There should be NO downside to this as long as the shirt is washable.
  • Re-wet and re-treat the underarms again just before washing.
  • Air dry ALL stained garments — unless you know the stain has been removed during pre-treatment — or the heat of drying may set the stain permanently. Re-inspect after washing and before drying to be sure.
Removing grey from the discolored shirt
  • Fill a bucket or a sink with 4" of warm-to-hot soapy water. Then ADD a color-safe bleach or brightener (such as Clorox 2 or Oxiclean Versatile). Not regular bleach!
  • Let soak for up to an hour, checking the garment as it soaks.
  • Then drain, rinse and re-drain. Allow the shirt to air dry, in case the stain is not completely removed. If the stain is gone, re-wash and have a great day!

This is a tried and true process that works, but preventive care makes everything easier.

Best of luck,

Steve Boorstein — The Clothing Doctor

I have some white t-shirts with colors on them or graphic designs. I wanted to know: is it best to wash them with other colored clothing or white shirts?

- Marvin

Answer: Marvin, you should be able to wash them with other clothing, but I would test the colors first. Dip a clean cloth into soap and diluted ammonia, touch the wetted cloth to the brightest or deepest colors, and then allow the ammonia soaked cloth to sit on the printed design for 3-5 minutes. If there is no dye bleed or evidence of color on the test cloth, then gently rub the printed area. If there's still NO dye on the test cloth, then the T's should be safe to wash.

Best, Steve — The Clothing Doctor

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