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

I wash and dry a full (possibly too big?) load every week using high efficiency detergent, and lately my clothes have been coming out very damp and smelly. Will simply drying the clothing more fix the smell, or should I switch or use more detergent?
- Dan

Answer: Thanks for your question Dan.

It’s hard to tell if your laundry load is too large without seeing it, but from your description it sounds like that may be the case. Remember to pile clothes into the washer loosely, rather than stuffing them in. The clothes need a little room to move in order to be cleaned and then spun out effectively. Same thing goes for the dryer, clothes need room to billow to be dried completely.

Don’t use more detergent, that won’t help. In fact, too much detergent doesn’t clean better. It leaves residue on your clothing and can cause over-sudsing which could make the machine malfunction during the cycle. Also, you should remove your clothes from the washer promptly when the cycle is complete to minimize odor. After removing your clothing, it's also helpful to leave the washer door open to let it air out after each load.

And finally, be sure to clean the dryer lint filter before you dry your clothes. This helps maximize air flow which improves the efficiency of the dryer to get the job done in one cycle.

Hope this helps!

I don't separate many of my clothes before washing, other than lights, darks and delicates. Recently, we have noticed some clothes being left with a smell after washing. We use Soapnuts, essential oil, & fabric softener. We think more fabric softener will help, but we're trying to be eco & economically friendly by using soapnuts in the first place! It might be from not separating things like socks, towels and underwear from the rest of the wash. Or perhaps we should consider a pre-wash?
- Dwain

Answer: Dwain,

Thanks for writing. Soapnuts are a natural fabric softener and a natural odor remover. They help to reduce odor in diapers and other personal items. I also know that cold water does not remove soil as well as hot water (or as well as Tide for Cold Water). Given that you are trying to be as Green as possible with your ingredients and water temperature, I would try the following:

  • Start classifying dirty socks and undies — and other heavily soiled clothing — into their own load

  • Stop using fabric softener for 30-60 days (you could try adding a teaspoon of vinegar instead). Do not increase the amount of softener!

  • I don't know if you have a top-load or a front-load, but your washer may have some residual odor that needs to be removed. You can use 1/2 cup of Clorox bleach in an "empty" load to disinfect the inside. Or, you could use a Whirlpool or Tide product designed to do the same thing ... just this once!

  • If none of this works, feel free to contact us directly at

Good luck,

Steve — The Clothing Doctor

Hi, I have some mildew in my towels. I usually wash all my clothes together in cold water, because I do not own too many clothes that will fade. I want to get rid of the mildew in the towels, and I was wondering if I should wash them in cold or hot water? I do not have any pre-treatment or clorox at college. Do I need to use these? Thanks.

- Evan

Answer: Evan, is this mildew a one-time thing, or do you think it will continue to occur? First thing, mildew usually forms because the towels were left in a "wet" condition or in a wet area for too long. Mildew, depending on the severity, can be very hard to remove, and it's NEVER going to be removed with cold water. If the towels "just smell," then it will be easier than if the towels already contain green or purple dots.

You will have to rewash the towels as HOT as possible, for as long as possible, with a good amount of detergent. I would also include a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach in the load. Be prepared to lose some color if the towels are colored. Then dry the towels completely.

If the odor or dots are still present after drying, then you will have to soak the towels in a stronger solution of bleach: But NEVER allow even a drop of bleach to come in contact with the towel itself: Chlorine bleach (Clorox) should always be diluted in water before touching the towels (or any other clothing). Write back if you need further advice!

Good luck, Steve — The Clothing Doctor

I have a really nice shirt that is 98% polyester and 2% spandex. I wore it to someone’s house that smokes and it really held on to the smell. I decided to throw it in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet to get rid of the smell. When I went to put it on there was all kinds of discoloration on it, like darker green than the rest of the shirt. Is it possible it melted? Can it be fixed? Thanks!

- Jessica

Answer: Jessica, this is a tough one, but unless the care label says Do Not Tumble, then the heat shouldn't be the issue. Personally, I would wash the shirt, rather than use a scented fabric softener. As for the green discoloration, I would wash it as hot as it allows, if it hasn't been washed already. If you still can't figure it out, go to and email us a digital picture of the discoloration.

Hi! I wear a dry clean only suit every day. I sweat a lot, and when I get them cleaned the underarm odor doesn’t go away. By the end of the next wear I can smell the unpleasant smell. It makes me self-conscious. My navy blue suit jacket is polyester, rayon and spandex on the outer shell and 100% polyester lining. The tag says dry-clean only. Please help me- I do wear deodorant, and wear my suits multiple times between cleanings because I wear suits daily.
- Samantha

Answer: Samantha, this is an age-old problem. First, synthetic fabrics tend to hold body odor, so you are already fighting an uphill battle:

•First, you need to instruct the "spotter" at your drycleaner to STEAM out the underarms, before cleaning. Most do not.
•They will have to use a stain remover on the underarms to remove the residual odor. Once done, the spotter at the cleaners needs to use a steam gun and stain remover EVERY time it's cleaned, as perspiration doesn't really come out in dry-cleaning.
•It takes extra care and effort to keep up on this, but most BO problems can be improved.
•Have your cleaner call me directly if they don't understand!

The Clothing Doctor

My towels smell like they have soured and despite repeat washings, They still smell that way when they get wet. I tried putting 1/4 cup white vinegar in the wash, and it seems to help some. Do you have any other solutions that are better?
- Stuart

Answer: As, a remedy for already smelly towels, you might try rewashing as HOT as possible, with detergent and OXI-CLEAN Versatile. And do NOT over stuff the washer. If after washing and drying, you still have odors, you can either buy new towels (and start doing it right from the beginning), or you could dump some Clorox in the washer to kill the bacteria, but it will change the color of the towels, if they aren't white.

The Clothing Doctor

After every wash our clothes smell of damp. Please tell me the answer. We have tried crystals in the machine. Is it to do with the temperature?
- Steven Ditkiewicz

Answer: Steven, I'm not sure what you are asking. Are clothes damp, after spinning or after drying? A slow extract or spin of 800 RPMs can leave clothing damp, requiring longer drying times. A spin speed of 1000-1200 is much more efficient. If I haven't answered your questions, then write back with more specific details. Thanks!

The Clothing Doctor

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