The Biggest Mistake You're Making When Washing Stained Clothing

Getting rid of stains isn't as simple as it seems. If you're not in charge of laundry, it might seem as easy as putting on some pre-treatment onto the stain and then popping it into the washing machine. And while some stains might be that simple to treat, others aren't. Instead, there are formulas you have to keep in mind. Sweat stains need to be doused with vinegar before being washed, while ink stains need to be treated with cream of tartar, for example. Not following these rules can help the stain cement itself into the clothing, making your job all the harder. However, there is one big mistake you might be making when washing stained clothes, and it has to do with the drying process. You never want to throw stained clothes into the dryer, or it will set the stain on the clothing. Once that happens, it will be nearly impossible to remove.

This means you must take an extra step during your laundry process. Rather than tossing all your freshly laundered clothes into the dryer, take a moment and check if all the stains are out. If not, you need to rewash them. Here's why.

Why you can't put stained clothes into the dryer

You can't put stained clothes into the dryer because heat will help the stain set in. This makes sense when you think about how a stain works. You have the highest chance of removing it from your clothing when it's fresh. Think about when you accidentally dribble ketchup down your shirt or spill a drop of blood on your sleeve. If you immediately run to the sink and douse it with cold water and soap, you have a very high chance of removing the stain. That's because it hasn't dried yet and could be removed from the clothing fibers. 

But that all changes when it has set in. Not only is it harder to remove when it has dried, but it's also 1,000 times more difficult when continual hot heat is blasted onto it. That's because the dryer's high heat will cook the stain into the clothing's fibers, setting it deep into the fabric. However, there is an easy way to avoid that.

What to do instead

To avoid setting the stain, you can do one of several things. First, if you have the time, rewash the article of clothing. Whether the stain is still big or just barely there, remove it from your drying pile and pre-treat it before popping it back in for another wash. Some people swear by pre-treating it with laundry detergent and allowing it to soak for 10 minutes, but it depends on your stain. If it's a grease or oil stain, try rubbing white chalk or Dawn liquid soap to absorb the oils first. If it's a food stain like pasta sauce, try rubbing baking soda and salt on it. If it's an old stain that keeps hanging on, try dabbing on some liquid glycerin instead. Once that's done, pop it into the washing machine once more. 

However, if you don't have the time (or energy) to tackle the stubborn stain a second time, the best thing you can do is air-dry your clothing so the stain doesn't bake in. You can then leave it to the side in the laundry room for a time when you're free to try again.