Dirty Work: How to Clean Stained Towels Without Harsh Chemicals
It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.
Patric Richardson, aka The Laundry Evangelist, is pretty passionate about laundry. At Mona Williams, his clothing-and-more store in Minneapolis' Mall of America, he leads six "laundry camp" classes a week. He even makes his own laundry flakes. We asked him for the dirt on keeping kitchen linens clean.
By Nichole Aksamit
How did you become The Laundry Evangelist?
I wanted to carry laundry products at the store so people could take care of the clothing they bought from me — and then I discovered that people are obsessed with laundry.
What's your laundry philosophy?
There's no fabric you can't launder. It's fabric! And you can clean almost everything naturally.
Any advice for stained tea towels or other kitchen linens?
I treat every textile in my house the same. Whether it's an Armani jacket or a tea towel with a carrot on the front, you should clean it well so you can keep on using it. That starts with pretreating stains right before you wash a load.
Laundry Evangelist Laundry Flakes: Use a teensy pinch for stains or a tablespoon for a whole load.
$22 for 1 pound at laundryevangelist.com
How do you pretreat?
How do you pretreat? For oily things, vinegar and water (a 50-50 blend) is always my first trick. The second is liquid hand soap — just a couple of drops before you put it in the washer. Red wine stains have to be pretreated with an enzyme. And then there's red food coloring. (I like to make red velvet cakes, and red food coloring is tough!) I spray it with vinegar and water, wait a few seconds, and then go after it with laundry soap and a brush.
Can you actually set a stain by putting it through the dryer?
"Set stains" are a myth: You can make a stain harder to get out, but you can still get it out. For stubborn stains, I lay a cooling rack in the sink, lay the stained item over it, and pour boiling hot water through it from a good height.
What if you just have no idea what the stain is?
Start with a good laundry soap and a brush. (I use my own soap blend, but there are others.) And if that doesn't work, try vinegar and water. And if that doesn't work, go to an enzyme. And if that doesn't work, go to liquid hand soap and boiling water.
How about coffee or tea stains?
They should wash out in the washer. If they don't, you're using too much detergent. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you use too much, it doesn't rinse out. It just sits in your fabric and attracts the debris of the day. To get extra detergent out, run a load in your washer with 1 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda. And then you can start anew. You'd be surprised how many things turn around after you get the extra detergent out.
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2019 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.