Pens, crayons, and chocolate are some of the things that people have accidentally left in pockets, according to our Facebook followers and staff. The results weren't pretty. Combine that with the fact that fabrics and washers have changed, and your laundry routine may need an update. So we asked manufacturers and our laundry and fabric experts for their latest tips. Start by following the instructions on garment labels, then try the following:
Use your machine's soak cycle and one of our higher-rated detergents that's very good at removing chocolate, such as Wisk Deep Clean Free & Pure, a detergent that can be used in HE and conventional machines. Then wash. Don't put the item into the dryer until you're satisfied with the stain removal. If the stained clothes have already been in the dryer, it will be even more difficult to remove stains, so you might have to repeat this process.
Clothes with spandex
Skip the chlorine bleach; it can damage spandex. (So can a very hot iron.) If you paid extra for jeans with special fading or a distressed finish, turn them inside out before washing and pull up the zipper; its teeth can get caught on other clothing.
Ink and crayon marks
To tackle ballpoint-pen marks, place a clean white paper towel under the stain, then blot a small spot with rubbing alcohol and another piece of paper towel. Keep blotting the stain with a clean part of each paper towel over and under the stain until it's gone, then launder. For crayons, Crayola suggests scraping off as much as possible, then working liquid dish soap into the stain. (Do that and the following steps on an inconspicuous spot first.) Wait several minutes, then rub the fabric under warm water to remove the stain. Machine-wash using the heavy-soil setting, with the hottest water the care label recommends, and OxiClean. Air-dry the item and repeat if necessary.
A reader alerted us that Rogaine, an FDA-approved topical treatment used to help regrow hair, stains his pillowcases after he applies it at bedtime. Try soaking pillowcases in white vinegar for 15 to 30 minutes, then toss them in the washer with detergent but no bleach. Repeat if needed. Line dry.
Small stuffed animals
If there are no glued-on parts, wash using the gentle cycle in cold water and with a mild detergent, then put in the sun or another warm place to dry.
Nike and Keds say on their websites not to machine-wash or machine-dry their shoes. A Converse online video shows how to clean your sneakers by hand. Given the high price of sneakers, be sure to follow the manufacturer's cleaning guidelines.
Consult your manual or call customer service if you have an HE top-loader. The sticker on our top-rated high-efficiency Samsung top-loader said not to wash or spin waterproof seats, mats, or clothing. That's because waterproof or water-resistant items increase the chance of loads becoming unbalanced, which can cause excessive shaking and can damage the dryer and laundry area. In December, LG recalled about 457,000 LG and Kenmore Elite HE top-loaders made by LG after it received at least 343 reports of washers that vibrated excessively. More than half caused minor property damage, and one minor injury was reported, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
First check for any decorations—water can damage them. Some HE models have a wool cycle. If the garment label says you can hand-wash, you might be able to use a wool-wash cycle. Then lay flat to dry.
The best washers and dryers. No matter what you're washing, you'll get the best results with a top-performing washer and dryer and an excellent laundry detergent. Our list of front-loader top picks includes the Maytag Maxima XL MHW7000AW, $1,150, the Whirlpool Duet WFW88HEAW, $1,000, and the Samsung WF457ARGS[GR], $1,500. In addition to the Samsung HE top-loader mentioned above, we also liked the LG WT1101CW, $700, and the GE GTWN7450DWW, $800.
For dryers, you can't go wrong with the Samsung DV50F9A8EVP, $1,100, the Maytag Maxima XL MED8000AG, $1,450, or the LG DLEX3470[W], $1,000. And our list of top laundry detergent picks includes varieties from Tide, Wisk and Costco's Kirkland Signature.
—Kimberly JanewayMore from Consumer Reports:
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