How to Make Really Dirty Clothes Clean Again

Gardening, fishing, and other outdoor activities can get clothing extremely messy, but it’s not hard to get them looking new.


Person hanging out of a washing machine
Laundry is some people’s least-favorite chore, but with the right detergents and fabric softener, the task can be easy and painless.Gratisography/Pexels

For many people, laundry is a necessity they begrudgingly do because wearing dirty clothes simply isn’t a viable option. Stains can make the task doubly frustrating and lead to permanently damaged clothing that can never be worn again. Fortunately, scientists and inventors have developed a number of substances that, when used correctly, can make getting clothes clean fairly simple. The key is understanding how they work to fight dirt and stains, then deploying them in the correct manner. If you want to make really dirty clothing clean again, use these three things and follow the directions closely.

Tide PODS Laundry Detergent
These Tide PODS have 10-times the cleaning power of many leading brandsTide

A good detergent is a critical component to making really dirty clothes clean again. At its core, a detergent is a chemical substance used to break up and remove grease and grime, with soap being one such type of detergent. The most important ingredients in detergents are called surfactants. To make water wash things better, its surface tension has to be reduced, and that’s what surfactants do. They are unique in that one end of their molecule is attracted to water, while the other end is attracted to dirt and grease. Consequently, surfactant molecules help water get hold of grease, break it up and wash it away. Choosing the right detergent for the job at hand isn’t difficult. Choose liquid detergent if you do a lot of spot-treating or treat lots of spills in laundry loads. Powder detergent is ideal for general wash day loads and even lifts out ground-in dirt. If many of your laundry loads are made up of messes made outdoors, a powder detergent will work well. If you have a high-efficiency washer, you should always use a high-efficiency detergent.

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder
This spot remover can be used as a pre-treater for the removal of grass stains, grease, and dirt.OxiClean

Stains create some of the biggest hurdles in getting really dirty clothes clean again, and some stains are much harder to remove than others. Green grass stains are a plague to many people, as are red wine and coffee stains. Pre-treating with a good stain remover can be the solution to this problem. Stain removers contain solvents, which are fluids that dissolve other chemicals. Consider that while water is a good solvent for dissolving salt and sugar, it is not a good solvent for dissolving oil or butter. Stain removers also contain emulsifiers surfactants, the same compound mentioned above. Emulsifiers coat the stain and help lift it off the surface, while surfactants attach to the molecules and carry them out of the fabric. Many stain removers also contain enzymes, which digest proteins and fats in stains much like they digest the food that people eat. Choose a laundry stain remover based on the type of stain and type of fabric you will be treating.

Bounce Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets
These dryer sheets help reduce wrinkles and control static cling.Bounce

Getting your clothes clean again is the main goal. Yet if they’re clean but uncomfortable to wear, you’ve only won half the battle. That’s where fabric softeners come in. In a nutshell, fabric softeners are either liquids used in the wash cycle or sheets used in the dryer. Both help eliminate static cling and wrinkles while making clothes feel softer and smell better. Liquid fabric softener is added to the wash cycle and permeates into fabric fibers. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, fabric softener also keeps clothing from stretching, fading, and accumulating fuzz. Dryer sheets, on the other hand, are coated with stearic acid, which melts in the dryer and coats clothes to make them have less static and feel softer and more comfortable. While useful for many clothing items, most experts suggest you not use fabric softeners on some items, including towels. That’s because even though softeners can make towels feel and smell better, since they coat the fabric, they sometimes reduce a towel’s ability to absorb water.