Clean, fresh-smelling laundry hangs out to dry.
Clean, fresh-smelling laundry hangs out to dry.
© Flippo

There's always something out there for you to fix, even if you didn't know it was a problem. Even if you're an avid watcher of The Martha Stewart Show or a subscriber to Good Housekeeping, you may not know that there are solutions to problems like the seat of dark jeans dulling or finding yourself without a lint roller. In fact, many of you may not have even realized such problems existed.

Don't worry; we know the secret tricks to whiter whites, and we want to share them with you. After all, everyone should know what natural element acts as a bleach. We also have the solutions to problems you may be all too familiar with, such as mixing in colored laundry with a load of whites.

We don't expect you to know these laundry-room secrets; heck, you have a job to go to and kids to get off to school! You have things more important to think about than how to super-charge detergent, so that's why we're here. We've rounded up 10 simple laundry tricks that you never knew you needed, so take a peek inside to learn our secrets for cleaner, better smelling shirts, shoes, pants, jackets, linens -- pretty much any kind of fabric that could be in distress.

Save Your Dyed Whites

The ultimate laundry cliché of mixing a red sock in with a load of whites is clichéd for a reason -- everyone does it and still can't believe it happened to them. If you've managed to mix some colored clothes in with a load of whites, don't fret! We know you never saw that tricky red sock, but don't look for blame yet, because you may not have done permanent damage.

Before putting anything in the dryer, soak the damp clothes in a solution of baking soda and warm water with 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup detergent added to it. Grab your favorite detergent and wash as usual. If all goes according to plan, your whites will be white again when the buzzer signals the end of the cycle.

Drying Out Shoe Odors

Ridding shoes of dampness from foot perspiration can help prevent odor and even lengthen the life of the shoes. So whenever you take off a pair of shoes for the day, slip a few small pieces of white chalk (or inexpensive children's sidewalk chalk) into each shoe to help absorb moisture.

For a tidy, efficient way to move the chalk pieces into and out of your shoes, consider wrapping them in small scraps of cheesecloth and tying the tiny bundles with twist ties.

Another easy way to help remove moisture (and odors) from the insides of shoes is to crumple up newspaper and stuff it inside the shoes when they are not being worn. Be sure to use fresh pieces of newspaper each time.

Whether you use newspaper, loose bits of chalk or the little, homemade shoe sachets, be sure you remember to remove them before you slip your feet back into the shoes!

Steam Out Tobacco Odors

Whether you're a smoker or not, you can probably agree that one aggravating aspect of tobacco is the odor that clings to everything. The smell of smoke will come right out of most fabrics when you wash them as normal, but fabrics that lock in odors and are sensitive to washing, like wool, are a bit trickier.

To remove tobacco odors from wool clothing, run hot water into the bathtub and add 2 cups white vinegar. Then hang the garment on the shower rod and close the bathroom door. The vinegar in the rising steam will remove the smell of smoke without damaging the fabric.

Dull Pants' Shine

If your favorite pair of jeans has developed that unsightly shine in the seat, don't be embarrassed. Not only does it happen to most dark jeans, but it's unlikely anyone else will even notice. After all, have you ever looked at someone's butt and thought, "Wow, the seat of her pants is shiny"?

Still, to put your mind at ease, try this quick tip to dull the shine. After laundering as usual, spray the shiny area with vinegar and, without rinsing out the vinegar, allow it to dry before wearing. The only thing shining will be your smile, once you have your favorite jeans back -- embarrassment-free.

Fade Scorch Marks

Even the most skilled and attentive of us have done it before -- you stop paying attention for two seconds too long, with the iron in your hand and the white shirt underneath, and you're left with a scorch mark. Maybe you can save the shirt by just wearing a jacket over it. Or maybe you can try our easy trick and not have to hide anything!

If your iron got too hot while your hand lingered or mind wandered, fixing the scorched fabric is as easy as stepping outside. Hang it on a laundry line in direct sunlight; the sunlight's natural bleaching action will help to fade the scorch mark. No jackets or expensive cleaners needed!


Dirt-Proof Tennis Shoes

You can always tell when someone's shoes are new because they're squeaky clean. Or maybe they're tricking you, and they just clean them religiously. No way, you say. Not those canvas tennis shoes. They're impossible to keep looking new -- as soon as you step outdoors, they lock in dirt and never let it go.

Sorry, but you've been tricked once again. It's true that canvas shoes are hard to clean once they get dirty, but if you prepare ahead of time, you can keep them looking like they came right out of the box.

Spray new canvas tennis shoes with starch before wearing them, and the dirt can't become embedded in the fabric. The shoes will always be easy to clean, and no one will be able to guess that you've had them for years.


Fixing Flannel Fabric

Stains on abrasive fabrics like flannel are every mom's nightmare, because whatever you spill is locked in by the texture of the fabric. Don't say bye-bye to that shirt just yet, because we've got a nightlight that'll chase those bad dreams away.

For stubborn stains on flannel fabric, pour 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon glycerin into a deep, wide-mouthed plastic cup, mix them together using a fork (the way you whisk milk into raw eggs to make scrambled eggs) and smear the mixture onto the stain. Wait about 30 minutes for it to loosen the stain and then launder the item as usual.

Boost Your Detergent

If your normal detergent isn't making the cut, don't just toss away a half-full bottle and run out to get an expensive name brand. All you need to whip your laundry detergent into shape is a little help from your pantry.

Adding baking soda to a washing machine's rinse cycle will help your clothes become more thoroughly rinsed, and they will resist the stain buildup that can sometimes come with hard water. The baking soda helps the detergent work better and acts as a deodorizer for some of those rougher-smelling clothes. They'll also feel softer -- another bonus! Cleaner clothes, softer fabric and no extra money spent -- you can't beat that!

Roll Up a Lint Remover

If you have an cat or dog that sheds, you probably have a lint roller or two lying around the house. If you're not used to lint or hairs on your clothes -- or if you've had to roll one too many shirts and are out of sheets -- you may be desperate for a solution, but don't start tearing off pieces of scotch tape yet. Using three inch slivers of tape at a time will make you run through an entire roll before your pants are a solid black again; there's a more efficient way to get the job done.

Make your own lint remover by rolling up an old magazine or thin mail-order catalog and wrapping wide adhesive tape around it so the sticky side faces out. Pass it lightly over clothing or upholstery fabric to remove lint, bits of thread and stray hairs. You'll cover a bigger surface area and get the job done faster!

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Bleach!

Straight lemon juice -- squeezed directly from the lemon or poured from a bottle -- works very well for bleaching and doesn't contain the harsh and potentially-dangerous chemicals the name brand bleaches do.

Just about any fabric (except silk) can be bleached a whiter and brighter color by soaking in a mixture of lemon juice and very hot water. First, mix 1/2 cup lemon juice with 1 gallon very hot water. Soak the clothing in it for at least one hour, though it can soak as long as overnight. Afterward, pour the lemon juice mixture into the washing machine, then wash the garment as usual.

As a bonus, your clothes will have an extra scent of freshness!

Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.


Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Take this HowStuffWorks quiz to find out your how your cleaning skills stack up.

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