Let me join your laundry cult
September 30, 2020 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I have heard rumors of a magical laundry soap that will rejuvenate my laundry, removing years of built-up dryer sheet residue and leave my towels fluffy and like new. It will also brighten my dingy white shirts. I can't recall the name, but it is concentrated, all natural, and difficult to use. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Is this real? Do you use it? Am I misremembering? Do you have any other laundry secrets you would like to share? Our towels feel like they could sand the paint off of our van.
posted by mecran01 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Distilled vinegar?
posted by kindall at 7:33 AM on September 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Interview with Patric Richardson, aka the Laundry Evangelist.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:35 AM on September 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Maybe you're thinking of bluing? My laundry secrets for whites: soak in OxyClean solution overnight, wash as normal. Every 4-6 weeks, blu with Mrs. Stewart's. For towels, wash with a cup of white distilled vinegar, no soap. It will pull out all of that residue and leave them so fluffy and soft. The vinegar smell doesn't linger.
posted by pumpkinlatte at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2020 [10 favorites]

Have you heard about this 'stripping' thing everyone on instagram is into? I don't do it because who has the time and who wants to know.
posted by stray at 7:46 AM on September 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

I like to toss a clean tennis ball into the dryer. It helps stuff dry and makes the towels fluffy.
posted by wicked_sassy at 7:58 AM on September 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's a formula making the rounds on my social world.

1/4 cup borax
1/4 cup washing soda
big scoop of tide power
Calgon water softener
Soak in hot water in your top load washer or in your bathtub for 4-6 hours. Then wash in your washer without detergent.

I used it to strip athletic wear of gross smells, and have also used it on older sheets. It works really well. I didn't use the calgon water softener (couldn't find it, also our water is already softened).
posted by Ftsqg at 8:05 AM on September 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

Yes, stripping! I used the recipe Ftsqg mentioned (down to not including the Calgon), and I think it helped things, although I wouldn't say my towels are "like new".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:09 AM on September 30, 2020

Never use dryer sheets on towels. Those wool dryer balls are pretty nice.
posted by matildaben at 8:26 AM on September 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

Could you be thinking of Sal Suds by Dr. Bronner? The all natural and concentrated part of your question brought it to mind. People buying concentrated straight SLS and similar also comes to mind but it's certainly not natural.
posted by mochi_cat at 8:39 AM on September 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Could you be thinking of Fels-Naptha?
posted by saladin at 8:59 AM on September 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ox gall soap? The enzymes in the bile break down stains.
posted by corey flood at 9:13 AM on September 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I recently saw this product advertised on Amazon: RLR Natural Powder Laundry Detergent
You might want to look into it; it sounds like something you'd be interested in. I have not used it.
posted by ydaltak at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Could it be Charlie's Soap?
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2020

+1 oxy clean soak
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:39 AM on September 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I did the towel refresh thing, but I didn't use any special products for it. The instructions I found said to wash the towels first in hot water and 1 cup of vinegar (no detergent), and then wash them again in hot water with a half cup of baking soda (if the towels had been used I added a small amount of detergent to that wash). It worked, and the towels are fluffy and not musty-smelling.
posted by Lycaste at 1:16 PM on September 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I am delighted and overwhelmed by all of this laundry advice. I can't wait to get home and fix my towels!
posted by mecran01 at 1:40 PM on September 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

When I did cloth diapers, there was a lot of talk about stripping them. The various schools of thought I remember:
-Charlie’s Soap mentioned above
-Plain Tide powder (what I used at that time because I had a damn baby)
-Borax/washing soda mentioned above
-Letting things sit in hot water, maybe with some vinegar (I do this with funky towels now and it helps)
-Not using dryer sheets with fabrics you want to absorb liquid.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:08 PM on September 30, 2020

Soak in oxyclean, wash in very hot water. Note; this is only for white towels! If you do it for anything else, you’ll drastically shrink and fade the garment. The hotter the water the better, there is a noticeable difference with how white it gets and water temperature.
posted by Jubey at 4:23 PM on September 30, 2020

Another former cloth diaperer here - the magic stripping potion that was recommended at the time was RLR, as linked above. For general grungy laundry issues, I like a nice long soak in Biz. It's an enzymatic cleaner and I have had better luck with that than oxiclean.

For towel loads, I use straight white vinegar as a liquid fabric softener, and dryer balls for added floof. The smell dissipates once dry and it keeps the mustiness at bay.
posted by Ann Telope at 6:15 AM on October 1, 2020

TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate) is an extremely effective cleaner verses oily stains and fabvric softener residue. Used to be in practically all laundry detergents until we figured out excess phosphorous causes lake killing algae blooms.

It is available anywhere you can buy paint. An 1/8th of a cup in addition to your regular detergent is generally enough strip towels of built up grime. It's caustic so pay attention to the safety instructions on the carton.
posted by Mitheral at 1:40 AM on October 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Another vote for stripping - it really went viral this year, and the recipe described by Ftsqg is the one I've seen and used. I have never found vinegar or baking soda in my towels to be effective nor have I found that the smell completely disappears. (Caveat: stupidly energy efficient washing machine and I live in a very damp climate. If you have an old school top loader, I bet it works better.)

I stripped my towels and some other stuff. Some of it was amazing, some kinda meh. It's a good pandemic activity in the same way baking bread is--a good amount of waiting around to see what has happened.
posted by purple_bird at 10:53 AM on October 2, 2020

Re laundry stripping: Jolie Kerr says don’t do it!

If La Kerr advises against, so do I.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:15 AM on October 4, 2020

Instead, she recommends less detergent on a smaller load to solve the same issue over time.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:19 AM on October 4, 2020

Going forward, I think ditching the fabric softener, which just coats your laundry with waxes and other chemicals, and using plain vinegar (I've never had lingering smell) might be the way to go.

Also, a washing machine repairer who came out to fix a front loader that was depositing grime all over the laundry, once advised avoiding liquid detergents. He said it doesn't wash away as well as powder detergents, and leaves slime buildup all over the outside of the drum over time. He recommended either switching to powder completely, or substituting liquid for powder every few loads, which will clear off the slime. So, if the liquid detergent residue sticks to the drum, I'm sure it's also sticking to your laundry
posted by Zaire at 11:13 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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