Hard facts about water, laundry

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2003

We get numerous calls at the Extension Office regarding laundry problems related to water with high iron concentration. There are ways to prevent these problems, which often appear as yellowed whites.

Don't use chlorine bleach because it may intensify the discoloration. Instead use a nonchlorine bleach (the label may read: color-safe bleach, all-fabric bleach, oxygen bleach.) If you have very hard water you may have to use more of this bleach than is recommended on the package label.

Use the hottest water allowable for the fabric and use plenty of detergent.

Make sure the detergent is dissolved before adding clothes.

Use a nonprecipitating water softener such as Calgon or Spring Rain in both the wash and rinse water.

Wash smaller loads. Water cannot circulate adequately or carry off soil when the washer is overpacked.

Try a warm rinse, or several warm rinses when trying to remove dinginess, graying or yellowing of clothes.

The Soap and Detergent Association recommends draining the water heater occasionally.

If the whites are already yellowed, resulting from high iron levels in the water, restore discolored white clothes by first trying a vinegar and water solution. Soak clothes in a solution of 2 cups white vinegar to one-gallon hot tap water in a plastic container for 15 minutes. Then launder.

If this doesn't work, you may need to use a commercial rust remover recommended for fabrics. An example of a brand name of a rust remover available in this area is Iron Out. Be sure to follow the package instructions on these rust removers so the products will be effective.

For example, on the Iron Out instructions there is a warning, "Do not use with bleach or peroxide." This warning is intended to alert the consumer not to mix Iron Out with chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide or any detergent containing nonchlorine bleach (products with perborate, sodium percarbonate, or hydrogen

peroxide listed in the ingredients.)

Nothing harmful would happen if chlorine or nonchlorine bleaches and Iron Out were mixed, but the point is, nothing would happen at all because the chemicals cancel each other out. It's important to understand and follow the instructions to get the best results. Call the toll-free numbers on product packages if the instructions are unclear.

There are other reasons white fabrics turn yellow. Chlorine bleach often will produce discoloration on white or light-colored silk, wool, nylon and spandex. This type of discoloration is permanent. Also, overheating in the dryer can cause yellowing of light or white fabrics. To prevent this problem try to use the correct dryer setting for the fabric and removes clothes from the dryer when they are just a little less dry than you want them.

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Develop-ment programs. The Kenai Penin-sula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.

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