You CAN Get Latex Paint Out of Clothes!

I “knew” that once paint got on clothes, the clothes were doomed. Not so:

Hand sanitizer, an old toothbrush, effort and patience.


52 Weeks: Water – Laundry

In the summer of 2012, many areas in the U.S. and Australia had a severe drought. People posted on message boards about using less water. They also reused water that used to go down the drain.

Some folks in very parched areas are saving the rinse water from the washing machine. They pour it back in to the washer to be the wash water for the next load. In a drought situation, whether a drought of water or of money, there are ways to do less laundry.

Outer clothes that are not actually dirty can be hung up, either indoors or out in the fresh air, to air out before wearing again. Sheets can be aired instead of washed, perhaps every other time. You can reuse towels more times if you hang them up so they dry instead of souring. If your washer has settings for different levels, only use as much water as you need for the load.

Fabric Softener Alternatives

I didn’t realize until I started researching it that fabric softener could have a downside risk. Turns out it coats the dryer’s sensor so the dryer can’t tell if the clothes are dry yet. If your dryer has the feature that it stops using heat when the clothes are dry, even if the time isn’t up, a clogged sensor will waste electricity applying heat to clothes that are already dry. It can also invisibly coat the dryer’s lint screen. This makes the machine work harder pulling air through a clogged screen. You can fix that by scrubbing the screen with soapy water every so often.

The simplest fabric softener alternative is white vinegar. I add half a cup to the rinse cycle. It softens clothes, limits static cling, and and best of all stops lint from clinging to dark clothes. Once I added it in the wash cycle and it worked just as well.

If you prefer dryer sheets, dampen a washcloth or rag with vinegar and put it in the dryer with the load. This also works very well.

If you want a nice smell, add an essential oil to the vinegar. Lemon is nice, or lavender, whatever you enjoy.

If you want to use conventional fabric softener to make your own dryer sheets, you can. Soak a washcloth or rag in fabric softener and let it dry. Use it like a dryer sheet. You can use it several times before you need to soak it again.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

52 Weeks: Laundry – Stains

There are dozens of commercial laundry stain removal products available. Many of them work well. Most or all of them cost more than equally effective home recipes.

For grease spots, I dab on a little laundry detergent or dish detergent and scrub it in with a toothbrush. Usually it will come out in the wash. Sometimes I have to let it sit a while before laundering. If it’s a set in stain, after the detergent I scrub in some hydrogen peroxide as well. Scrub in detergent or shampoo to remove a dark ring on the inside of a collar.

For protein stains like blood, pour on some hydrogen peroxide and scrub it between your knuckles. When the stain is gone, rinse out the peroxide. If the garment isn’t colorfast, peroxide might bleach the spot.

Homemade oxiclean is half a cup of hydrogen peroxide and half a cup of washing soda. Soak the garment in this for an hour or so and then wash with your usual detergent. I made this with baking soda instead of washing soda and it worked fine.

A cotton swab dipped in bleach becomes a bleach pen.

Our ancestors got stains out for centuries without paying top dollar for heavily advertised commercial products, and we can too.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

52 Weeks: Laundry Products

There are zillions of special products for laundry. In addition to detergent, we have fabric softeners and a vast array of specialized stain removers, brighteners, bleaches, color-catchers, stain sticks, bleach pens, and on and on. Everyone has their favorites. For every product, there’s a homemade alternative, and the internet has them all.

There are many recipes for homemade laundry detergent. They all involve some kind of soap or detergent, and laundry boosters such as Borax or washing soda. Some call for grating a bar of soap into a pot with washing soda and Borax on the stove and cooking it like Granny Clampett. Some omit the cooking and have us mix them up in a food processor, being careful not to breathe in the dust it generates. For liquid laundry detergent, the recipe calls for dishwashing liquid, washing soda, and Borax in a jug with water.

“In a gallon jug combine three tablespoons of Borax, three tablespoons of washing soda (not baking soda), and three tablespoons of Dawn dish detergent. Add four cups of very hot water and swirl or shake until they are all mixed. Then fill it the rest of the way up with cold water. The amount to use will vary with the hardness of your water. Try one cup, and if that’s too much, then next time half as much.”

Or, I could just add dish liquid, washing soda, and/or Borax to each load without mixing it up beforehand.

On the other hand, by the time I buy all that, I could just go to Big Lots and pay $2.79 for 75 ounces of Sun brand liquid detergent. That’s five and a half cents per load if I use the recommended amount. Often, I use less.

If you Google homemade laundry detergent, you’ll find a variety of recipes for both liquid and powder detergents. One of them may suit your needs.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

52 Weeks: Laundry – Dry cleaning

A top-down strategy for spending less to have clean clothes is to consider what you buy.

Sometime in the 1980s it occurred to me that dry clean only clothes kept costing me money and trouble over and over again. Not only did I have to pay someone else to clean them, but I had to make a special trip to take them to their little clothing spa vacation.

I stopped buying dry clean only clothes. I put the ones I had through a wash and dry cycle. Most of them survived, and I saved some money and effort.

Nowadays we have Dryel home dry cleaning product for the clothes you must have or don’t want to risk in the washer. Of course some jobs or special occasions require clothes that really must be professionally cleaned. If they don’t have an actual spot, consider hanging them to air out at home and wearing again. Or, maybe they could just be pressed. The dry cleaning chemicals take a lot out of clothes, so just pressing can make them look sharp with less damage.

For me, I just don’t even consider buying dry cleanable clothes, no matter how great they look in the store.

I’ve also stopped having clothes that must be hand washed. It’s too easy to end up with a basket of them nagging me to take care of them, and finding I just don’t get around to it. For my clothes, it’s sink or swim in the washing machine.

The “top-down” strategy is one in which we make a decision at the moment of purchase that saves money going forward. Perhaps buying a car that costs less on insurance and takes a cheaper size of tire. Maybe no dry-cleanables. Energy-efficient appliances. Could refrain from buying something that’s going to need to be fed batteries all its life. There are many examples.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.


Borax for mildew

For years I thought that chlorine bleach was the only way to get rid of mildew stains. I knew of things that killed mildew, but left the black or gray stain. Straight vinegar with or without tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract, let sit for hours. Straight hydrogen peroxide, apply and let sit for up to an hour. Then scrub, scrub, scrub to remove the dead mold. And rinse, rinse, rinse to get rid of any lingering spores. I preferred the magic of just pouring bleach on it. Pouf! both mildew and the stain of it were gone.

On the other hand, bleach is harsh on fabrics. Yesterday I tried Borax. I washed a mildewed shower curtain and curtain liner with Borax in the washing machine. The ratio for soaking fabrics is supposed to be 1 cup Borax per quart of water. I didn’t measure, just used a lot of Borax, maybe two cups, and the lowest water setting on the washer. With a vinyl liner, warm water is better. In cold, the liner stays stiff and awkward to handle when you take it out. If you throw in a couple of towels with it, they will help rub it clean.

It came out perfectly clean and bright, and smelled clean in a mild, non-perfumed way. The information I had said no need to rinse, the Borax left in the material will help stave off new mildew.I didn’t rinse, so we’ll see if it takes longer for the mildew to come back.

For upholstery, including outdoor furniture, dissolve ½ cup Borax in two cups of hot water and sponge it onto the mildewed area. Don’t use so much that it soaks the filling, this is only for the surface.