Bleach Spots Appearing on Khaki Shorts

Print Friendly

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have been puzzled by this mysterious pink / red stains on my khaki shorts for years. Whenever I get new khaki shorts, it will get these red / pink stains on them whenever I wash them. I don’t use bleach or fabric softener. I only use powdered detergent, cold/warm water and that’s it. Whatever I do, it will only create new red/pink marks across the khaki shorts. What is truly bizarre is that I tried not washing one of my new khaki shorts I bought and the stains still appeared! It looks like it has something to do with the water in the home I live in. It only occurs on my khaki shorts and not anywhere else. I need help with this as I have google searched for months without any answer. I’m afraid to buy new khaki shorts now.


Shorted on the Shore

Heather says:

The stains you describe sound like bleach stains. Bleaching agents -not necessarily chlorine bleach– can appear in many innocuous forms in our modern lives. However, acne creams, whitening toothpaste and mouthwash are the usual culprits. Some dyes are less able to resist these bleaching products, which is why you will only notice this on some fabrics. After giving this some thought, my guess is splatter from vigorous toothbrushing landing on the bathroom counter or the shorts, themselves. Then, all it takes is a lean in for a close look in the mirror and voila, bleach stains on khaki shorts. The would appear either as a dot or a smear depending on the contact method.

In all likelihood you wouldn’t notice the tiny spatter or rub for several hours until that pink / orange / reddish spot appeared.

To prevent bleaching stains like these in the future, be extra careful with your bleaching products. Try to get in the habit of wiping off your bathroom counter and washing your hands thoroughly after applying acne creams or medication.

For what it’s worth, some people’s sweat seems to oxidize the dyes of some fabrics leaving mysterious stains. However these stains would be in very specific areas, prone to sweating. Since you mentioned spots rather than blotches -these would appear where the shorts crease when sitting- my money is on one of the previously mentioned products.

On an unrelated note, getting to the bottom of these mysterious bleach stains has felt like an episode of House the Domestic Edition and heck, I’ve been cranky enough to play the lead.

Submit your questions to

Laundry and the Great Diaper Blowout

Print Friendly

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I’m a brand new mom and I need to know if it is okay to wash clothes that have suffered through a diaper leak with the rest of the baby clothes. How do I make sure that poop (sorry!) doesn’t get all over the washer and the rest of our stuff without resorting to throwing away the outfit?

Pooped in Pooler


Heather says:

Babies. Sometimes it’s a really good thing we are designed to find them cute, because they can cause us as caregivers to deal with things that we would normally cause us to lose our lunch over.

This won’t be the last poopy outfit you deal with.

I guarantee at some point during the next two years, you will throw at least one outfit away, maybe even something of yours, due to a diaper blowout.

One of my kids’  first real explosion was on the way to the photographer’s for baby pics. So I changed the baby, bagged everything up to deal with at home, and congratulated myself for being so prepared.

Guess who exploded again, but this time in the waiting room?


So guess who has first baby pics in a clean diaper and not much else? That kid. Guess who was a hot mess of I’m never going to get this right? This mom.

Airports, car seats, man oh man all the car seats, the crib, the carrier, the carpet… there isn’t really a baby safe surface that hasn’t had this contamination. You sort of become immune to it at some point.

Anyhow, enough story time.

Baby clothes are tiny and unless you overload your washer they can agitate freely in the wash tub. Rinse as much of the solid matter as possible out of the clothing. If you aren’t running the load immediately go ahead and soak the item with a tiny bit of mild dish detergent (or liquid laundry detergent) applied directly to the stain in cold water.  Give it a good swish, wash your hands and wash it with the next load of laundry.

Rules for running the load of laundry with the casualties of a diaper blowout:

  1. RINSE the items involved thoroughly
  2. SOAK the item if time allows in COLD water
  3. Do not overload your clothes washer
  4. Use the largest load possible for your machine
  5. Inspect the item after washing for residual stain. Spot treat with additional detergent and rewash if stain lingers.


1. This removes as much solid particulate matter as possible. Detergent works by surrounding particles and bringing them into solution (the water in your washing machine.) Pre-removing what can simply be rinsed away reduces the amount of particulates that have to be suspended in the water by a limited number of detergent molecules

2. This gives the detergent time to work into the stain and surround those remaining particles.  Cold water prevents any proteins from denaturing -changing into a structure that may be impossible or exceptionally difficult to remove.

3. The clothing articles needs to be able to move freely so the water and detergent molecules can move around and between the fabric’s fibers.

4. The more water the more movement opportunity for the clothing items AND the more particles that can be brought into solution and not left on the clothing. Think about stirring salt into water. There comes a point where the solution is saturated and no more salt can be dissolved. This is the same with detergent and the particles it is trying to bring into solution. The issue is trickier than the salt in water solubility as detergent molecules are sticky and will cling to your fabric and yes, the inside of your washer if there is not enough solvent to keep it in solution.

5. This circles back to item 2. and 4. You don’t want any leftover protein molecules to denature -change structure – in the heat of the dryer. There may not have been enough detergent available to completely remove the stain, it could have been so deeply embedded in the fibers that it needs another run through the wash.

Unless someone in the house is ill, the clothes washer and dryer are enough “disinfecting” for the average home. Obviously wash your hands well after handling soiled clothing.

Enjoy the new minion.

Submit your questions to

How to Remove Flammable Liquids from Clothing

Print Friendly

Dear Home-Ec101,

This evening right before bed while he was outside letting the dogs out, my husband saw a roach on our back porch. He was barefoot, so he grabbed the nearest object to him so he could try to kill it. Normally a brilliant man, he had a momentary lapse of stupid, and he smashed this roach with a plastic bottle of lighter fluid. You guessed it: the bottle cracked, and lighter fluid started leaking out on our wooden porch.

He got out the hose and washed off the deck pretty well. I made him strip out of his pajama bottoms while he was outside because he’d gotten lighter fluid on one of the legs. He used the garden hose to rinse the cuff of those out, and they’re going to stay out on the porch overnight.

I know that putting those pants in the dryer if they have any lighter fluid left on them is a recipe for disaster. What’s the best way to handle this? Should I hand-wash and line dry them tomorrow? Is there anything else I need to do with the deck? I know the joke about “Oh, no, there’s a roach! Better burn down the house!” but I’d rather not let that actually happen.

Patient and loving wife

PS Yes, he did manage to kill the roach.

Heather says:

I do believe what you are referring to as a mere “roach” may actually be the much more insidious and untrustworthy with their gift of flight, Palmetto Bug. Or in the words of every transplant who moves to SC, “giant [insert expletive of choice] cockroaches” which perfectly justifies the level of reaction described.

I hate them. I had one chase me down the hall the night of the housewarming party, thankfully none of you noticed as I managed to keep the disgusted squeal down to a squeak and did have a shoe handy, no lighter fluid necessary.

To solve your query: How to safely remove lighter fluid or other flammable liquids from clothing? You are exactly on the right track. Spot wash the affected area and line dry.

The volatile nature of the chemical actually plays in your favor when it comes to removing it from fabric.

Use regular detergent or dish detergent and a bucket, rinse thoroughly, and hang dry. The deck will be fine, but you can spot scrub it if it makes you feel better.

Simple and done.

Submit your questions to

Ideas for Renewing a Stained T-Shirt

Print Friendly

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have a grey t-shirt that has significant memories and it has a grease blotch or something in it. Not sure, honestly. I’ve tried.everything to remove it and give up. The stain is above the belly button location. So an odd place. However, I wondered how I might make a bleach design that would cover the lower half of the shirt.
Any ideas?

Crafty in Cranston

Heather says:

Thank you for understanding that sometimes stains are permanent. As frustrating as that can be, sometimes there is no way to remove it.

I’m not exactly the crafty type, but I think you can do something called a mask and spray the shirt with a 50 / 50 bleach mixture to make some pretty cool upcycled shirts.

A quick search on Google gave me this easy project that just requires freezer paper, an iron, bleach, water, and a spray bottle. (And an artistic hand, you won’t find that here, hopefully you can print out a template or something to trace, this girl can barely draw a stick figure.)

I looked it up on Pinterest, because seriously, where else do you go for crafty and DIY ideas?

My advice would be to make sure the stain lies in an area where the color is transitioning so it’s less obvious, like in the example below. The mottling would do more to hide a stain than if you removed all the color and the stain remained.

We all know that ombre is in.

A slightly more in-depth can be found on Saved By Love Creations -again via a Pinterest search. (I did not take this photo, it belongs  to Johnnie, go check out her site)


Bleached Tee by Johnnie

Do not Pin this photo, please. Click the image and go to the craft tutorial itself, so they get the credit.


And of course, you know I was attracted to this one.

Who wouldn’t want a bleached t-shirt with a Tardis? I mean, really, who?

Photo Credit Emily from

Tardis Bleach Design

Do not pin this image. Click the image and go to the craft itself so they get credit :)

I’m pretty sure I can hear Jenn Fowler and Melanie Nelson *squeeing* from here and neither of them are the type to squee.

Good luck with your stained shirt. I hope this idea works out. If not, you could always save it and other t-shirts with memories to turn into a quilt or wall-hanging.

Submit your questions to

How to Remove Melted Microfiber from a Smooth Top Stove

Print Friendly

Dear Home Ec 101,

I burned a microfiber rag on my flat top range as I thought it was cool and was wiping it off. The regular ceramic stove top cleaners are not taking it off. How can I remove the melted microfiber from my stove?

Stuck in Sturbridge

Heather says:

Cleaning melted anything off of a smooth top range is kind of a pain in the rear. First, as you’ve noticed, microfiber cloth isn’t like your standard cotton, which would have simply scorched or burnt. Microfiber is a generic term for any fiber less than one denier per filament -the tiny strands that are twisted and woven together to eventually create a cloth -sometimes, like in the case of microfiber, that requires a whole heck of a lot of twisting and weaving.

A denier is really tiny, about ten micrometers. These really tiny filaments give microfiber cloths their excellent cleaning properties, but since they are generally made from polyesters, they have the unfortunate tendency to melt on hot surfaces. Razor Scraper

You take the good with the bad and then to clean up the bad, you find a razor scraper.

Don’t worry, these razor scrapers are super cheap and you can find them at any big box store -Walmart, Target or hardware store, like ACE or Lowes -these are simply examples, not a recommendation of where to spend your money.  If you do not currently live with your parents and do not already own a razor scraper, toss one in your Amazon shopping cart.


Because at some point, you’re going to need this stupidly, handy tool for something, whether it’s for removing melted microfiber, plastic bags, or sugar from your smooth top stove, getting burnt-on grime off of the interior of your oven, or even removing paint from glass, these suckers are handy and at just over two bucks a pop, there is no reason not to have one in your kitchen and one in the garage / workshop area. Also at that price point, it’s worth having in there, if you’re THIS close to free shipping, but not quite.

To use the razor scraper on your smooth top range, hold the scraper at about a 45° angle to the stove and push forward, not side- to-side, never side-to-side, that would be how you scratch your smooth top range.

Got it?

Always scrape back and forth, not sideways and do it at an angle. Picture the razor blade sliding between the plastic and the surface of your stove, prying off the stuck on bits. (Because that’s what it’s doing and why it’s best to use a very sharp blade. Please use common sense and caution when using this tool and hide it from the minions, if you have those lurking about.)


Submit your questions to