Dear Home Ec 101,
I am finally becoming successful in potty-training my 3.5 year old, but he has had a few accidents in his “big boy underwear.” I know to scrape as much of the mess as I can into the toilet, but beyond that how do I launder it? I’m afraid bleaching would wipe the very important characters (Elmo, Diego, Thomas, etc) off of the underwear. Also, is there a way to wash the messy underwear with other clothes? I don’t want to make an entire load of clothes icky but I also don’t want to waste the energy on washing just a few tiny clothing items alone. Thanks!
Grossed Out Greta
ATTENTION Sensitive readers: If you don’t currently have to deal with messes of a bodily nature, just make a mental note or better yet, bookmark the page and mosey along.
Bear with me, this conversation could get a little nasty, but it is what it is. When your son has an accident, instead of just scraping off what you can, give the underwear a good swish in the toilet. Flush first! Your goal is to rinse it out as much as humanly possible. Unless the potty trainee has been marinating in his accident for a while, this will remove all but trace amounts of fecal matter.
Bleach is safe for colorfast prints and when used in the amount needed to be disinfecting, don’t worry about the tyke’s favorite characters. You only need 1 TBSP of chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Wash the underwear with hot water, detergent, and bleach in the bathroom sink; rinse it well and hang it to dry so it doesn’t mildew. Toss it in with the next full load and carry on with life.
One of the latest scare quotes I’ve seen says something along the lines of: All dirty underwear has nearly a gram of fecal matter. I don’t know where that stat originated, but a gram? Really? Without a skid mark? I don’t know if I believe this one, but it’s worth mentioning.
Oxygen bleach aka sodium percarbonate aka Oxiclean and other brands are also alternatives worth considering when the laundry needs a germ fighting boost. Sunlight and the dryer also both work well to kill any lingering germs.
Learn more: What is Sodium Percarbonate?
Don’t overload your clothes washer, to keep soil and germs from being deposited on clothing, it must be able to adequately rinse the dirt away. This is especially true for high efficiency models that use significantly less water.
Learn more: Is Sunlight An Effective Disinfectant?
Please don’t forget to clean the sink and thoroughly wash your hands, paying attention to your fingernails. Kids are germ factories and you don’t want to be a vector; that’s the person who infects others.
Send ALL of your domestic questions to email@example.com.
I’m not scared, I can take ’em.