Dear Home-Ec 101,
I have smelly towel syndrome and want to try your idea with the borax and vinegar, but I do not know how to add the vinegar to my rinse cycle. With a front load, it’s a little more difficult to add anything to it or even “soak” anything in the drum. I bought a product called “Smelly Washer” but it requires you to soak the solution in the drum for hours. I have no clue how to do this since the drum drains anytime you stop the washer?
Please help on these two issues:
1. How to “soak” in a front load washer.
2. How to add to the extra rinse cycle (or rinse cycle, period)
Thanks so much!
Before we step into problem-solving mode, let’s figure out what the problem is.
Washing clothing in water uses three kinds of energy : chemical, heat, or physical or a combination thereof. Cleaning clothing pretty much comes down to finding a balance of these energies -wow it sounds so new age- that won’t damage the fibers.
Soaking is a way to give the chemical portion of the equation time to work. While your clothes are just sitting in water, the molecules in that water are moving around like crazy on a level we can’t see.
Think about adding drops of food coloring to a glass of water, the color spreads, the drops of food coloring don’t just hang out as droplets in the water. Also, you may notice that the color spreads faster in warm or hot water than in very cold.
Soaking clothing is basically the same. You have your detergent molecules bouncing around in water maybe bouncing into dirt, maybe bouncing off clothing fibers. There’s a lot of random stuff happening in there and a longer soak gives those molecules more time to get a hold of the dirt and bring it into solution where it isn’t still on your clothing.
Now for your smelly towels:
Soaking gives the laundry detergent molecules that are clinging to the towels a chance to come off of the towels and into solution. This will happen much faster with hot water than with cold, simply because detergent is more soluble (more can be in the water) at higher temperatures. The vinegar and borax, not used at the same time mind you, changes the pH of the water which also can improve the solubility of the detergent stuck to your towels.
So what about physical energy?
You get physical energy with agitation or tumbling. This forces water through the clothing (you do know that most fabric isn’t water tight, right?) increasing the number of interactions between the solution and the and the molecules (stains and dirt) that we want to come off of the fabric).
The problem with front loaders: You need your laundry to have more time in the cleaning solution. (detergent and water, vinegar and water, or borax and water).
Work arounds for the front loader soaking problem.
There are multiple ways to handle the soaking issue with a front load washer. The lowest tech and simplest method is to just use a bucket to soak items outside of the washer itself. If you have a lot of items, the bathtub is another option, but I’ll warn you the trek from the tub to the washer with a basket of sodden towels isn’t exactly fun. Just be glad it’s not down to the creek and back, right?
Another solution is to use the pre-wash cycle as a soaking cycle, understanding that the tumbling of the washtub increases the amount of physical energy involved.
If I find I have accidentally created detergent build up on my towels, I simply run the longest cycle on the hottest settings, with borax in the detergent receptacle and vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. This really is only effective with a small load, if you are overloading the washer, there will simply not be enough water to get rid of the detergent.
There isn’t anything magical about a rinse cycle in a front load washer. It is simply a cycle where no detergent is in the water. If you need a rinse cycle and lack a rinse and spin option on your washer, just run a load without detergent.
Finally, with a product like Smelly Washer that requires soaking in the tub, unplug your washer before it has time to drain. Then allow the product to work overnight.
Also, check the lint trap in your drain line, that can be a serious source of funk in many front loading washers.
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