Sunday, August 1, 2010


The weekend started with a problem.  I woke up on Friday morning, retrieved the clothes from the dryer where they had finished tumbling last night, and immediately saw a problem -- orange goop smeared and hardened on the dryer drawer.  If you have kids, you've guessed it: Somebody left a crayon in a pocket, it went through the dryer, melted, and now there were colorful spots and smears on the whole load as well as the inside of the dyer.  Actually, it was two crayons, an orange one and a blue one.  And there were brown spots on the clothes as well, but more on that later.

I spent some time on Friday researching whether there was anything I could do to rescue these clothes -- which included, most upsettingly, my Hey, Teach.  What I found was heartening.  So when I got home Friday afternoon, I spent an hour on my hands and knees scrubbing out the dryer drum with Comet.  Then I put the clothes that had been waiting patiently in the washer -- the load due to be dried after the one with the crayon disaster -- into the dryer and started working on treating and rewashing the crayon-befouled load with my Internet-gleaned recipes (involving copious amounts of Borax, Oxi-Clean, spray stain remover, and the like).

When I pulled the load out of the de-crayoned dryer, though, I learned that my problems weren't over.  Those brown spots had appeared on them.  Gradually the truth dawned on me.  Not only were there crayons in some kid's pocket in that dryer the night before ... but there was soiled underwear.  Cady Gray had dumped it in the washer without my knowledge, so they didn't get rinsed out.  There was poop in that dryer.

Back I went with my Comet, this time supplementing my sponge with an old toothbrush and a sample tube of toothpaste.  I found where the poop was lurking in the cracks and did my best to scrub it out.  And now I had not only the crayon stains to deal with, but the dried and set-in stains from this second contaminent -- not only in the first load that had run through that dryer, but the one that followed it after I thought it was clean.

Strangely enough, the affair sent me not into tear-my-hair-out frustration, but into problem-solving mode.  I started trying different combinations of cleaning products in load after load to work out the solution.  (It helped that my handknit came out of the first, pre-poop-revelation rewash apparently crayon-free, thanks to Oxi-Clean.)  I've probably washed most of those clothes five times over the course of the weekend.  For your edification, the only thing that helped with the set-in poop stains was repeated applications of color-safe bleach as a pre-treatment, allowed to soak in for 10-15 minutes before laundering -- this resulted in incremental fading and shrinking of the stains.

The mood extended beyond laundry.  I woke up Saturday morning, saw the broken divider screen that separates our entryway from the living area, and decided the time had come to take it down.  Twenty minutes later, down it was, after months and even years of taunting me with its dysfunctionality.  It could be that it wasn't my experimental and largely scientific engagement with laundry problems that put me in this mode, but the items I crossed off my summer to-do list this week, which included adding more insurance coverage for our home and initiating some other improvement discussions.

As I write, a half-dozen clothing items await their next round of Clorox 2 and agitation.  (I thought I might be done, but a switch to my normal cold water wash/rinse with a basketful of other clothes apparently stopped the stain-fading process cold (ha!) after the steady progress achieved with warm/cold over the last few days -- no improvement visible.)  At some point I will have to stop, throw them in the dryer or toss them out, and cut my losses.  But for now, I'm perfectly happy spinning my wheels -- because at some bizarre level, I feel like I'm actually moving forward.

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