10 Universal Laundry Problems And How To Overcome Them

Solving Laundry Problems - collage: dryer balls in a basket of towels; adding vinegar to washing machine; de-pilling a sweater; stretching a t-shirt

Solving Your Most Perplexing Laundry Problems

Trying to keep up with a never-ending mountain of laundry that needs to be washed and/or folded is enough of a challenge before you factor in the laundry problems that often make it even more vexing. From stains and odors to clothes that never seem to get as clean as you’d like them to, we all face laundry problems from time to time.

Luckily, this post is all about solutions to such dilemmas! You’ll find the simplest and most effective solutions to 10 common laundry problems below.

(And don’t forget to refer to the laundry care symbols on the tags of your clothes too—those instructions can help you avoid accidentally ruining them as you’re troubleshooting laundry problems!)

10 Common Laundry Problems And How To Solve Them

Solving Laundry Problems - spray bottle of homemade stain remover on top of laundry in a basket

1. Stubborn Stains

Since this is a list of laundry problems, it didn’t seem right for anything other than “stains” to appear in the top spot. When treating almost any stain, I reach for my ultimate DIY stain remover spray—it packs a punch against organic substances (including stains from food, grass, blood, and more) and makes stain removal quick and easy.

Since I use my ultimate stain remover spray so often, I included the recipe in my set of laundry recipe spray bottle labels. Not only does it make it obvious which of my amber-colored spray bottles is for stain removal, but I always have the recipe handy when it’s time to make another batch!


Solving Laundry Problems - sprinkling baking soda on a sweat stain

2. Yellowing

I know yellowing and yellow stains are common laundry problems—the fact that my posts about eliminating yellow armpit stains and whitening yellow pillows have both been pinned millions of times on Pinterest leaves no doubt about that!

The most common culprit behind yellowed laundry is sweat and body oil. To more effectively break down these oily residues, make sure you’re using enough laundry detergent, wash in warm or hot water, or add a laundry detergent booster or fabric-safe bleach to the wash cycle. (If the affected item is white, try my miracle laundry whitening solution!)

Solving Laundry Problems - stack of bright white towels with a jar of homemade laundry detergent, bottle of bleach, box of borax, and box of dishwasher detergent powder

3. Dingy Clothes

If you’re dealing with dingy fabrics, I suggest following the same suggestions as I just mentioned for dealing with yellowing: use the right amount of a sufficiently powerful detergent, wash in how water, or try a detergent booster or bleach (chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach can help, depending on the fabric).

Dinginess may also be a symptom of dye transfer or hard water. If dye transfer is the issue, adding DIY color catchers to your wash loads can help prevent it in the future. If you have hard water and suspect that’s the problem, adding 1/2 cup of borax (a natural water softener) to your wash loads.

(Dealing with dress shirts affected by “ring around the collar”? This is the best way to remove ring around the collar stains.)

Solving Laundry Problems - stack of towels with bottle of white vinegar and box of baking soda

4. Odors

No one likes smelly clothes and linens, but laundry odors are surprisingly common! If you’re dealing with towels that have developed an unpleasant mildew smell, learn how to fix smelly towels with the help of vinegar and baking soda.

(The same fix for towels can help address deodorant buildup in the armpits of shirts as well!)

Solving Laundry Problems - canister of homemade laundry detergent

5. Detergent Residue

If you’re dealing with laundry detergent residue clinging to your clothes, there are a couple of possible reasons why. The most common cause of detergent residue buildup is “detergent overdose” (AKA using too much detergent), but it can also be caused by undissolved laundry powder.

To get around this, try pre-dissolving powdered detergents or boosters in hot water before adding them to your washer.

Related: The One Huge Laundry Mistake You Think Is No Big Deal

Solving Laundry Problems - dryer balls on a basket of clean towels

6. Static Cling

While store-bought dryer sheets can help cut down on static cling, they do so by rubbing chemical softeners onto fabrics that can build up into a stubborn residue over time. I prefer using dryer balls instead for that reason, which not only reduce drying time and soften fabrics, but also help to prevent static cling because they absorb some of the moisture coming off your clothes and keep your dryer more humid.

“I purchased my first dryer balls from Jillee and I love [them]. The balls are slightly firmer, and the colors make spotting them easier in the drier and on the floor. Living in Colorado we have so much static in the air, and these balls greatly reduce the static electricity from my laundry. These are extremely high quality dryer balls and will last for years.”

Marcie J.

If you continue to experience static cling while using dryer balls, here are a couple of tips that can help:

  • Get Them Wet Before Use. Get one or two of your dryer balls wet (but not soggy or completely saturated) before starting your dryer.
  • Add A Couple Safety Pins. Here’s a science-y solution: attach a safety pin or two to your dryer balls. Safety pins will attract the extra electrons that can cause static cling and discharge them as the pin makes contact with the dryer drum.


Solving Laundry Problems - pulling a dirty lint filter from a dryer

7. Lint

A certain amount of lint is to be expected when doing laundry, but some fabrics give of more lint than others. You can reduce the amount of lint transfer by washing lint-producing items separately, with similar fabrics, or with items of a similar color.

Other causes of lint can include clogged lint traps and tissues or paper left in pants pockets. Clean lint traps regularly and check all pockets before starting your washer.

Related: These Simple Dryer Tips Can Help Prevent A Fire

Solving Laundry Problems - using a de-piller on a sweater

8. Pilling

To help prevent pilling, try turning your clothes inside out before washing them. Pilling is caused by friction in the washer and dryer, so protecting the outside of your clothes can help prevent some of that friction.

To eliminate pills that have already formed, check out the tips in mypost about rehabilitating pilled sweaters.

Solving Laundry Problems - stretching a t-shirt

9. Shrinking

Learning how to unshrink clothes has been a real game-changer for me, but it doesn’t work on all fabrics. Avoid shrinkage by following the care instructions the labels of your clothes and linens, or by taking your laundry out of the dryer while it is still a bit damp.

Solving Laundry Problems - pouring white vinegar into washing machine tray

10. Fading

It’s impossible to prevent colors from fading entirely since it’s part of normal wear and tear, but there are a couple of ways to minimize protect the color of your clothing. When you wash new clothes for the first time, adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle can help set the dye in the fibers and prevent it from bleeding as much.

Heat can also contribute to fading, so be sure to wash dark clothing in cold water and dry it on a low heat setting (or hang it to dry). For more tips, see my post on preventing color fading in the wash.

What’s your most vexing laundry problem?

Read This Next

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • My biggest challenge is the dirty towels pile up so fast. And just keeping on top of it. I do one load of the towels weekly., l recently tried the ultimate stein remover. I didn’t mix it up. I used it on a white mens dress shirt of my dads. They had the ring around the collar stains. I just used the Dawn straight from the bottle and sprayed the peroxide. Big improvement. I added the baking soda to the process the next time. After I washed it you can’t really see the original stain.

  • I cant find the exact measurements for the yellow stain fighter fix, also can i make this and pop it in a spray bottle for use next to the washing??

  • […] of their favorite methods. There has got to be something you haven’t tried in here.   Click to solve everything. […]

  • Re shrunken woolens. Try washing in warm water with ammonia. Rinse in warm water with lanolin added, about 1 tablespoon if I remember right. I’ve done this with old Hudson Bay wool blankets, and they may not have been exactly original size, but they sure came out clean and soft.

  • I think my hardest laundry dilemma is stubborn armpit smells not stains.

    when they come out of the laundry they smell fine but after wearing them for awhile it’s just BO! ugh!

    I can only do a vinegar soak so often…that is very time consuming :( I wish there was something else to do to remedy it.

  • I clean the lint screen from the dryer with Dow Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner. Spray and let sit for about 10 minutes. Really cleans all the residue from dryer sheets and fabric softener.

  • I wear black jeans frequently. After washing them many times, I refresh them and any other black cotton items with black fabric dye. My favorite jeans have been dyed three times over the 7 years I’ve had them. I use the washing machine. Follow the package directions. I even throw in my faded black socks. Be sure to wash the dyed items separately.

  • Can the the stain remover of Dawn, hydrogen peroxide & baking soda be made in advance? Or is it dependent upon the baking soda reacting w the hydrogen peroxide? I notice the homemade Shout has baking soda as well but does the ammonia not need to react to the soda?
    How do the two formulas compare in effectiveness?

  • This may sound crazy, and I haven’t tried it, but for smelly clothes how about putting the individual item, wet but not dripping, in the microwave for a few minutes to kill the bacteria or mold or whatever??? I’ve been told this works for sponges, though I just throw mine into the washing machine every week.

  • Ladies here is something that I experienced on a twin tub Hitachi washing machine but I am sure that this may be applicable to other makes too. If you have a filter in the middle of the pulsator that is made like a cup with a strainer it chews buttons off even new garments. Remove this filter as it causes a vacuum into the pulsator while washing.I thought of sealing the holes but just removing this filter cured the problem

  • Does anyone have suggestions on how to get an old sweatshirt to feel soft again on the inside? I’m considering trying the salt-soak method that makes a new t-shirt feel vintage, but would love to know if anyone else has a better suggestion …thanks in advance! :)

    • Joanne, Is the inside material covered in little pills or bumps. If this is what you’re speaking about you need to remove them. There’s a product made just for this and it’s called a clothes shaver. You can find them for around $7.00 at various stores. You literally use it as you would an electric shaver on your skin. Hold the fabric taught and move it around in circles, you’ll notice the pilling will start to come off. This is usually what causes the scratchiness you’re speaking of.

      • Thanks! I have a shaver but didn’t think to use it in this case…I will try that, too! :)

    • One problem with sweat shirt fleece is that most fleece is synthetic (made from recycled plastic bottles) these days–same with bath robes & pajamas. The main culprit is the dryer–the heat actually melts the fleece. Solution: air dry or tumble dry on low.

      • I’m not sure what mine is made of, my sweatshirt is 20+ years old and I’ve cut the tag out some years ago. It’s an old Reebok sweatshirt – but once I try a few things to get it soft, I’ll stop drying it in the dryer to keep it soft! Thanks!

  • You should also clean the lint out of the back of the dryer and the hose that goes outside once a year.

    For dingy whites you can also use a bluing solution like Mrs Stewarts.

  • Another tip: WASH your lint screen periodically. Residue from dryer sheets or fabric softener can build up on it, and while it may look perfectly clean try running some water on it. The water pools and doesn’t run through the screen. Give it a scrub with a soft brush.

  • We have an issue with something that looks like lint, but it will not come off unless the item is run through the wash again. We use liquid detergent… It seems to happen with small or large loads. Any ideas?

    • Smelly towels can happen a few different ways: (1) The kids go swimming and leave all the wet towels in the bathroom instead of putting them in the washing machine. Then they accidentally sit there in a pile overnight because I don’t have my act together enough to check for this kind of thing. (2) I wash a load of towels ( or anything, for that matter) and forget to transfer the load to the dryer in a timely manner. Within hours, the load can acquire a bad smell, especially in the Summer when our room temp is higher. Then I have to rewash the load, sometimes multiple times to get the bad smell out. You would think I’d have learned my lesson on this one the first time, but again, I don’t have my act together! Guess I’d better try the vinegar and baking soda fix!

  • Any one have any ideas on how to remove the sweat SMELL from clothing? Seems like once this smell is in an item, even the smallest amount of body heat reactivates it all over again, even after washing.

    • I have this problem with cardigans worn in the summer (gotta love the slightly arctic temperatures of some office buildings). The method does help, but it is time consuming and the item can start to smell again in a couple of weeks.

      Fill a tub (I use a smallish container from the dollar store) with 1 gallon hot water and and 1/2 cup of baking soda. It needs to start out hot to dissolve the soda. Once the baking soda is dissolved, add in one or two articles of clothing. Let soak for a couple of hours, stirring/agitating occasionally.

      Afterwards throw it into the washer in HOT water with your normal detergent. At the rinse cycle, add in 1 cup white vinegar. Dry as normal.

    • Janette, my 2 boys are training to be firemen and not only do they smell of BO but smoke from fires. I use a product called OdoBan. It’s sold at Sam’s Club, Home Depot and Walmart. I get the gallon jug for $9.99 and it last a long time. It comes in various scents and it really works. This has been the only product I have used that has removed both of those odors. I work full time so I don’t have time to be soaking and waiting, repeating steps over and over. I also don’t want my entire home to smell of smoke and BO. Go to OdoBan’s web sight and look at their products, they have a nice selection. Hope that helps!

    • Put activated charcoal in an old knee high nylon hose and place in the hamper (just don’t wash it with the clothes). The Container Store sells Odor Magic Filters that stick on the hamper. When washing clothes place 1/2-1 C baking soda in with the detergent and use vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. If you still have trouble add 2 TB trisodium phosphate (TSP- sold in paint departments) with the laundry detergent. Body odor sometimes lingers in clothes because the sweat is mixed with body oils and detergents are not always effective removing people/animal based oils. The TSP removes the oils.

  • My biggest challenges are keeping my fabrics – especially my black clothing from fading and my whites looking good. Some of the whites can’t be washed in hot water due to instructions and fabric. I did a while back tried the smelly towels and washer residue solutions. The towel one was great because my nieces love to use our neighbors pool in the summertime and the wet towels can get smelly.

    • I agree; I didn’t know, either. Another thing I wish I’d known sooner is that hydrogen peroxide is great at many stains, including blood. It even helps on old bloodstains (yes, I know, get the harpoon out of your chest first).

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