Laundry Competence: or, This Time it was My Fault

I’m not going to say which member of our family has a tendency to leave little paper-wrapped bits of ABC chewing gum in their pockets, but I will say that more than once I’ve had the unhappy experience of laundering things with such items left in the pockets, and it would be fair to say that no one benefits from this process.

As such, I’ve gotten pretty good at making sure pockets are empty before be-pocketed articles of clothing go into the washing machine.

But this weekend, I missed something. And when the laundry emerged from the dryer, I noticed these odd little cinnamon-red smudges all over the laundry. I thought, “What the hell?” For one thing, how had I managed to put these smudged items into the dryer before I noticed the smudges? But more importantly: what had made these marks?
It was after I dumped all the ostensibly clean, and actually dry, laundry onto the hallway floor that I found the culprit: a now-empty tube of Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm. In other words, the fault was mine. What I think is that the lip balm was in a pocket (or, possibly, it got knocked off the top of the dryer into the washing machine, when I was putting the laundry in), and that it made it through the washing process all right, but that in the dryer, it melted and oozed through the seam at the cap and got all over everything. Because the cap was still on, you see. But the tube of lip balm was shockingly empty.

I laundered that load of laundry two more times, with massive doses of Oxy-Clean. One undershirt is still marred, as is a vintage Peanuts bed sheet I’d given a household member as a gift. The new white washcloth I’d had in that load is stained a nice, even pink (but the pink is fading, I noticed today, when I laundered it a fourth time). Why it was even in a load of dark laundry is beyond me, but these things happen. That, I’m taking philosophically.
But the fact that I let this happen annoys me even two days later. When I discovered the problem, I swore so loudly that my daughter went downstairs, where my family was getting ready to go out together on a little errand, and she said to them in a low voice, “You better just go out to the car; Mama’s about to get really angry. Trust me, I know.” (This was reported to me, later, by my husband, who was amused by her skill at reading her mother’s moods.) I’ve apologized to my husband for pock-marking one of his undershirts, but added that because I’m fairly good about separating the lights from the darks, the worst-possible scenario did not come to pass. This would be the scenario in which all of our white towels, white undershirts, white kitchen linens, and white bedding is all smudged with Burt’s Bees Red Dahlia Lip Balm, a product I fully endorse, though I don’t recommend running it through the laundry.

I did two more loads of laundry today (the aftermath of having family visit from out of town) and there were no disasters. Tomorrow, I’ll buy another lip balm, and this time I will make sure it never goes in a pocket or on top of the dryer.


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