As the name suggests, a degreaser is a product that removes grease. When incorporated into the laundry regime, degreasers help lift grease and oil from fabrics. They also remove the soap residue many detergents leave behind, resulting in fresher, cleaner looking clothes. While laundry degreasers are readily available in stores, you can use common household items to create cost-effective, homemade alternatives.
Technically a salt is a compound formed by a chemical reaction between an acid and a base. One of the world's most common salts is bicarbonate soda, or baking soda. When dissolved in water, it creates a solution that cleans, disinfects and deodorizes without harsh chemicals. To clean particularly grimy loads of laundry, add ½ cup of baking soda to the wash cycle to boost the potency of your everyday detergent. The chemicals in the soda dissolve greasy residue and soften the wash water, resulting in brighter colors and whiter whites. Treat stubborn grease stains with a paste made from baking soda and water. Scrub the stain gently to work the paste into the fibers of the fabric and then launder the item as usual.
Acidic substances dissolve a wide variety of compounds, including grease and oil. Distilled white vinegar is made from acetic acid. Though common household vinegar is not a strong solution, the acid in the vinegar still cuts through fats and dissolves oily residues. Adding 2 cups of distilled white vinegar to the wash cycle not only helps remove grease, it kills any bacteria that may be present in the wash, including the odor-causing microbes commonly associated with cloth diapers and perspiration stains. Additionally, using vinegar in the rinse cycle eliminates static and keeps clothing soft and fresh, reducing the need for fabric-softening dryer sheets.
Alkaline substances are known as bases. They are powerful cleaning agents capable of dissolving grease and protein. Ammonia is a common household base known for its pungent aroma. While it may not produce the most pleasant bouquet, it is excellent for getting the grease out of clothing. Simply wait for the machine to fill, then add ½ cup of ammonia to the wash. Clothes should come out fresh and clean, with no discernible trace of ammonia odor. Take care when cleaning with ammonia, however, particularly when adding it to the laundry. Never mix ammonia with bleach, or any product containing chlorine; this combination of chemicals produces toxic fumes that can be deadly.
Surfactants break up greasy residues by chemically attracting them, effectively pulling them away from hard surfaces and fabrics. Dish soaps contain surfactants that work wonders when it comes to cutting grease. To create a straightforward, all-purpose degreaser, simply mix ½ cup of liquid dishwashing soap with ½ cup of water. Pour the solution over any particularly greasy items and rub the fabric lightly to work the solution into the fibers. Wait 10 minutes, then flush with water and wash as usual. To boost the effectiveness of this particular formula, stir in 2 tsp. of cleaning grade orange oil.
Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.