How to get mechanic's clothes clean?

greenthumb.jonesApril 27, 2012

My husband is a diesel mechanic and tends to get filthy even though he wears a uniform at work (I think it just soaks into his skin). The problem isn't stains so much as a grease/dirt that seems to permeate his clothes. His shirts always feel greasy after I wash them, and we've gone through several sets of sheets for the same reason (greasy feeling and a brownish tinge that never comes out). I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions on how to get stuff clean!

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My husband is a diesel mechanic too! I have always washed his work shirts/socks in hot water and now I wash on the heavy duty sanitary setting with liquid purex. His shirts come out decent, they smell clean and stains are basically gone.

Does your husband shower before he gets in bed? My husband has never ruined sheets and he comes home FILTHY from head to toe,lol. Boys will be boys.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 11:42PM
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Detergents need to be very strong gor that much grease. It has been a long time since I did any greasy jobs, but, badk shen, Tide was the strongest product I could find. Now there are many flavors and I'm not sure which is strongest. I would say for this time if your machine can take it, skip the HE stuff and get regular tide. I also foud that dish washer detergent is very strng. Try adding a scoop of it on the clothes and a full cup measure of Tide on the hot wash setting. And be sure to do the extra rinse to get it all out.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 7:12AM
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I service appliances and get my work clothes greasy sometimes. My brother is an auto mechanic and has oily greasy stains too.

A hot water, Heavy Duty wash cycle, liquid Tide and 1 cup of Janitorial strength ammonia does a great job. I get the ammonia at Ace hardware. Otherwise grocery store ammonia is good too. The Janitorial is stronger. Anyway, this works for me.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 11:35AM
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Remember, don't mix ammonia with chlorine bleach!

Here is a link that might be useful: Ammonia in the wash

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 11:48AM
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I remember growing up in the 80s, my grandfather was a mechanic, and my grandma had one of those frigidaire pulse type washers and she use to use Shout in the spray can and sprayed the hell out of his uniforms and used powdered detergent and (I think) warm or hot water. They came out clean every time.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 1:33PM
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Another mechanic DH here, too. I use the Heavy Duty cycle on my FL with Charlie's Soap powder laundry detergent. Works 95% of the time. For anything that doesn't come 100% clean, I rewash but only after pretreating with regular Dawn dishwashing liquid (not the one with bleach, oxy, or power clean). I let it soak in for about 5 minutes and then start the machine.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Oh yes, I almost forgot about the spray cans of Shout from way back. They outlawed them because they contained cancer causing solvents but they worked. I think the last place where you could get such a product was Amway. Don't know if they still make it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 9:58PM
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You might also consider doing his work clothes after all your other laundry is done and then run a clean cycle of HOT with detergent and no clothes to get rid of whatever is transferring on to your other laundry.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 12:28PM
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Thanks for the great suggestions everyone!

jewels04: I've been trying to get him to shower at night! I think that he is finally starting to see that I'm not crazy since the sheets only look weird on his side :)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 3:44PM
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LilFlowers MJLN

My husband is a diesel mechanic for a construction company and does not use company provided uniforms. We just thought it was cheaper to wash them in our washer. The company that was doing it would lose his work clothes every single week. We don't wash ANY of his work clothes with our other clothes including his socks, under shirts, and underwear.

I put a full cup of Surf washing detergent and a full cup of OXY clean. I let it sit for for an hour in hot water after letting it agitate for a little while (just before the spin cycle). If his clothes are REALLY greasy, we use simple green and let it soak in a bucket on my back breezeway. He always has 2 loads and it's done on Sundays after church.

After his clothes go through the washer, I use some tile cleaner and clean the inside of the tub on the washer. I let the water run for only a couple of seconds to rinse it out. Then I turn on the spin cycle to let out all of the water that was in there. I do another rinse and spin cycle again until all the water out. I don't run a full washing cycle.

My husband has a separate hamper to put his wash cloths and towels in and I use these after I clean out the tub of the washer. The towels don't have a smell after they are finished because I use another full cup of surf powder detergent and another full cup of oxy, plus a dryer sheet.

He's been a diesel mechanic for well over 11 years and this is the best way that I know how to clean his clothes without the awful grease, tar, gritty, nastiness that he gets into.

Our sheets and pillowcases also had stains in them but I wash them in hot water with a little oxy and Surf detergent. I never buy white, ivory, or light colored sheets anymore so I don't notice the stains as much. We also use downy and a Bounce dryer sheet.

It's worked for the past 2 years. My clothes don't have a horrible stench to them as when I was washing his socks and underthings. He also washes with Ivory soap in the shower.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 8:15PM
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Holy crap, Tiffany, no wonder my wife said there was no way we were going to go without a laundry service when I had my own auto shop! That's a lot of work for you, and I'm sure they don't get as clean as a professional laundry service gets the uniforms. My uniforms always came back clean. Money well spent. Nothing was lost, either. If you used a service and they lost things, SWITCH!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 6:21PM
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LilFlowers MJLN


LOL The company did switch from one company to another and they STILL lost his uniforms and were still charging him for it; EVEN when they didn't have his uniforms for 3 weeks straight. When my husband called each company each time it happened, he would get the run around and the blame. (He didn't turn them in early enough. He didn't put all the pants and shirts together. He put them in the wrong bin at the wrong location. *He always put them in the bin well before the designated shutoff time And always tied them together*) He's a field mechanic. He works all over the state and not just in a shop. Several other co-workers have already pulled their dealings with the same service company because they too have missing clothes weekly. The bad thing is where his company is based out of, there are ONLY these 2 places, so we're SOL.

I don't mind washing his work clothes. He does help out and put them in the washer every once in a while when it's his "slow" week. He also is the one who puts them in simple green in a bucket on the breezeway when they are SO nasty that I don't want to touch them. The professional service did NOT get them clean. He still had greasy film in them with both services that his company used. They also still smelled like he had just worn them. I really don't do that much. The washer does most of the work. ;) It sits an hour, I go pull the button and voila, an hour later, they're clean. I put them in the dryer, and then they are dried. I only have to do this twice. His shirts and underthings are cleaned in one wash and his pants in another. I clean my washer weekly anyway, so that's nothing new.

I actually have been washing his work clothes since we were married almost 11 years ago. He worked for the state and there wasn't and still isn't a company locally that we could bring his work clothes to be cleaned professionally. We live in a small community. My husband travels an hour and a half to get to his employer's base location. It was just great when he first started out with them that we didn't have to worry about his work clothes.

In a year, we were paying almost $1000 for a professional service to clean his clothing. Granted, we didn't have to buy new pants or shirts once they tore. They would replace it when they actually sent the darn things in. He went through the drama of missing pants and shirts with both of the service professionals for 4 1/2 years. Then we decided that it's $400 for another washer, and about $200 for replacement clothes. Much cheaper than going through the professional service and I know how they are cleaned. ;)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 9:48PM
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My husband is an aerospace engineer but mostly works on/around airplanes these days and gets really dirty. He flies them too. He is like that Peanuts character with a cloud of dirt floating around him. I have given up on his clothes!!! After reading that thread about the hot water I am dismayed...I never used to think about things like hot water in my washer. I just put the stuff in there and it seemed like it was clean when it came out. Now I worry about the water not being hot enough. I don't have a heater on my brand new washer... My husband mostly has oil and other dirt on his clothes. It comes out some and they smell better but I don't know if today's fabrics can withstand a lot of rough treatments with chemicals. I think he will just have to get some new ones now and then and also look a little dirty. The clothes are clean but just not stain free.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 9:51PM
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My Dad was also a diesel mechanic. I remember my Mom would use Oxydol powder detergent with Wisk liquid. In a bowl she would add the powder, then pour enough wisk and start working it into a paste. She would add a little water to this to get it to a good consistency. Then she would lay the pants down flat and with a paint brush paint the detergent paste all over the front, then the back. Same for the shirts. She would let them sit for a while like that, then put them in the washer on Hot wash/Warm rinse. Sometimes she would also add some Arm&Hammer Washing Soda to the washer. This worked better than anything she ever used and she did this for years. Back in those days, the Oxydol had the bleach in it. Since that is no longer made you would use Tide with Bleach powder with the Wisk. If you have an HE washer you can use the HE version of the Tide and Wisk of course. Hope this works as well for you as it did her.

Also, she would lay the clothes on newspapers when she was painting on the stuff to keep from making a mess on anything.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 12:49AM
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Thank you Sparky, I will try that. My new GE FL is HE. I didn't go top of the line as I have done that in the past and I just don't really need all of the extras. My thinking now is that I would just as soon buy another one in a few years than buy a super expensive one and feel like I have to keep it forever. Anyway, I love it though it doesn't have the water heater in it I don't think I have ever had one that does so I don't know any different and don't miss it. It really gets clothes clean but some things are just "stained"!!! I am going to try your mother's recipe and that might be the answer! Thanks again for posting that for all of us.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 10:25AM
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I don't know if this will help with mechanic's clothes or not but if you want to try it Lowe's still sells sodium tripolyphosphate. It is in the paint section. Not the cleaning products section.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 3:24PM
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I don't know if this will help with mechanic's clothes or not but if you want to try it Lowe's still sells sodium tripolyphosphate. It is in the paint section. Not the cleaning products section. That's not correct.

The chemical Lowe's sells is TSP - tri-sodium phosphate.

Sodium tripolyphosphate (aka STPP) is a completely different chemical.

TSP may be useful in cleaning greasy mechanic's clothing, but is a harsher chemical with different properties than STPP.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 5:09PM
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Wisk is a miracle in a bottle. Putting it together with (Ultra) Tide w/Bleach powder would be awsome for those clothes.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 9:57PM
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Zout is good for pre-treating grease stains but do not let it sit nor more than 15 minuets or bleach stains will mark garments and wash using the warmest water temp allowed for garment with your favorite detergent.

I work for Sanitation and when we power wash our trucks, grease stains gets all over my uniform and I'm covered from head to toe with grease stains and other goodies.
Lestoil is best doing a whole load without pre-treating!

1 Cup Lestoil, 1 Cup of Tide with Bleach or favorite detergent and wash on Heavy Duty or Normal Cycle using warmest temp for garments.
Do not drain wash water but restart cycle from beginning and complete.

To Remove Lestoil scent from garments and machine at the same time:
1. Re-wash load with normal amount of detergent.
2. In the 1st Rinse, add 1 cup of Baking Soda with 3/4 cup of vinegar.
3. In the 2nd Rinse, use your favorite fabric softener.

Zout washing method is good if his uniform not covered completely in grease stains!
(One cycle may do!)
Lestoil washing Method is best for full loads that are saturated in grease!

Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 6:27AM
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