Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Today's Lesson

My lesson for today began with a load of laundry.

I washed a load of towels, threw them in the dryer, then tossed a load of my whites into my washing machine.

I use different detergent on my underclothes, Cheer Free & Gentle, because of my many allergies. I use All Free & Clear for other things, but I have always used Cheer Free on my under things.

A friend once asked me why I did this, and I told her because while I am pretty sure I can use All Free, I know for certain I can use Cheer Free.

A big bottle of Cheer Free, which is the only way one can buy it these days, lasts me a long while.

The towels dried and the whites had finished, so I started chucking them into the dryer. I noticed these tiny little white beads of stuff all over the washing machine.

What is this stuff?

It was slick. I thought maybe my husband had left a Chapstick in his pocket and I'd missed it somehow. Or maybe he'd been using some kind of silicone product and I missed that.

I realized whatever it was, it was all over my clothes. I'd already put some of the clothing in the dryer, and now the stuff was also in the dryer.

I hauled everything outside and began shaking off the white stuff. In one instance, I found a glob of the stuff, which I set aside to show my husband when he came in for lunch. The longer I was out in the sun, the slicker the stuff became. My clothes felt slick.

Surely, I thought, I've run some kind of silicone he was using on the ball bearings on the hay baler through the wash.

I left the clothes outside and went in to wash my hands. They were starting to burn a little. I picked up the Dove soap. That didn't help. My hands felt slick, like the clothing, so I washed them with Dawn soap, too.

My husband came home for lunch. No, he'd not been using anything like silicon, he said. Nor had he been using Chapstick. 

I showed him the junk all over my clothes.

He looked at the stuff in the dryer, too. I'd already wiped out the washing machine but had left the stuff in the dryer for him to see.

He wiped that out. He was as puzzled as I.

In the meantime, my hands turned red and started to swell. I washed them again. Then I washed them with alcohol and washed them again with soap. They still felt slick. I washed them with vinegar.

I took a Benadryl because I was obviously having a reaction.

We thought something must be wrong with the washing machine. Maybe a bearing had gone bad and it was leaking white grease. (Is there such a thing as white grease?) I ran a load of warm water with vinegar through the washing machine while we ate. When it finished, we opened the lid. Everything looked normal.

I realized I'd washed the towels and not had a problem. I'd washed those in All. I'd washed my whites in Cheer. That was the only difference. I told my husband to look at the Cheer bottle and see if it looked weird inside.

It looked fine inside, but on the outside, where there was buildup from where I hadn't wiped the bottle, was stuff very similar to what was all over the clothes.

"Alexa," I asked, "Can liquid laundry detergent go bad?"

"Yes," she said. "It can deteriorate after a time and it can be toxic."

Well damn. Who knew? I looked at the bottle and couldn't find an expiration date. I couldn't find a "made" date, either.

We finished up lunch while I let the washer go through an entire cycle of water again. We opened it up and everything looked fine.

My husband left to go back to the hayfield.

I decided to call the phone number on the bottle to find out how to find the date. After a long wait, I connected with a P&G associate for Cheer.

I explained what had happened and asked if it could have been the Cheer. "Does Cheer go bad?" I wanted to know.

"Yes, it's only good for about 18 months," she said.

Well, an expiration date on the bottles would be nice, I thought.

She said the issue I was having was called "scrud." Scrud is a build-up of soap, in this case, old soap. Turns out, the bottle I was using, which I had purchased two years ago from Walmart online, was made in 2012.

That is a long way from 18 months of life. I guess Walmart dragged it from the back of a store somewhere when they sold it.

The way to find the date is to look at the bottle cap. In tiny little letters is the "made" date. But there is nothing about an expiration date on the bottle anywhere. And I'd have never found the "made" date if the Cheer woman hadn't told me where to look. I could barely see it as it was.

And that date is different on a new bottle, or a different size bottle. I know because I pulled out another bottle of Cheer that I had here, one I bought last summer in August at Target, and asked how to find the date on it. The numbers are on the twist cap, not the dispenser cap, on this new bottle. After I found the numbers, the woman told me the bottle I have here was made in 2023, the year I bought it, so I need to use it up soon.

The reason I have Cheer Free here in storage is because it is hard to find. I had been ordering it from Walmart online because I could not find a local store that carried it. Then I ran across that bottle at Target so I picked it up. 

Today, Target's website does not list Cheer Free and Gentle. Just regular Cheer. I need the "free and gentle" part. Walmart says it has a bottle online for $34. I am not paying that for detergent. None of the other stores (Kroger, Food Lion, local Walmart) has it, even online, except Amazon. It has it for $14. In the comments lots of folks note that they can't find the detergent anywhere else. So this detergent is difficult to come by.

Anyway, to compensate me for being on the phone for 40 minutes with the Cheer lady, P&G is sending me a $9 debit card. I'm not sure that covers much, but it's better than nothing.

I told the associate I thought there should be an expiration date visible on the bottles, wished her a good day, and hung up.

I washed my white clothes again, this time in vinegar and water. I checked them and they weren't slick or anything, and there were no white balls of goo on them.

Just to be safe I am running them through a third time in straight hot water. They should be thoroughly rinsed, anyway. I sure don't want my private parts turning red like my hands did.

So, the lessons here are: detergent can get old and become toxic. Goopy stuff on your clothes is not good. Vinegar is a great cure-all, as is Benadryl.

Nothing is as it seems sometimes.


  1. Oh my, that's quite the saga. Scary that the one detergent that you can count on can go bad and go toxic like that. I get my laundry detergent from a mail order company, so I don't have those issues. Of course, I don't have the allergic reaction issues either, which makes all the difference.

  2. I had no idea! Sorry you had to learn this lesson.


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