And orange all over

Today I have been a mother for 3,898 days. Most of those days have been awesome. (Or repressed. Either way.)

In 3,898 days I’ve not had a child break a bone. In 3,898 days I’ve not had to watch a child be wheeled off into surgery. In 3,898 days I have not stood, shaking with rage, over the remains of a treasured antique vase shattered by childish exuberance.

(Dude. I have children. If I’d ever owned a treasured antique vase, it’d be long since given away, by now.)

In 3,898 days I have made countless mistakes, and the children have vexed me in multitudes of ways, and things have been ruined, and crappy stuff has happened. Obviously.

But for 3,897 days, I could say I’d never had a crayon in the dryer.

Hey, 3,897 crayon-massacre-free days is pretty good, I guess.

It was an orange crayon. In a load of lights (naturally). In the load containing the only two pairs of jeans a certain child will deign to wear, right now, as none of the others “fit right” and these are the greatest jeans in the entire world and there shall be no others, world without end, amen.

I’d heard of such things before, of course. I know people to whom this has happened. But NOTHING could’ve prepared me for swinging open the dryer door late last night to behold the orange-spotted underwear and modern-art appearance of the dryer itself. I was tired and had been working at the computer—and so was still wearing my computer glasses—and for one discombobulated moment I was certain I was just seeing things. But no.

It turns out that a single crayon is sufficient to coat an entire load of laundry! How efficient!

A friend asked me this morning if I’m furious with the kids, and I actually laughed. I’m furious that this happened. It’s inconvenient and annoying and, tightwad that I am, it KILLS me to have to throw away (or keep but have ruined) stuff I paid perfectly good money for. Y’all have nightmares about monsters chasing you or tests you didn’t study for or walking into work naked; I have nightmares about having to waste money. So just to be clear: GAH, this sucks. But I’m not mad at the kids.

I leave tissues in my pockets on a regular basis. It tends to make every load of laundry feel like a blizzard just passed through. I find that delightful! Well, no, I don’t, but it happens. And a crayon in a pocket just happens sometimes, too. And a frazzled mom who didn’t check all the pockets happens, and it all sucks, but it’s not really anybody’s fault.

[Plus, I got 3,897 days of motherhood before this happened. I would’ve celebrated that more often (read: ever) if I’d realized what last night was going to be like. Lord.]

These things never happen when you have time to deal with them, either. We’re in the final countdown for Operation Trek North, and when I discovered the carnage at 10:45 or so last night I’d just announced to Otto that I was exhausted and needed to go to bed. I’d done all the usual things, plus packed up gift boxes of cookies for eight teachers, started accumulating things we need to pack, dug around the house for all the stocking stuffers I’d picked up all year and then squirreled away so that I could DRIVE MYSELF INSANE trying to find them, and periodically screeched for Otto with critical questions like “DID YOU REMEMBER TO STOP THE MAIL? Wait, was I supposed to do it? Did YOU do it?” So I was planning to just switch the laundry around and fall into bed unconscious.

Sooooooo I can definitely tell you that an hour or so of scrubbing out the dryer drum with Magic Erasers isn’t really the relaxing pre-bedtime activity one might imagine it to be. I know—I was surprised, too. And then we had a veritable festival of laundry treatment, as both of us darted back and forth to our computers to look up the proper methods for dealing with crayon-wrecked clothing and waxy dryer drums.

Three washings later—one of them while Otto was in the shower, which I swear was an accident (I’m sorry, honey!)—about half of the wrecked load is salvageable. And the rest… well, let’s just say it’s a good thing that there are always some new clothes for Christmas presents.

[P.S. So, yeah, consider this an announcement that in a few days would be a good time to come rob our house. Except that we’re taking the computers and cameras and the Wii with us—effectively removing anything of value—so feel free to help yourself to… I dunno… all of the orange-spotted clothes in the trash, or the 10-year-old no-name television. Enjoy!]


  1. Megan

    Boy did I laugh, not one month after getting the brand new front loading washer & dryer combo I had coveted for close to a year, blue crayon! I actually cried….couldn’t be mad, so what else do you do. I love your blog, you make me feel normal. Have a safe trip!

  2. Rachel

    I actually had this happen a few months ago, after lots of googling what I did was this:
    -I pre-treated the stains with Spray and Wash/Shout for about 30 mins
    -then put 2 little cups of OxyClean in with the wash, along with about 2 cups of detergent (the cup size of the lid)and washed as usual, but with 2 extra rinses to make sure everything really rinsed out. then dried as usual.
    I was shocked that it actually worked, after only one wash, the stains were gone! The only ones that didn’t completely come out were the ones that I missed when I was pre-treating, but they came clean when I pre-treated and ran them through the wash again. This has so far saved 2 loads of clothes for me, including favorite jeans.
    Sorry for the long comment, but I hope it helps :)

  3. Megan

    [Slightly different Megan, but I assure you all of this name are gorgeous and intelligent and… and… and incapable of coming up with a third item for a list. It’s Friday]

    It’s lip gloss in our house. Or Burt’s Bees balm. Really frustrating? I instituted the ‘them what finds, gets’ rule over money found in the dryer (I was the only benficiary and the Children, one and all, view the dryer [and sometimes the top of the dryer, and the floor in front of the dryer] as a convenient clothes storage device) and lo! no more money left in pockets and yet the finger rifling through for crumpled bills do not encounter the tube of lip balm or the pen or… worst one? When one Child washed its backpack after a yoghurt related disaster and forgot to remove its school issued, very expensive scientific calculator.


    Enjoy yourself oop Narth – hope your luggage is thoroughly fleece filled in preparation!

  4. Ariel

    Ex husband never checked his pockets and ruined more of his clothes than I care to remember. (We did separate loads of laundry. We were such a loving happy couple) Thank GOD for magic erasers….

  5. Megan

    When will I learn to proof read? Ah well. Promise that made total sense in my head. If you actually exchange an ‘and’ for an ‘as’ somewhere in there and a ‘fingers’ for ‘finger’ and possibly insert a hard return or two now and then it might read as though someone other than a drunk monkey typed that comment up.

  6. Brian

    Not much help for this year, but I’ve got a tip regarding the finding of stocking stuffers.

    If I remember correctly, you have an iPhone. This year, when I found a stocking stuffer insanely early, I put an appointment in my iPhone calendar on December 1 (with a reminder alert, of course) with a note about the stocking stuffer and its location. Of course, being a piece of technology, this is not foolproof as PDA’s sometimes up and die on people taking all information to the grave, but the risk is worth it.

  7. angela

    Last week while transfering laundry from washer to dryer a crayon fell out into the washer. I was so greatful the washer hadn’t done anything with it. Now I realize how lucky I was because it was the dryer I should have been worried about. Tough break.

  8. Sara

    This happened to me, but with cherry chapstick. Woe be to anyone who leaves that stuff in their pockets again!! Haven’t had to crayon experience and, lips to God’s ear, never will–the chapstick was enough to do me in. Little pink spots everywhere. Sorry for your loss(es), but enjoy your Christmas and travel safely. I need you in one piece to continue blogging so that I might retain my (somewhat tenuous) hold on sanity. Some days it’s laughing over your blog that helps, others it’s just know that someone (you) has had a worse tragedy than me (orange crayon)that keeps me going. ;)

  9. jennielynn

    I have been a mother for 5138 days. In that time I have presided over three broken bones, two sets of stitches and the following things in my dryer: lipstick, chapstick, crayons, two ink pens, a highlighter, a screwdriver, a spark plug, four screws and a ham bone.

    At this point, I allow no one but myself to put laundry in the machine. I also have considered mounting a display cabinet to show off my “treasures.”

    Have a wonderful holiday and a safe trip North!

  10. Jennifer Suarez

    Did the magic erasers work? Because we had a similar problem, but with a pen. I didn’t even think of the magic eraser!

  11. Tammy

    I’ve had this happen too. The best site for cleaning tips? I kid you not.

    Happy packing & safe travels!

  12. Lesley

    This is the part that made me snicker:

    “In the load containing the only two pairs of jeans a certain child will deign to wear, right now, as none of the others “fit right” and these are the greatest jeans in the entire world and there shall be no others, world without end, amen.”

    Because of your frequent posts about your search for jeans that will actually fit you.

  13. Erin

    Oh man, jennielynn. That comment was hysterical. I managed to hold it together until “ham bone” and then snorted with laughter. :) Thanks for the giggle.

  14. divrchk

    Lestoil is the miracle stain remover. Don’t give up yet!

  15. Manda

    It’s salvagable. Trust me. I had the same thing happen with a green crayon and a favorite sweater. Here’s what you need. Paper towels (the thicker the better), your favorite tv show or movie and a medium hot iron. It’s a slow process, but find the spots of wax – place the paper towel over them and slowly iron. The wax will melt and stick to the towel – now just be careful not to re-melt the wax onto new spots once it’s stuck to the paper towel.

    Once all the giant waxy spots are melted off, pre-treat with a good stain fighter and wash, carefully checking for any loose crayons left in the pockets.

    It takes time, but if there are any favorite items in there, it might be worth a try.

  16. Ann

    The drum of my dryer was turned a magnificent blue just a month after buying it, thanks to a son who left an ink pen in a pocket. I was doing blue jeans at the time, so if there was ink of them, I really didn’t see it. But now, five years later, the drum is still blue.

  17. Sheila

    I used to live dangerously, throwing clothes into the washer and dryer without checking pockets as if no harm could ever come to them. Tissue shreds? -Pah. Folded up homework assignments, tucked away into front pockets? I laughed as they came out of the wash like little blue hockey pucks. Nothing could phase me in my pursuit of getting clothing from hamper to laundry back to closets as quickly as I could with as little actual effort as I could muster.

    And then? The Great Crayon Disaster of 2006 descended upon me.

    Now I check every pocket, every time.

    I would say you’ve more than earned extra Christmas cookies and eggnog this week. Safe travels, and enjoy your vacation!

  18. Lily

    It was a black crayon for me. In a load of lights. I had work clothes in there and really not much money to replace them, in an already limited ‘work-appropriate’ wardrobe. I cried.

    Google turned up every possible remedy that other comments have posted. I made a frantic trip to the drugstore to get every one of them.

    In the end, I got the crayon completely cleaned out of the dryer so it wasn’t there to haunt future loads of clothes. But that was about all I was able to save.

    I banned crayons, markers, play-doh and all other sorts of potential laundry disasters for years after that. Until they showed up on school supply lists.

    Now I live in fear, even though I make him do his laundry separately.

  19. just beth

    oh, man! WHY does something like that happen when we’re so tired and just trying to be good? I’m SORRY. Not that it was my fault, just… well, let’s just say that my BRIEF foray into wearing lipstick was thwarted when I washed and dried a load with a tube in my pocket.




  20. Ladybug Crossing

    WD 40 or hairspray works for orange crayon as well….
    I know this.
    I had orange crayon all over LLB’s quilt some years ago. I was NOT happy. It took me a really long time, but I got it all out…
    I wish you luck.

  21. elizabeth

    just to prove to myself I could do it, I got excel to do the day count for me – 6667. yikes.
    never had a crayon – thank goodness. my husband has left a lighter in his pocket – twice. I don’t know why the dryer didn’t blow up either time. guess bic knows what they’re doing.
    have a safe trip north.

  22. MomCat

    We’ll miss you, Mir! Have a great time and…I’m refraining (with considerable effort) from orange puns.

  23. Sheryl

    I had this happen with a bottle of nail polish once. So fun!

  24. Lori, one of several

    Thanks for the warning! I have been through 4 sets of stitches in the same darling little head (before she was 6 years old!) and I know that I would feel the same cold wave of terror if harm came to my Whirlpool Duet. Blessings for a safe trip!

  25. Dragon

    It was a Sharpie in my house. It was Dh’s fault. No more shall be said about this incident.

  26. Marla

    Thank you for making me grateful that all I’ve found in the dryer are rocks, mulch, DS/Gameboy games (which do survive being laundered, oddly enough), and candy wrappers.

    (I somehow managed to post this comment on the wrong entry… whoops!)

  27. Swistle

    Oh CRAP.

  28. tammy

    I washed a Sharpie once. And then I dried it. And in the dryer, the lid came off.

    That was a bad day.

  29. StephLove

    Been there. Done that. Red crayon.

  30. RuthWells

    I love Magic Erasers more than life itself. Well, almost. You know.

  31. Lady M

    Q-ster discovered what pockets were a couple of months ago, and we had THREE crayons in the same pocket go through the wash and get baked onto the dryer drum. Good thing the baby was about to outgrow most of the clothes in that load anyway.

  32. Burgh Baby

    We need photos of the carnage. Seriously. I would love to tape one to the top of my washer as a reminder to never ever forget to check pockets. We’re only on day 1056, but I aspire to surpass your lofty record.

  33. nil zed

    oh, my husband is the worst. He doesn’t put them in the laundry (though bless him, he doesn’t strew them about either. They are not so neatly piled somewhere in the room. When we moved, I tried putting a basket in the new spot he’d chosen, but, he chose another new spot.)

    anyway, I gave up years ago, he washes his own clothes unless I need some to make up a load. So it’s my own fault when his tissues or ink pens come through the wash.

  34. nil zed

    cause oddly enough, HE does check his pockets. It’s one of the few sensible housekeepingly sort of things he does. check pockets before laundry.

    I never do because I was taught to empty my pockets when I undressed. One of his other few housekeepingly sort of things is to tut, tut the huge pile of random items on my dresser.

    marriage is great.

  35. Kemi


    A brand-new pack of Trident Wintergreen, squirreled away from Grandma’s house in a side leg pocket that I never dreamed of checking.

    Eighteen pieces of neon-green gum spread over a full load of little boys’ clothes make tiny little polka-dots in the washer, and a sticky web of hell in the dryer.

    I wasn’t sure who I was more disgusted with– the son, for stealing– and then hiding– the gum, or the husband, who changed the laundry, saw the gum, and figured the dryer would melt it off.

    You know what gets gum off a dryer drum? Those little plastic scrapers that come with Pampered Chef stoneware and a LOT of picking.

    And swearing. LOTS of swearing.

  36. Mary Beth

    Someone may have already said this, but WD-40 works. It took red crayon out of several of my husband’s khaki work pants. It takes time and scrubbing, but it does work. Just be sure to rinse the WD-40 out well and wash right away. One pair of pants was ruined from WD-40 stains AFTER I spent forever getting the crayon stains out!! Good luck!

  37. Barbara

    My sympathy. And admiration.

  38. del

    A load of whites (new clots, work shirts and school uniforms) + hot pink lippy in the dryer = me ‘taking a break’ from laundry, your clothes are clean just colourful you ungrateful monsters!

  39. dad

    Years from now the kids will have long discussions about all the the things you did wrong. But they will never dispute your devotion to them and may even marvel at the good spirits with which you dealt with their assorted trauma and wrongdoings. It’s good to see you mellowing with age even in the throws of fatigue.

    In the interest of a safe trek north; check the weather before you leave. We’ve had about 10 inches of sloppy snow (that’s the scientific name) so far and its still coming down and usually what we get today New England gets tomorrow.

  40. Leslie


    I have been a mother for 8805 days and during the daughter’s teenage years we had a serious problem with Chapstick going through the dryer ( Dawn was great for removing this particular problem). After the fifth or so time finding Chapstick all over a clean load of laundry I decreed that from that day on a Chapstick in the dryer would cost the owner 20 dollars. All was well for MONTHS. We also had a policy that what wasn’t in the hamper didn’t get washed. Some weeks that meant that my daughter’s floor was covered in dirty clothes but the lone pair of socks in the hamper was all that got washed. To make a long story short ( is it too late?) I was feeling charitable and picked a pair of jeans up off the floor and threw them in with the wash. I think we all know what the outcome was! Outraged, I could not wait for my daughter to get home to collect my 20 dollars. When I told her what happened she said, “Were those jeans in the hamper?”. Hmmmmm…… she had a point. So… I not only got to clean out the dryer and reclean all the clothes clean the clothes, I was out-logiced by a 14 year old!

  41. Asianmommy

    That’s awful! So far, the most I’ve found in the dryer is some rocks and and some loose change.

  42. Jan in Norman, OK

    Reminds me of the time a friend’s little one put a purple dry-erase marker in the microwave. As she tells it, after “spinning happily” about in the chamber for a minute or so, it began to swell. Then it exploded violently into a “billow…of egg-plant colored cotton and particulate matter”.

  43. bob

    be careful when you head north, I hear there’s lots of nasty weather heading that way.

    at least you’ll have a White Christmas. Cue Bing.

  44. Half Assed Kitchen

    I hope your trip goes smoothly and is fun and Chickadee gets new jeans from Santa. Or were those yours?

  45. julie

    No colorful waxy things yet (knock on wood) but once in college my razer fell into my laundry basket with my towel after the trek back from the floor’s shower. bye bye sheets. Towels. Clothes.

    Too bad it wasn’t the 80’s or early 00’s when ripped and diced clothing was cool. Nope, happened right in the middle of the “keep your clothes on” fashions.

    Safe travels–we’re in Central NY and it’s a MESS here today.

  46. mimbles

    Mine was a blue crayon. In a load full of school uniforms – white shirts and green and white check dresses. It was months before I could muster up the energy to clean out the dryer (we try to use the clothes line rather than the dryer normally so it wasn’t that high a priority).

  47. Little Bird

    You have not felt fear until you wash, and dry, (in coin operated machines) a load that somehow has a cigarette lighter in it. I used to smoke. It amazes me that I never destroyed a machine. Somehow, it happened more than once. I must have been a slow learner.

  48. Shannon

    Doh. It’s inevitable I guess that eventually you will miss something in a pocket that wrecks your laundry.
    But also, can I just say, what did we do before Google? I mean, before that, what would you do when you needed to know how to deal with orange crayon in your dryer? It’s amazing we survived before the internet.

    And also, thought I’d let ya know…I’ve got a baby gender update on my blog. ;o)

  49. Paula

    Hello Mir,
    Let me introduce myself: I’m a German secretary and mother of a 20-year old boy (he would say young man, naturally), married and living in a city in northern Germany. So I just wanted to let you know that you have fans also over the pond (I personally know another one who introduced me to your blog). I am a know-it-all and can hardly keep my mouth shut. So if one of my future comments should go on your nerves do not hesitate to say “shut up” or delete my comment, it won’t offend me.

    I like your writing very much and enjoy your tales of family life!

    Merry Christmas!

  50. sheila

    YIKES! Once someone left an entire packages of gum in their pocket. Pens. Tissues…But I can’t ever remember a crayon! What a pain in the ass that must be!

    FYI, I was marveling at your ‘days of being a mother.’ I figured out mine. 6646.

    The first thing I thought of, was, OMG…three sixes! LOL.

  51. Kimmers

    You can use paper towels + a hair dryer too… I got navy blue candle wax out of a cream colored carpet that way after frantic googling. Takes forever but 100% of the wax came out. Less burn risk than an iron. Happy travels from someone currently freezing her ass off up North. :)

  52. Hip Mom's Guide

    Oh I hated that day. My oldest was about 3 and I was tired and busy and struggling through life with a toddler and a new baby: our crayon was red. This was pre-Oxy Clean, and everything I read said to try WD-40. So, if you must salvage those jeans, I will tell you it did work. The basement reeked and we might all have died from inhaling those fumes, but it did take the crayon out of the favorites…

  53. Jane

    OK, first, I’m sorry that this happened to you. It stinks royally. But second, why does anybody put a crayon in a pocket? It is just this sort of thing, with kids, that makes me insane and want to drink wine. Enjoy vacation!

  54. MaryP

    8408. I’ve never stopped to do the math. Heh.
    That is all.

  55. carrien

    Industrial strength degreaser. Ok usually the Miracle orange cleaner is sufficient. Crayon wax=grease stain. Spray and scrub, with a laundry brush to get any stains out. Works on chocolate left in pockets too, all over a load of whites, oh yes it does.

  56. Jessalyn

    The same thing happened to us over Thanksgiving. I know you’re out of town and it is too late now to salvage the clothes but if it ever happens again, this is what worked for 95% of the crayon stains in our clothes:

    2x the usual amount of detergent
    1 cup of vinegar
    1 cup of Shout
    2 capfuls of OxyClean

  57. Jessalyn

    BTW, I’ve only been a mom for 2561 days. I feel like such a rookie compared to all of you. LOL

  58. ellen

    I haven’t seen my remedy in the comments, so in the interest of someone googling this and needing it, here’s what worked for red-crayon-meets-load-of-whites-in-the-dryer. EVERYTHING came out clean 100% white and clean. Here’s the scoop:

    Set the washing machine on the hottest water setting possible. Add 1 pound (a box) of baking soda and 1 bar of grated soap (I used lever 2000 and a box grater). Nothing else! Splurge on an extra rinse if your machine permits. Pace the floor while the machine does its thing and then cry tears of joy when your laundry is clean and share this recipe on every blog you read when they post their crayon disaster story.

  59. Debbi

    Chocolate bar…it was horrible! I had to scrape the choc off all of the clothes (about 20 – 30 spots per piece!) then rub each spot with Dawn (which is just wonderful) then re-wash. I saved about 3/4 of the clothes, some never made it the scraping part, I was too tired.

    And of course it was hubby, not my son. So now I check the pockets and keep what I find ;-)

    Sorry this happened to you. Have a VERY safe trip.

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