“Stain Removal for the Soul,” Sept. 3, 2018

Have you ever taken something that seemed ruined and made it good as new? I was 7 years old, helping my grandmother do the wash on her old wringer washer. By “helping,” I mean I watched her work. She never let me near the wringer. It had mangled a few of her fingers, and she was not about to let it do that to me.

The washer sat on a back porch that was encased, like many Southern porches, in wire screening to let in the breeze and keep out the mosquitoes. I loved that porch. The previous evening, I’d sat on its worn plank floor bundled up in a quilt, watching a storm roll in over the mountains. My mother would never let me do that. But my grandmother, on her watch, liked to indulge me. What else are grandmothers for?

The storm passed in the night, but the cloudless summer day smelled sweet with the promise of more rain. We hoped to get the wash on the line before the next storm rolled in. While loading the washer, my grandmother found a dress that appeared to be ruined, caked with mud. She gave me a look.

“Sorry,” I said. “It was an accident. I sat in the creek.”

“Well,” she sighed, “accidents happen. We’ll get it clean.”

Then she pulled out a scrub board and showed me how to get creek mud out of a dress.

We took turns scrubbing. And soon the sound of our scrubbing began to sing a fine tune, a four-part harmony with the creek and the birds and the wind in the trees. The angels sang backup. We sang, too. I don’t recall the words. But I wish you could’ve heard us.

Finally, after a few minutes of singing and knuckle-numbing work, my dress was transformed from “ruined” to “good as new.”

With that, I became a believer in the power of scrubbing. I’ve been scrubbing ever since.
As a child, I scrubbed the red dirt that I played in each day off my feet and knees and elbows. In my teens, I scrubbed my face to avoid breakouts.

And then, as a young mother, I scrubbed everything in sight: Faces and hands, tops and bottoms, tubs and toilets, dishes and floors. If it moved or didn’t move, I scrubbed it. Cleaning products became my closest friends. Like my grandmother’s scrub board, they could transform ruined to good as new. But I can’t say I ever heard them sing.

My children are grown now with children of their own. They often visit and sleep over on occasion. I love to indulge them. But my scrubbing needs are infinitely simpler.

I still scrub tubs and toilets, dishes and floors, and a few faces and hands of the grands before we sit down to eat. If I’m lucky, I might even get to give one of them a bath and hear them ask, “Nana, why don’t you have any bath toys? What do you do when you take a bath?”

But these days I mostly scrub myself. I scrub my face before bed so I won’t need to scrub makeup off my pillow case. And I scrub my hair twice a week so it doesn’t fall flat and make me look like bloodhound.

My husband and I trade off doing laundry, but I handle stain-removal. He says I’m better at it. Fine. I soak and spray and scrub each stain until it goes away. If it doesn’t go away, I keep at it. Sometimes I sing. Singing helps, I think, not just with scrubbing, but with lots of things. I can’t get rid of every spot, but I do what I can.

I like to start each day with clean clothes and a clean soul. Clothes need scrubbing once in a while, but the soul longs to forgive and be forgiven.

The most powerful stain remover is an apology. It requires no scrubbing, just a few magic words that, if spoken from the heart, can mend a ruined relationship good as new: “I am sorry” and “I forgive you.”

If you say those words and mean them, your soul will sing. Listen to it closely. You might hear angels singing backup.



  1. Are you sure we don’t share the same indulging grandmother? The breezy back porch with wooden plank floor encased in wire, the washboard, the wringer washer. I can see the porch and probably much of the house because I can see my grandmother’s. Comforting thoughts brought back from long ago. Thank you.

  2. This world could use a little scrubbing of their clothes and their souls. Including me. 🙂

    Your columns touch the hearts of many, because you share life experiences in-which we can relate. Thank you for using your gift and talents to bless others.

  3. Shelia Koonts says

    Oh that old ringer washer. What memories! My older brother got him arm caught in ours when he was a kid. All the way up to his shoulder! Was badly bruised & learned a lesson about playing with the washer. Love your memories because they’re my memories too. See you Thursday.

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    Just beautiful. I don’t sing much when I’m scrubbing infield dirt out of the baseball pants (what IS it about infield dirt…) – mostly I swear 😉

    But when I’m pushing the vacuum around I sing loud enough for folks to think Ethel Merman didn’t die! Yes ma’am- mostly my favorite artist, Marie Bellet (a mom of nine… we can relate!) or any ancient country crooner (Merle Haggard… Willie Nelson… you get it). Singing IS good for the soul – along with “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” another soul cleanser is “I was wrong, you were right.” After I say THAT to the hubs or one of the kids I usually have to grab the smelling salts! 😉

    Thunder is rolling outside as I post… haven’t had much all summer…. beautiful sound.

  5. Sarah Webster says

    Thank you. I needed to be reminded of that today.

    I enjoyed the stain scrubbing story. I got a shirt at a thrift shop and have scrubbed and rubbed and after numerous washings, I can barely tell thete was once a stain. I have to search for it. It’s a Christmas tree shirt I really liked

  6. There is nothing like sitting on a porch watching a storm….it is weather therapy!

  7. Wrennah Gabbert says

    Thanks Sharon!!!! It’s raining and always makes me feel better (I remember sitting in my Grandfather’s lap and watching the “weather & the wind roll in.

  8. Barb Fisher says

    Once again, Sharon you have written just what I needed to read. You reach out at just the right time. Bless you!

  9. Awesome as always! You speak to my heart with every story & analogy!! Thank You!!

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