Laundry should be easy right? You’ve got a washer, a dryer and detergent, you throw the clothes in the washer, they come out clean and you toss them in the dryer praying you won’t have to iron them. Not so fast…..laundry is easy, but there are some guidelines that will have you doing laundry like a pro every time.
- Sort. Don’t just pick up an armful of clothes and dump them in the washer. Sort the clothes, not only by color, but also by fabric type and weight. Rough fabrics, such as heavy denim, can snag and damage delicate fabrics.
- Chose a detergent that best suits your needs. You can buy laundry detergents in powder or liquid form and many brands have additives to help brighten and protect the color of your clothes. Or you might prefer products that are free of extra additives. Once you’ve picked a brand that works for you, the most important thing is to read the instructions on the package and make sure that you’re using the right amount of detergent and the correct water temperature. With detergent, using more doesn’t mean that it will clean better. Too much can leave the fabrics coated with a soapy residue. If you are using powder detergent, be sure that it dissolves well. If it is not dissolved or you are using too much detergent, you will find white powdery residue on your clothes. With liquid detergent you can pre-treat heavily soiled area with part of the measured amount of detergent you will use in the wash.
- Fabric softener is available as a liquid or a sheet. Liquids help to insure equal coating on all of your clothing. They also help reduce wrinkles and retain colors. Dryer sheets control static cling and can add a fresh scent. You will usually want to have each one on hand for different fabrics and for those that don’t go in the dryer.
- Pre-treating spills and heavy soil is vital, so keep a good laundry spotter on hand. You can also make your own laundry spotters. For a great general all purpose spotter, combine 1 part rubbing alcohol and 2 parts water in a labeled spray bottle. Spray on spots and spills, wait a few minutes and then launder as usual. For those oily stains, such as salad dressing, combine 1 tablespoon of glycerin, 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap and 8 tablespoons of water in a squeeze bottle. Work the solution into grease and oil stains. Let sit a few minutes, flush with water and launder as usual.
Now that we have the basics down, here are the tricks of the trade to help you do laundry faster, easier and more successfully. These things will insure that you extend the life of your clothing, and are successful at removing tough stains every time.
- Read the label in each item. The Federal Trade Commission requires that all garments have a label that identifies how to properly care for the item. Look for it either in the neck or side seam of your clothes. For best results, follow the directions on that label for laundering. If it says, “dry clean only” you should do that.
- Catch the spills and spots before you launder the clothes. Of course, treating a spot when it is fresh makes it easier to remove and treating it properly before laundering is vital. To help you catch the little spots and spills in life try this, keep colored plastic clothespins near the laundry hamper. When you take off something with a spot on it, clip the clothespin to the spot. It’s so easy, even the kids will do it. When you are ready to do the laundry you will easily spot the colored clothespin and know exactly where to pre-treat the spot. You’ll never miss one again and find a stain when the clothes come out of the dryer.
- Speaking of the dryer, always remove the clothes immediately from the dryer. Promptly hanging and folding will eliminate ironing in many cases.
- If you forget to take the clothes out immediately, eliminate wrinkles by tossing in a damp towel and letting the dry spin for 5 or 10 minutes to steam out the wrinkles. Hang or fold promptly and hopefully you won’t have to iron.
Almost anyone can learn to do some part of the laundry. Even the kids can sort and fold their own clothes, as can Dad. The job will go faster and it’s great training for the kids later in life.
You spend a lot of money on your clothes, so next time you do laundry take a few extra minutes to do it right and your clothes will last longer and look better.
CLEANING SPECIAL FABRICS LIKE A PRO
- Cashmere: This is an expensive fiber that comes from the undercoat of cashmere goats. Treat it with respect. Dry clean these prizes or hand wash with care in cool water and well-dissolved gentle soap. Adding a little hair conditioner to the final rinse and rinsing well is important. Do not wring. Dry flat, reshaping the garment as it dries. Iron on the “wrong” side while still damp with a cool iron, if necessary.
- Down: Down is the soft underfeather of waterfowl that is often combined with adult feathers. It is machine washable and dry-cleanable. Be sure to follow the care label closely. Do not air-dry down. It dries to slowly and mold or mildew may form in the process. Dry in your dryer, using a large capacity dryer if needed. Set temperatures low (under 140 degrees), fluffing and turning the item often. Make sure to dry the item thoroughly. This can take time. Want really fluffy down jackets and bedding? Put a clean tennis shoes or tennis ball in the dryer with the item to fluff it up!
- Linen: A tough fabric that withstands high temperatures, linen is a favorite in hot climates. It is made of natural fax fiber, and comes in light to heavyweight fabrics. Hand wash or machine wash linen in warm water (be sure to read the care label). If the fabric is colorfast you may remove stains and brighten the fabric with oxygen bleach. Do not use chlorine bleach. Iron while still damp and to help prevent creasing you may want to treat with starch or sizing. Press heavy linen with a hot iron and for lighter weight linen and blends, iron with a warm iron. Linen may also be dry-cleaned.
- Ramie: This is similar to linen and is often found in sweaters. It too is a natural fiber. It can be used alone or is frequently blended with cotton. Machine wash in warm water, tumble dry and iron while damp with a hot iron. Avoid twisting the fibers or they will be come distorted. This may be dry-cleaned also.
- Silk: This is a natural, delicate fabric that requires special care to avoid damage. Check the labels, but you may be able to hand wash crepe de chine, thin, lightweight and medium weight silk in lukewarm water with mild soap or detergent. You can also use cold water with cold water detergent. Do not use chlorine bleach. Rinsing well is vital. Rinse several times in cold water to remove suds. Towel blot and dry flat. Do not wring or rub silk. Iron on the wrong side of the fabric with a warm iron. Silk may be dry cleaned and that works best for suits, pleated silks and silks that are not colorfast. Do not use strong spotters or enzyme spotters on silk.
- Spandex: Spandex is added to other fibers to give them stretch and elasticity. Machine wash in warm water on delicate or gentle cycle. Do not use chlorine bleach. Do not put them in the dryer or iron; high heat will break down spandex fibers. Line dry or dry flat, per care label. If you have exercise clothes containing spandex, be sure to launder each time you wear them. Body oil can bread down spandex fibers.
- Wool: This is a natural fiber made from the fleece of sheep. Hand wash sweaters and other knits in cold water with cold water detergent. Rinse several times and do not wring or twist. Towel blot and dry flat, reshaping as needed.