by Amanda Thomas
I have a confession. I wasn’t always the Domestic CEO. In fact, at one point, I was totally clueless about home management.
Example #1: My first time doing laundry by myself. I was a freshman in college and I had put off doing laundry as long as I possibly could. When a couple of other girls confessed to me that they also had weeks of laundry piled up, we ventured down to the scary dorm laundry room together. We did our best, but between the 3 of us, we still weren’t confident in what items we should wash together, and in which temperature. Confounded, we finally broke down and called one of our moms, who patiently walked us through the daunting process.
Things have certainly changed since those days. But nevertheless, I still have an occasional question about my laundry. So whether you are new to living on your own, or have been doing loads of laundry for years but want to sharpen your skills, here are 5 Quick and Dirty Tips to tackle the heaps of dirty clothes piling up in your hamper:
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1. Know Your Fabrics
A lesson that most of us have had to learn the hard way is that not all fabrics are able to go through a wash cycle, and even fewer are able to handle the heat of the dryer. Some fabrics that should not go through the wash are silk, leather, wool, cashmere, acetate, and some linen (check your tag to make sure). Basically, if it feels luxurious, crunchy, or super smooth, it probably needs to be dry cleaned instead of washed. Make sure to check for “extras” on your clothes too. Leather strings, feathers, and fringe can all be damaged in the wash. Err on the side of caution and put clothes made of or including any of these materials in your dry clean pile.
And just because your clothes can be washed, does not mean they can necessarily be dried. Items that should not go in the dryer are spandex (including denim that has a spandex blend), some synthetics (like rayon), lacey delicates, and anything with rhinestones on it. Spandex will get stretched out, which could be why your skinny jeans get baggy after you wear them for an hour if you put them in the dryer. The adhesive that holds rhinestones on your clothes loosens with the heat of the dryer, and can cause the stones to fall off. Hang dry all these items.
2. Sort Your Colors
This is the point where some people get confused. I’ve found that dividing clothes into 3 loads works best: Whites, Lights, and Darks. Some people prefer to wash individual colors together, especially reds and dark blues just in case the colors bleed, but I prefer to conserve my water, electricity, and time. Dark colors like black, brown, purple, blue, red, and green can all go into your Darks load. Whites are self-explanatory. And anything that is neither dark nor white goes in the Lights. These would likely be pastels, yellows, greys, and off-whites.
3. Prepare for the Wash
After you have your clothes sorted, check them out. Check and double check your pockets. One forgotten Chapstick or pen can ruin an entire load of clothes. And electronics, including USB drives and most newer car keys, will probably not survive a wash cycle. Just ask Tech Talker. Get them all out and protect your belongings.
Check for spots and stains and treat with a stain-remover. Check for holes and pull those items out of the washer (unless of course you want the hole to get bigger, in which case, keep washing and drying the item until the hole is the size you want it). Mend any unwanted holes before washing the item.
4. Adjust the Temperature
In general, most clothes can and should be washed on cold or warm water. These two temperature settings are safe for most items, with a few exceptions. If you have a new pair of jeans, or a new shirt that is a bright color, those items should ONLY be washed in cold. Either by itself, or with a cup of white distilled vinegar added to the load. The vinegar will help set the colors so they won’t bleed or fade in the future. You may want to wash them separately a couple times, especially if they come with a sticker or label from the manufacture that states the indigo or dye may fade. Trust those labels. They are there for a reason.
In general, check the tags on your clothes to see if warm or cold is recommended for each item before adjusting the temperature of the load. Hot water should be used sparingly, and only on items you want to sanitize. Some people use hot water for their undies and whites, but be aware that the more heat you use to wash and dry your clothes, the more likely they are to shrink. If you want to use bleach or hydrogen peroxide to whiten your whites, simply fill the liquid bleach compartment on your front load washer, or add ¾ cup of liquid bleach or hydrogen peroxide to the water in your top loading washer before you add your clothes.
Towels and linens are generally safe to wash with hot water, but if they are a bright or dark color, beware that the colors may fade or bleed in hot water, just like with your clothes. Wash them in separate loads from lights if you are concerned.
When it comes to the dryer, I again like to recommend using the Low Heat setting for all clothes. It offers just enough heat to get everything dry in a timely manner, and it cuts the risk of shrinkage considerably. If you are in a rush, a higher temperature can be used for items like socks, sheets, towels, and anything else you aren’t afraid of shrinking.
5. Finish the Project!
The most important, yet often most dreaded, step in doing laundry is the final step: Putting everything away. While it is often tempting to leave clothes in the dryer, or in a heap in a basket, and just pull out the items when you want to wear them, it’s not very good for your clothes. Most people spend a decent amount of money on their clothes, so let’s take care of them! At the very least, remove all the clothes from the dryer and lay them out flat. This will help them to be free of wrinkles, and they are much less likely to get accidental stains if they are in a nice, neat pile on a counter rather than on your floor.
The best thing you can do for your clothes is to schedule 30 minutes on laundry day to fold, hang, and put away the clean clothes. This means you will have to do less ironing on the day you want to wear them, as well as always knowing where they are in your closet, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Woman Folding Clothes image from Shutterstock