10 Ways to Take Charge of Your Laundry

On the list of household chores, laundry is one of the most tedious. Fortunately, we’ve got 10 fantastic laundry tips that will get your family’s clothes cleaner and help lighten your load.

Tip # 1 Chill Out: For whiter whites and brighter colors, wash all your clothes in cold water; it won’t strip the vibrancy from your colored clothing, and will stave off the (otherwise inevitable) dingy, yellow-gray cast to your whites. Modern detergents have been formulated for use in cold water, so go cold turkey today!

Bonus: Using cold water conserves energy and saves you money!

Tip #2 Change Your Order: Do you typically toss your clothes in the machine, pour on the detergent, and then turn on the water? That’s the standard process, but switching up the order could make a lasting difference. Pouring detergent directly onto your clothes can cause build-up and stains. Try this method for better washing: 1) turn on your machine so the basin begins to fill with water; 2) add detergent; 3) throw your clothes in last.

Tip #3 Stop Being Such A Softy: Avoid fabric softener—over time, fabric softener can tranform your whites to a dull gray and leave a lot of residue and icky build-up in your washing machine. Also, most kids’ clothes are made with flame-retardant material that can be stripped with continued use of fabric softener. For a safe and effective alternative, add half a cup of distilled white vinegar during the rinse cycle. Vinegar will soften fabrics, it won’t interfere flame-retardant qualities, and it will help break down detergent to get your cothes squeaky clean.

Tip #4 Cut it Down to Size: When measuring out the detergent for a load of wash, use half the amount recommended on the package. A little detergent goes a long way, especially with today’s more efficient washing machines. While using a little extra detergent may seem harmless, it can do a lot of damage. Too many suds cause build-up in your machine; that build-up can trap and then redeposit dirt into the next load. Build-up is also a breeding ground for bacteria, evoking stale and moldy odors. In rare cases, build-up can even cause washing machines t malfunction.

Tip #5 Know When to Say When: Don’t overload your washing machine. While it is very tempting to cram in those last few items to save yourself another load, don’t do it. Every washer has a maximum number of pounds it can handle at a time, and there is a good reason for the limit: when you  fill your washer beyond capacity, you don’t leave room for water to flow properly to wash away the dirt and rinse clean. Cramming in clothes traps dirt in your machine, which will later redeposit itself onto your fabrics.

Tip #6 Don’t Sweat It: To keep your whites looking pristine, wash them after every use, even if they don’t look like they need it.  Sweat and oil from your body—which you may not notice on the fabric—work very quickly to transform white clothes yellow. Once yellowed, it’s more difficult to get your clothes white again.

Tip #7 Look On the Bright Side: After washing your whites, try drying them outside—the UV rays from the sun will help to brighten the fabric!

Tip #8 Don’t Throw in the Towel: When drying loads, don’t mix very heavy materials (like towels) with very light materials (like socks or underwear).  Mixing these two different fabric weights together ensures uneven drying, and a probability that the lighter fabric won’t dry.

Tip #9 Face the Facts: Left a load of laundry in the dryer too long? We’ve all done it—you forget to take out the fresh load, and by the time you get to it, your clean clothes are full of dreaded wrinkles. Never fear! The next time you find yourself in this situation, take a damp (wrung-out, so it’s not dripping-wet) towel and throw it in with the wrinkly load. Then, run the dryer for about ten minutes. When the clothes come out, they’ll be wrinkle-free!

Tip #10 Start Fresh: For the cleanest loads possible, and for the health of your machine, thoroughly clean your washer every three months.

Note: Before you do any hand-cleaning of the washing machine, make sure to unplug it, as failing to do so could result in electrocution!