Laundry Basics (Researched)

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Who knew doing laundry could be so simple, and yet so complicated? There are so many things to take into account: Sorting, how often to wash, stain removal, washer settings, water temperature, dryer settings, when to use non-chlorine bleach, tips, etc…

My basic laundry routine (at the moment) is as follows: wash clothes in cold water, towels/rags in hot water, and delicates in cold or warm water. Dry clothes on low tumble dry and towels on high dry, and hang delicates and “prone to shrink” clothing to dry. Simple, right? But in an effort to learn more about laundering, I did some research. There is SO much information available on the subject (like, a crazy amount) and it is sometimes hard to sort everything out (at least for me). So, following is my best attempt at organizing what I’ve researched. Hopefully it is helpful to you as well.

In a later post, I’ll simplify the laundering process (with help from a few sources). In another later post, I’ll present laundering tips from “Home Comforts” by Cheryl Mendelson. It’s a great home reference book. 

How to Do Laundry (the Basics):

  • Sort your stuff!
  • Follow care directions on clothing labels.
  • Choose the right cycle and water temperature.
  • Don’t overload.
  • Put detergent, bleach, and softener into the automatic dispenser.
  • The cycle is done when “time remaining” on your machine display reaches 00 minutes.
  • Select the appropriate drying cycle for your clothing.
  • Remember, don’t overload!
  • Run full loads.

(Source: Automatic Laundry)

Sorting

  • First, sort by color: Wash all whites separately; pastels & medium colors together; brights and darks by themselves.
  • Second, sort for soil: Sort out those heavily soiled items away from the lightly soiled ones.
  • Third, consider specialty sorts:
    • The Fabric Types: Separate loosely knitted garments and delicates from regular wash loads, then wash on the gentle cycle.
    • The Lint Losers: Fuzzy sweat shirts, chenille robes, flannels, and new towels – wash them in a load by themselves.
    • The Fluorescents: Hot pinks, bright greens, electric blues – wash them separately or test them first before washing with other colors. Don’t pretreat with stain removers unless you’ve tested them for colorfastness first on an inconspicuous area.
  • Sorting: Separate light-colored from dark ones, separate laundry by fabric or texture, separate by soilage, and set aside hand wash/dry clean/delicate items.
  • Sorting: Whites, pastels & mediums, brights, darks, heavily soiled, lightly soiled, delicates, lint losers, fluorescents. 
  • Basically: Lights, Darks, Whites, Jeans, Delicates, Towels, Stained Items.

How Often to Wash

  • Bed sheets: At least every two weeks. More often if you perspire a lot.
  • Pajamas: After every 3 or 4 wears.
  • Bath towels: Hang to dry between uses. Wash after 3 to 5 normal uses.
  • Underwear and socks: After each wearing.
  • Bras: Worn 2-3 times before washing.
  • T-shirts, tank tops, and camis: After each wearing.
  • Outer clothes: Worn a few times before washing (unless you perspire a lot).
  • Jeans: Worn 3 times before washing.
  • Bathing suits: After every wear.
  • Whites and silks: Prone to discoloration, so wash after every wear.
  • If your clothes get stained: Wash, spot clean, or dry clean as soon as possible.
  • Basically: After the suggested wear, toss in the hamper until you’re ready to run some loads.

Stain Removal

Fabric Care Symbols

(Source: Cleaning Institute: Laundry)

Washer Settings

Firstly, check the fabric care tag on the article of clothing to see the suggested temperatures and cycles for both the washer and the dryer.

Washer Cycles

  • Regular/Normal Cycle: soiled/dirty/sweaty clothes, cottons & linens, sturdy fabrics, jeans, towels, bedding; with Hot Water – Whites (socks, underwear, t-shirts, undershirts)
  • Permanent Press: synthetic fibers (rayons, knits, polyesters, acetates); with Warm Water – Colored garments (dress clothes/permanent staple clothes)
  • Delicates: garments w/ appliques or sequins, lingerie, sheer fabrics, pantyhose, lossely woven items, lacey clothing; with Cold Water – Delicates (linen shirts, dry-fit wear)

Water Temperature:

  • Hot water is the best choice for white clothes, very dirty or greasy clothes, diapers, and sturdy fabrics that retain their dye; also good for clothes that need some serious germ killing. (Towels, cleaning rags, unmentionables).
  • Warm water is good for light colors that won’t run, regular and sturdy fabrics, towels, jeans, cottons, sheets, sturdy play wear, school uniforms, and moderately soiled clothes.
  • Cold water is good for dark or bright colors that may run or face, for delicate fabrics like washable silk, swimsuits, active wear, and lingerie; also good for lightly soiled clothes. Also, if using cold water, check first for stains and pretreat.
  • For the rinse cycle: cold water is excellent for all types of loads.

Basically:

  • Durable white clothes should go on hot wash, cold rinse. Should be set for regular cycle.
  • Durable colors generally go on warm wash and cold or warm rinse. Should be set for regular cycle.
  • Permanent press generally goes on cold wash and cold rinse. Should be set for the permanent press cycle.
  • Delicates should go on cold wash and cold rinse. Should be set for the delicate (shortest) cycle.
  • When in doubt, always check the tags!

Dryer Settings

If you can wash your clothes in hot water, they can be dried on a hot setting as well (ex: cotton bath towels). Items that need to be washed in cooler water should be dried in a permanent-press setting. Set your dryer to delicates if the care label says the item can go in the dryer. Hang clothes to try to extend their life and reduce costs (but don’t put dark colors in sunlight or they’ll fade. Use an indoor rack during the winter, and it doubles as a humidifier).

Basically:

  • White clothes should go on normal dryer setting.
  • Colors should goon normal dryer setting.
  • Permanent press should go on permanent press dryer setting (medium heat for synthetic fabrics).
  • Delicates should go on delicate/gentle dryer setting for low heat (or hanged to dry).
  • Wool should go on tumble-no heat dryer setting.
  • When in doubt, always check the tags!

When to Use Non-Chlorine Bleach

I’m currently researching the subject. I *might* start using non-chlorine bleach on whites, cleaning rags, towels, underwear, and bed sheets. I’m also researching other ways to clean cleaning towels and other garments prone to harboring bacteria. Generally:

  • Use non-chlorine bleach to help whiten, brighten, and remove stains. It can also be used to disinfect and sanitize.
  • Always check the garment label before using non-chlorine bleach on the garment. Test by dipping a cotton swab in the solution and dabbing on an inside seam. If the fabric color remains, then you should be safe.
  • When bleaching a whole load, consult your washing machine manual to see whether you add bleach to the drum or to a special dispenser drawer or section. Never pour bleach directly on clothes in the washer. Either pour into washing machine as it fills with water, or use bleach dispenser. Add laundry and continue to wash clothes.
  • Avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex, non-fast colors.
  • Most all white garments and many colored garments can safely be bleached. Always test the garment first to see if it is bleachable.
  • Wash whites using a non-bleach alternative to get them looking bright white.
  • Use non-chlorine bleach to disinfect, remove stains, and/or brighten whites.

Tips:

  • Button-Down Shirts: Unbutton the shirt.
  • Sweaters: Wash cotton blends on gentle. Cold or warm water.
  • Jeans: Wash in cold water. Turn inside out.
  • Socks: Pin each pair together before throwing it in the machine.
  • Down and Polyester Coats: Warm on the gentle cycle. Only wash in front-loading machines.
  • Delicates: Gentle cycle. Zippered mesh bags are useful. Wash delicates separately, wash in light loads. Don’t use the dryer. Air dry. Hand wash fine delicates and silk (let the piece soak for a few minutes in warm/cool water, then squeeze the suds through the fabric, rinse/roll in a towel to absorb moisture, hang to dry).
  • Underwear: Wash in light loads. Use the gentle cycle with warm water. Dry on low. Hand-wash delicate items.
  • Blankets: Wash nonwool blankets on the gentle cycle, with cool water. Tumble dry low or line-dry. Dry cleaning is best for wool.
  • Curtains: Wash in warm or cool water on gentle. Air-dry, then iron when slightly damp.
  • Sheets: Wash cotton sheets once a week in hot water. Dry on low.
  • Shower Curtains: Wash plastic and cloth curtains on gentle in warm water. Air-dry plastic curtains. Prevents rips in plastic curtains by washing along with socks.
  • Cloth Purses & Tote Bags: Wash on delicate in warm water. Air-dry.
  • Oven Mitts and Sponges: Wash in hot water. Air-dry.
  • Cleaning Rags (Kitchen towels and rags, microfiber cloths, and cleaning rags): Wash them on the sanitize cycle, occasionally splashing in non-chlorine bleach or white vinegar. Wash in hot water. Air dry microfiber.

What tools do you need for your laundry room?

  • Use natural detergents and stain removers. Use non-chlorine bleach. Use eco-friendly dryer sheets.
  • All purpose & mild detergent, non-chlorine bleach, eco-friendly dryer sheets, and white vinegar (to use in place of bleach if you choose).
  • White vinegar, dishwashing soap, and cleaning cloths for cleaning appliances and laundry room.
  • Sorting hampers for clothing, bucket or mesh bags to hold cleaning rags, indoor rack.

Helpful Sources:

I feel like I haven’t even touched the surface still. Crazy.

Happy laundering! I have SO much to learn when it comes to laundry. Do you have any tips or favorite laundry products? Comment below, I’d love to know!

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