The Do’s and Don’ts of Doing Your Laundry
Since you were a kid, you’ve been doing your laundry. It’s a task you can accomplish with your eyes practically closed. You may already feel like an expert in this field and may be asking yourself, “what more can I know about doing laundry?”
A basic how-to for doing your laundry typically goes as follows:
Step one: Put your clothes in the washing machine.
Two: Put your clothes in the dryer.
Three: Fold your clothes or hang them up.
Anybody who’s had to deal with musty clothes or had to re-wash clothes knows that there is more to it than that. To make sure everything goes perfectly when running your appliances, keep this article handy.
DO: Check Your Clothing Labels
The tags on your shirts and pants often contain symbols that provide directions on how you can clean the clothes and what products you can or can’t use. These strange symbols may seem like hieroglyphics or like something you see in a Led Zeppelin album, but they are easy to decode.
Some symbols indicate if your shirt can be machine washed or dry clean only. You can also determine if you want to use warm water for washing if you can use bleach on your undergarments.
Let’s take a look at a few common but very important symbols:
Tumble Dry Only: There are a few variations of the tumble dry symbol. If the circle is empty, you can dry at any heat you prefer. One dot inside the circle indicates using a low temperature only for drying, two dots means to use a normal temperature, and three dots inside the circle means you can use the high heat.
Safe to Iron: This would be a common symbol for ironing-safe clothes. You will also see this symbol with a big X over it; that means you can’t iron it at all. A few other variations will indicate whether you can steam press the clothes or at what temperature you can iron the clothes safely.
Hand Washing Only: The temperature in the upper right corner shows the most appropriate temperature to use for washing this time.
Do Not Bleach: This symbol is very common but you never want to miss this one. Bleaching clothes that shouldn’t be bleached will almost always end with the clothing being ruined. Be very careful when you use bleach with your laundry!
DON’T: Overload Your Washer While Doing Your Laundry
You may be tempted to wash all of your clothes at once to save some time. The washer basin is pretty large, so why not fill it up to the top? The reason why not is actually pretty logical; the clothes need space to move when spinning around so the soap can work its way into the fabric while also having the freedom to be rinsed thoroughly.
The clothes actually help each other get clean. Fabric rubbing against other fabric helps to dislodge the dirt and grime from in between the grain.
You’ll also waste time and defeat the purpose of washing the clothes because the detergent won’t properly wash away either. If that’s the case, you’ll end up having to run another cycle just to rinse the clothes out.
Most importantly, you run the risk of breaking your washing machine. The agitator is the column in the center of most washing machines, which separates your clothes during the cycle. This column can actually break from the weight and stress of an overloaded basin.
The rotating drum itself can also be thrown out of alignment and this can be a very costly repair. In some cases, fixing your washer can be more expensive than getting a new one, so don’t run the risk of fully breaking it by just trying to save some time.
The largest loads of laundry should typically fill about 3/4ths of the basin.
DO: Clean Your Appliances Regularly
Have you ever run a load of laundry in your washer only for it to come out smelling funkier than it was before? That is because of laundry grime, used detergent, and hard water mineral can build up in the corners and cracks of your washer basin. Mold and mildew can grow in the lid, which then carries over into your clothes.
You’ll want to do this at least twice a year to keep your washer clean. We recommend using four cups of white vinegar with the hottest temperature water from the wash cycle. Once the cycle starts, pause your machine to let the water and vinegar soak for one hour.
The Waiting Game Begins
While you wait, wipe down the outside surface of the washer with a microfiber rag and your favorite green cleaning solution. Use a small soft-bristle brush (toothbrushes work well here) to detail the fabric softener and bleach dispensers, as well as the ridge that the door rests against.
After the hour, resume and finish the cycle. Next, run another cycle using a cup of baking soda and hot water. This will help to absorb the remaining scum and residue. Once this cycle concludes, finish off by wiping off the inside of the door.
To keep your washer in good shape all year round, leave the lid open after finishing your laundry to allow the basin to air dry. This will reduce the amount of mold growth and keep your clothes smelling fresh.
Dryers are a bit different to keep clean, but it’s very important to keep them clean. In addition to affecting the cleanliness of your laundry, a poorly maintained dryer can also pose a fire hazard. The thing you have to maintain most often is your lint trap. Empty it out after every 2-3 cycles. Then, use a dry rag to wipe off the lint trap filter and fully remove all debris.
For the basin, you’ll want to use your vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment. Focus primarily on cleaning the lint trap area and then use a damp cloth to wipe around the drum. If you want a deeper cleaning, you can use a screwdriver to gently pry the top of the dryer open and then clean around the outside surface of the drum. However, this could be risky and if you want to avoid damage, cleaning the inside of the drum should be sufficient.
DON’T: Mix Your Colors
Separating your loads by color matters. Not only do colored fabrics bleed into lighter clothes, forever staining your socks and tees, but colored clothing typically requires different cleaning procedures. After taking a look at our list of symbols, you’ll notice that clothes with similar colors often have the same labels.
For example, warm water works best with white and light colored clothes. Warm water doesn’t do well with brightly colored clothing because it fades the colors more quickly. Warm water also increases the amount of bleeding into other clothes in the load. The hottest temperature waters work best with cleaning your towels, washcloths, or (if you have kids) heavily stained undergarments.
Ideally, you want to separate your clothes into four categories: white, light, dark, and delicate. These categories also determine what kind of cleaning agent you’ll be using for the load. Color safe bleach like Clorox 2 works well with all colors. Classic chlorine bleach is much stronger and should only be used in white loads.
Fun Fact: The most popular bleach brand, Clorox, coined its name in 1913 as a portmanteau of the two main active ingredients of bleach: chlorine and sodium hydroxide.
Where does fabric softener fit into all of this? It’s not a substitute for detergent and doesn’t work to clean your clothes; what it does is act as a conditioner to keep your shirts and towels soft and fluffy. It also helps to prevent static clinging.
Similarly, using dryer sheets during the drying process helps to fluff and soften your clothes too. They also have the added bonus of leaving your laundry with a clean, fresh scent. However, if you suffer from skin conditions like dermatitis, avoid using dryer sheets because they are often made with irritants.
Hopefully these “do’s and don’ts” have been helpful to improving your laundry process. If you have any tips of your own to perfect the laundry strategy, we’d love to hear them. Jump in on the conversation below. Thanks for reading and enjoy your laundry day!