My mom was pretty set on the way she did laundry — whites, darks, and delicates all had their own place, separated on a weekly basis like clockwork. But when it was time for a pre-teen me to learn how to clean my own clothes, I figured her methods took way, way too long, and ended up doing my laundry all wrong, since I was young and just didn't have time for that nonsense. I mean, separating clothes? Come on mom, I had chat rooms to visit.
I wish I paid more attention, and I wish I realized how important it was to learn how to launder clothes correctly. With age, I started getting better and better, but I still had way too many mishaps. Like, the time I shrank my husband's brand new sweater, in a sitcom-kind of way. I felt bad about it, since seriously, it could have been a non-issue if I actually paid attention, and realized too late that an extra five minutes of paying attention was nothing in the long run. I had five minutes to spare. Him and I usually do our own laundry separately, but in trying to be a help, I ended up being a bit of a burden.
It sounds a little ridiculous, but that sweater moment was kind of like my "rock bottom" of laundry. I vowed to get better. When you grow up, your clothes are typically a bit pricier, and I don't have the kind of cash to keep replacing key items due to brief bouts of laziness. I needed to learn how to take responsibility for what I owned.
No matter what, it's always important to learn new techniques. If you can relate, here are a few ways that you can get better at washing your clothes.
1. Wash clothes inside out.
You might not think about it, especially when stains happen on the outside, but the inside of shirts and pants is where all the gross gunk truly lives. "Most of the yucky stuff (sweat and sebum) is on the inside close to your skin," says Akemi Ooka, the green chef director of formulation over at Method. Stains up front can also be pre-treated, to make sure your clothes are the cleanest they can be.
2. Use mesh bags for your delicates.
Seriously, if you've never done this before, it'll be a total lifesaver. Mesh bags are cheap (you can snag a pack of five for under $12 on Amazon), and will change your laundry game for good. I started using this method about a year ago. By clustering them together and putting them in a bag, I didn't have to deal with a lot of bra-tangle. If you've never experienced bra-tangle before, consider yourself lucky.
3. Make sure to check labels.
They're itchy, but they're there for a reason. If something is dry clean only, don't try and test whether or not it's actually true. Yeah, your clothes might survive the wash, but they may not look the best they can. No matter what, clothes that need to be dry cleaned should not enter the dryer. The heat will further damage the fibers.
4. Don't use fabric softener on your workout gear.
I love fabric softener. In liquid form or dryer sheet form, I feel like it makes quite a difference. So, it was kind of interesting to learn that fabric softener and your workout clothes don't really mix. "While fabric softener works wonders to protect your clothes and make them softer, fabric softener can actually lessen the effectiveness of wicking and dry fit clothes," Ooka says. When you think of it that way, it makes a lot of sense.
5. Consider cold water.
Cold water is amazing for clothes. It helps keep bright colors bright, and keeps your electricity bill down. Many big detergent companies have a special detergent that works excellent in cold water, like Tide, and Method's detergents are actually formulated to work quite well in a cooler temperature. Plus, using cold water is excellent for our environment — in fact, cold water washes have been known to lessen the amount of annual carbon dioxide emissions by 350 pounds.
6. Keep those zippers zipped.
If your clothes include a zipper, make sure it's zipped up all the way before you throw it in the washer. This will prevent snags, and help lessen the chance of any sort of zipper malfunction in the future. People are 50/50 as far as buttons are involved, but most folks like to unbutton their dress shirts before throwing them in. It's possible to put additional stress on the button otherwise, and it also may have a negative impact on button holes.
7. Make sure not to overload the machine.
We're all a little guilty of this sometimes. If we have a lot of clothes to wash, but not much time to wash them, we often throw a big pile of them in at once instead of taking our time. This isn't just bad for your clothes, but it's not so great for your washer, either. Not only do clothes need space, but your washer's agitator is at risk. Getting your washer repaired is seriously no fun, so while it might seem convenient now, it'll be a pain in the butt to deal with in the future.
8. Remember that extra detergent won't make a difference.
I wish I learned this when I was growing up. In my eyes, extra soap meant extra clean. But too much soap can sometimes make clothes feel a little itchy, and in the long run, doesn't make much of a positive difference. "Too much detergent can prevent them from rinsing well," Ooka says. For big stains and problem areas (think: sweaty areas), Ooka recommends pre-treating problem areas, as that'll help make sure the detergent properly penetrates your clothes. Also, don't forget that using the correct amount of detergent will save you money in the long run.
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