Who doesn’t have a few laundry demons that need slaying? Whether it is dirty clothes cluttering bedrooms, garments with funky odors from sitting too long in the washer, shrinking items, turning whites pink, setting-in stains, or having a perennial ‘picking basket’ of slightly rumpled laundry that never gets put away, you’re in the right place! We have an end-to-end plan for getting the laundry done efficiently and effectively every time:
1: Catch and carry: Prevent dirty laundry from ever hitting the floor by having an adequate and strategically located supply of easy-to-carry hampers or baskets to catch dirty garments when they are removed.
2: Sort, sort, then sort again: Laundry needs three basic sorts:
- First sort is for wash cycle — regular, heavy duty, or delicate. Women’s undergarments, loosely woven sweaters, and so forth typically need delicate cycles; many dry-clean-only items can be safely added to these loads as long as you hang or lay them flat to dry. Sturdier fabrics —denims, cottons, and most synthetics can typically withstand regular- or heavy-duty cycles, depending on fabric weight.
- Second sort is for color, mainly to guard against bleeding of fabric dyes from darker to lighter clothes. Sort into three piles: darks, mediums (which includes white/color mixes), and pure whites. Some dark clothes will cease to bleed after many washes at which time they can be safely mixed with mediums (but never with pure whites).
- Third sort is for temperature, which often (but not always) follows color lines, with pure whites typically using hot water, mediums taking warm, and darks preferring cold.
If doing laundry for multiple people, you might also consider sorting by person as this greatly eases folding- and putting-away tasks at the far end of the laundry cycle.
4: Load items one at a time into the washer. As you go, turn things right side out to ensure the dirtiest parts get maximum exposure to detergent (unless concerned about fading, in which case, turn or leave inside out); unroll sleeves/cuffs; check and empty pockets; inspect for and pre-treat stains; zip up zippers (to cut down on noise and potential for damage to your washer basin); and ensure that each sock has a mate going in to the washer. These actions not only save time when folding and putting away but also ensure that each item swishes or tumbles freely throughout the wash cycle, maximizing clean.
- Use appropriate detergents in the right amounts. There is no one-size-fits-all detergent, so it’s best to have an assortment on hand: a regular daily-use detergent, one specializing in odor removal (versus covering up with scent), a solution for delicate items, an oxygen-based bleach for whitening, an all-purpose stain remover, and an oxygen-based stain remover for coping with oxidative types of stains such as wine and coffee. Follow machine instructions (max fill lines) when determining how much detergent to add, as too much can leave suds residues that break down fabrics over time. Too much detergent may also cause front-loading machines to overflow and/or to develop bad odors.
- If you won’t be nearby to hear your washer finish its cycle, use a smartphone or other timing mechanism to set push reminders, so you never end up with stinky-laundry syndrome or spend time and money rewashing loads. If you do neglect to push a load promptly from washer to dryer (and many hours have passed before you remember), be sure to re-wash the load to avoid setting-in any mold or mildew odors that may have started to develop.
- Move items from washer to dryer one at a time, either snapping or shaking out each one as you go. This ensures you always spot and remove those 100%-cotton and other items that need to either hang or lie flat to dry. It also gives you a chance to remove any items you pre-treated for stains, which should always be allowed to air dry until you are certain the stain is completely gone (to avoid heat setting the stain). Finally, this critical step helps to minimize wrinkling and improves dryer efficiency by ensuring no wet garments go in nested or rolled together. Where shrinking potential is concerned, note that while some cotton fabrics (such as denim) will cease to shrink after a wash or two, others (such as inexpensive flannel) will shrink continually, meaning you need to hang or lay flat with each wash.
- As soon as a load finishes drying (again, use a timer if you won’t be nearby enough to hear the machine’s alarm sound), remove immediately to prevent wrinkling and fold into piles that match exactly to where the clothes belong. So, for example, if there are three drawers, one for sweatshirts, one for t-shirts, and one for pants, fold three corresponding piles as making it easy to put folded clothes away greatly increases the chances of that actually happening.
9. Purge! If you find your family living constantly out of clean laundry baskets versus neatly stowing clean, folded clothes, there is a strong chance you have too much stuff clogging up your available garment space. Purge, discard, and donate accordingly!