One of the most annoying days of the week for me is laundry day. Sorting through all of my dirty clothes, making piles, figuring out how to treat stains, and then actually doing all the loads on the right cycles—it can be pretty overwhelming. Laundry can also be confusing, especially when the most laundry instruction many of us get is the quick-smart tutorial from our moms before we head off to college. It’s no wonder that later in life our jeans are faded, gym clothes are pilling, sweaters are unraveling, and our clothes look “old” even after a few washes.
Does any of this sounds familiar? Not to worry, I’m breaking down how to launder your clothes properly, with five simple and easy steps you can take to improve your laundry routine, because who wants to spend all weekend washing an enormous pile of clothes? Not me. You may want to bookmark this article because you’ll be referring to it again and again.
Tip #1: Pre-treat Stains
I know this is an extra step, but it will save you in the long run. Before you toss that article of clothing into the laundry basket, treat the stain first. While it’s sitting in the basket all week waiting for laundry day that stain could be getting treated. By the time you throw it in the wash you have a 90 percent chance of it actually becoming stain-free. The problem is that most of us only treat stains as we’re sorting laundry for the wash; by that time the stain has already had time to set in—chances are it will not come out after the wash cycle. Now I know that begs the question, how do I treat certains stains? I got you covered. Here is a quick cheat sheet you can use in the future:
- General Stain Remover: Oxiclean spray or the powder. Oxiclean is the best general stain remover that can be used in a soak, spot-treatment, or it can be added to a whole load if you don’t have time or you forgot to pre-treat each individual stain. As you’ll see below, it can be used in myriad ways to treat a variety of stain types. In a pinch, hand sanitizer works like a charm, just glob a ton of it on and apply a napkin to gently tap it in, by the time the alcohol evaporates the stain will be gone.
- Dye Stain: Paint, ink, etc … aka the hardest stains to remove. Use the Oxiclean spray or a Tide-To-Go Pen directly on the stain, as soon as you can. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes (or toss in the hamper), if you have time, fill your sink with warm water and Oxiclean power and let it soak for a day before laundering.
- Protein Stain: Anything that comes from a plant, human, or animal (e.g. milk, urine, blood, grass, etc.). Apply peroxide immediately and look for the bubbling action which should immediately lighten the stain (sometimes it will remove it completely!), then apply Oxiclean spray and toss it in the hamper or directly into the wash.
- Oil Stain: Butter, grease, some hairsprays, oil-based makeup, olive oil, etc. First use a paper towel or cloth to blot out excess oil if needed (DO NOT RUB IT). Next, powders work best to remove oil because they absorb it, similar to putting baby powder on your roots. Sprinkle on salt or Oxiclean powder to any oil stain, let it sit for 30 minutes and then rinse with dish soap or liquid detergent and hot water. This is the only stain I’d recommend that you launder immediately or as soon as you can.
- Tannin Stains: Wine, tea, coffee, and fruit. Say, for example, you spill wine on your dress. First thing you need to do is place a napkin or paper towel under the stain to keep it from soaking all the way through and blot the stain to remove the excess moisture. Then find something powdery, like salt or baking soda to apply, and let it sit until it forms a crust. After about 15 minutes scrape off the crust and rinse with hot water. If the stain is still there find some peroxide or club soda to apply, let it sit for a few minutes, and then apply hot water. Launder as soon as you can and when you do, air dry the garment, heat will set the stain in even further.
I also recommend keeping a product like Wine Away handy in your laundry arsenal or in your glove compartment to remove wine stains completely, instead of relying on household products.
Tip #2: Stop over-washing your clothes
This may sound gross to some of you, but I absolutely do not wash my clothes unless they are truly dirty. I’m talking visibly dirty like there’s a stain, I spilled something on it, or I sweat in it, and it smells; if none of those apply, it’s not getting washed friends. Call me crazy, but living by this simple rule means that at the end of the week I have less to wash. And by not constantly washing my clothes over and over unnecessarily, I’m maintaining the quality of the fabric. In most cases, if you’ve worn something the most you’ll need is some good ol’ Febreeze and/or Downy Wrinkle Release Spray, and it’s good to go back in the closet or drawer.
Tip #3: You might be using the wrong detergent
This is the number one problem I see with my styling clients. If you’re using the wrong detergent you’re wearing out your clothes or you may need to wash something twice. You should be using a gentle, free and clear type detergent—forget about that stuff with the blue dye. My favorite overall detergent is the Mrs. Meyers brand because it is non-toxic, dye-free, and concentrated so you get more loads for your money—the scent is quite lovely as well.
Tip #4: Use Color-Catcher Sheets
Sometimes I get lazy because I’m tired, busy, and generally dislike washing clothes. When this happens I may be known to throw everything in a gentle, cold wash—forget about sorting the colors. When I do this, I use Shout Color Catcher Sheets, they are a total lifesaver. Just use them on a cold wash (hot water makes colors fade and bleed), group like colors, and you're golden. No need to worry about colors bleeding onto each other.
Tip #5: Use Lingerie Bags
Who has time to ball up socks and hook all your bras together so they don’t get tangled? No one. One of my biggest time saving tools is using mesh lingerie bags for socks, swimwear, and undergarments. Lingerie bags are great because they keep everything together and protect your delicates from getting beat up by the washing machine, so the stitching won’t unravel and any lace won’t be in danger of getting ripped. This is also the best solution to prevent missing socks! I hang my lingerie bag on my hamper and just toss in my socks and undergarments throughout the week. When wash days comes, no sorting needed, I just throw the bag in the wash on the delicates cycle and use Woolite.
Things to remember …
- Only wash your jeans when you absolutely have to, like they’re stained, they smell, etc … and when you do, wash them inside out using cold water, with Woolite Dark.
- Ditch the fabric softener, it has some pretty nasty chemicals. I like wool dryer balls they make fabric soft au naturale. Toss them in with sheets and towels to keep then super soft and plush.
- Add Oxiclean to the pre-wash cycle if you forgot to pre-treat individual stains.
- Pretend you don’t have a hot temperature setting; hot water will beat down fabrics and colors. Unless it’s like really dirty socks, towels, or sheets, avoid it!
- Stick to low or medium heat when using your dryer, to avoid faded and shrunken clothing. Hang dry sweaters and blouses if you don’t have room to dry flat.
- New clothes tend to bleed, wash them separately first.
- Be sure to wash delicate sweaters, blouses, and dresses on the hand wash or delicate cycle with Woolite.
Every product I recommended in this article, all in one place!
I hope that these tips simplify your laundry routine so that you’re spending more time living in your clothes, than washing them. Comment below and let me know if you have any questions or issues trying out these tips. Or if you know of a great stain-buster or laundry time-saving tip, please let us know!