The Art of Doing Great Laundry

Laundry is not an art. You shove the dirty clothes in the washing machine, you add soap and close the lid. Forty-five minutes later, you take them out and put them in the dryer. Then, through the week, you root through the dryer and take out what you want. What’s so hard about that? Nothing, if you could care less what you look like. Oh, your great grandma would not only turn over in her grave, but come marching into your laundry room to give you a good smack!

Whether you pay top dollar for your clothes or purchase them at the thrift store, you should take care of them the best you can. When I was a girl, my mother taught me how to do laundry. Sort the clothes, treat the stains, use hot water for the whites and only certain items go into a hot dryer. I’ve run into a lot of people who don’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about. So, let’s start from the beginning.

You’re faced with a full hamper of dirty laundry. It’s all mixed together and overflowing the sides. What a mess!

1. Sort the clothes. You must determine what category each piece of clothing falls into. Darks, Coloreds, Whites, and Hand Wash.
Darks – jeans, dark shirts and pants, dark socks
Coloreds – anything not Dark and not White.
Whites – socks, undies, white undershirts
Hand Wash – lingerie, nighties – usually anything made from silk, embellished with lace or satin.
Towels
Sheets

A Note About Hand Wash: You certainly can Hand Wash with some mild soap and basin of warm water, but most of these things will do just fine washed on the Delicate Cycle. Put these items in the dryer on the Air Cycle. After 15 minutes or so, take them out and hang to dry. (the air cycle will blow out all the wrinkles the washing machine put in) You should never wash underwire bra’s in the washing machine, or put them in the dryer. Hang bra’s to air dry.

Sorting can become confusing. What do you do with the baseball shirt that is white with black sleeves? I put it in the Coloreds pile. It’s your choice. What you really don’t want, is your white blouses going through the washing machine with dirty jeans. This brings up another question. Does your white blouse go in the Whites? Not unless you want it bleached and I doubt that you do. White blouses can go in the Hand Wash or the Colored. You may even choose to have two Colored piles – a darker one and a lighter one.

So far it sounds like a lot of work. Who has the time? Don’t worry. Every time you do it, it will take less and less time. Only the first time will take longer. Once you get used to classifying your clothes like this, you’ll know exactly where to put them.

2. Water Temperature.
Whites always get washed in hot. With bleach. If the socks are very dirty, try to find some time to let them soak in soapy, bleach water.
Darks are usually washed in cold water, and the Coloreds are normally washed in warm water.

3. Pre-Treating stains.
Sometimes you will need to spend extra time with stains. I use a whole Fels Naptha bar, dipped in a little water and rub it on the stains. The soap works on the stain while the clothes sit in piles waiting for their turn. (if you can catch it, try to Pre-Treat the stain as soon as it happens.)

4. Soap and Additives.
Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, etc are expensive. I quit buying them about a year ago, and haven’t missed them at all. This is the list of things I buy for laundry cleaning: 20 Mule Team Borax, Washing Soda (not Baking Soda) , Fels Naptha soap and white vineagar.
I have a large, wide mouth jar next to the washing machine. In it, I mix equal parts of 20 Mule Team Borax and Washing Soda. On the shelf next to the washing machine, I keep a basket with various things in it – a jar for change I find, an old cheese grater, Fels Naptha soap, emergency dryer sheets. On the shelf is also a gallon of white vineagar with a 1-Cup measuring cup upside down on the top of it. This is the routine –

Start the water running in the machine. (use Normal cycle – the Heavy one doesn’t do any more except swish your dirt around longer and it uses more electricity) Add 1/3 Cup of 20 Mule Team Borax/ Washing Soda to the machine. I keep a 1/3 Cup right there next to the jar. Use the old cheese grater and the Fels Naptha soap – 10 grates into the washing machine. 1-Cup of white vinegar in the softener dispenser. (Sometimes I forget the white vinegar, that’s why I have the emergency dryer sheets) If it’s load of whites, I also add bleach. Let the water run just a minute – usually while you go get the clothes is time enough.

5. Fill the machine.
Don’t fill it too full. There has to be room for the water and the clothes to be agitated. If the machine is stuffed, there isn’t enough water to properly clean the clothes.

6. Put your clothes in the dryer on the appropriate cycle.
Don’t assume every load goes into the blast o’heat cycle to be dried as fast as possible. Put your Delicate Hand Wash items on Air. Put any blouses/shirts/skirts on the Cycle that starts out hot and gets cooler. (Every machine has different names for their cycles.) Put your jeans, heavier shirts etc in the hot dryer. Whites go in the hot dryer.

7. Take them out and fold them as soon as the dryer is done.
Hang up the pants and shirts. That will keep them from wrinkling. Fold the rest of it and put it away. Every time, every load, every time. Don’t let piles of unfolded laundry sit around your house – it’s not that attractive. Don’t let piles of folded laundry sit around your house. Put it away. That’s why we have closets and dressers.

8. Ironing.
If you have ironing to do, try to do it all at once, instead of 5 minutes before you have to wear it and are in a big hurry. Get your ironing gear and the wrinkled clothes set up in a nice place, anywhere in the house that you like to be. I like to watch TV while I iron – the time flies by. Use Spray Sizing when you iron shirts, they come out looking fresh and crisp. Hang them up on a door or a hook. When you’re done, put the ironing gear away and go hang up your freshly ironed clothes.

There is a satisfaction I find in looking at newly ironed shirts hanging in the closet, or at neatly folded towels in stacks in the bathroom. I like knowing there is always clean underwear and socks in our drawers. I like my husband to go to work in a clean, ironed shirt.

Your clothes will last longer if you treat them kindly. Sew on buttons that fall off. If you get a rip, fix it. Many people sew, you might know someone who would be willing to do mending. Mending? Ah… another lost art! If you don’t, check at your dry cleaners. They often have or know someone who can do these things for you. It’s cheaper than buying new clothes.

Using these laundry products has saved us money over the year. I can’t see us going back to buying laundry detergent, softener and everything related to laundry.

Try it out, see how it works for you.

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