Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Call Me Crazy But I Love To Do Laundry - The Basics

I did a post a few months ago about how to properly iron a shirt and in that post I talked about my distaste for ironing but how I LOVE doing the laundry.  It's true.  I have a sickness and I'm not sure what to do about it.  My friends tell me that there is something wrong with me but I prefer to believe that I am just happy taking something dirty and smelly and making it like new again.  Its kind of like I have a weekly opportunity to refurbish, rejuvinate or refresh my laundry.  Yea, that sounds good!

I have also talked in past posts about coming from a large family and of course when you have lots of people in your family, there are many chores that need to be taken care of.  I'm not sure if this job was ever assigned to me formally but I do remember enjoying being in the laundry room and figuring out how it all worked.  I spent many an hour in the laundry room sorting, spot cleaning, bleaching and folding laundry.  I know, sad.

Now I don't remember actually loving the job of laundry as a kid but I guess if you do something enough, you may learn to enjoy it or love it and I believe that's most likely what happened to me.  Over the years I have learned a lot about the basics of laundry that I think might help someone who is not crazy about laundry the way that I am.  The basics will help you get through your laundry quickly and make time for things you might find more enjoyable - although, I'm not sure what that might be!  Later on in future posts I will talk about different tricks of the trade that I have learned over the years and that I have found invaluable in keeping my family's clothes clean.  But today, the basics!

Check Labels - This is obviously a step that you do not have to do every time if your clothing is older but if you have newer items, make sure that you read the label before you wash it to become familiar with the washing instructions so that you don't ruin something new.  The last thing I want is for you to damage something new and be mad at yourself!

Sorting - Sorting is an important step and critical to making sure that you don't get any discolorations in your different loads.  Another helpful tip is to shake things out a little before throwing them into the washer.  The purpose of this is to find items that might be hiding inside your clothing.  Like socks that might get stuck inside a pant leg of dark pants.  If you wash something white with something dark, you may end up with socks that are the same color as the pants.  That makes me mad!

Empty pockets - I never trust that pockets are empty no matter whose pants, skirt, shorts or jacket they may be.  I always very carefully stick my hand into each pocket to make sure there are no pens, candy or metal objects that might damage my washer or dryer. Sometimes things will even make it through the wash and not appear until the dryer time and that makes me super unhappy too.

Treat heavy stains with stain remover - If you have stained clothing it is always good to treat it as soon as you know it is stained.  Use cold water to gently remove a wet or moist stain and if you need to use a stain remover, get that on the material as soon as possible.  This is not always an option so as soon as you can, get some sort of pre-treater or detergent on the soiled item and let it sit.  Be careful of solutions that have bleach in them as they can actually discolor colored items.  Does that make sense?

Add cleaning products - If you have a top loading washer, this step is very important - especially if you use dry detergents.  Whether you are using hot or cold water, begin filling your machine with water BEFORE you add your clothes.  Pour your detergent in and let the tub fill up to about 1/4 to 1/2 full before adding your clothes.  This will give the detergent time to dissolve so that you don't get caked on dry detergent stains on your clothing OR stain your clothing with wet detergents.  Also, make sure that you do the same when you are using bleach with your whites.  If you put clothing in and bleach on top or it is sitting in the bottom of the tub with whites on top, the bleach begins to immediately start to eat away at the fibers.  You might not see it immediately but over time, the fibers begin to break down and it will not last as long.

Select appropriate water temperatures - This is also a very important step as the wrong water temperature can cause shrinkage and/or discoloration.  The following are good rules to follow when separating clothing:

Whites - These will be items such as t-shirts, underwear, bras, white towels, sheets, dress shirts and socks. Make sure you don't get any darks in here or you will be sorry!  Also, you really should wash towels separate from other items.

Things that are not white but lighter in color than jeans will go in this pile.  Pastels, cream colors, patterns and lighter solid colors will go in this warm water.  Depending on your detergent, you can get away with using cold water and you shouldn't have any color bleeding but make sure that your detergent says it is good for washing things in cold water.  Otherwise, you should really use warm water.

Anything dark like denims, black or just darker colored material should always be washed in cold water. Again, if you are using powdered detergent, you should always make sure to add the detergent into the water before adding your clothes.  Also, unless your detergent says that it is good for cold water washing, you will most likely need to use more than the suggested amount of detergent to get your clothes cleaned in cold water.

Follow the following steps for delicate washing:
1.  Separate delicates by color before washing.
2.  Verify that the settings on your machine are correct.
3.  Make sure you are using a good delicate detergent and use less of it.
4.  Make good use of lingerie or mesh bags when washing delicates.

Add clothes to the washer - Add your clothes to the washing machine making sure not to overload the tub. This is especially important when you are washing towels.  When towels get wet, they become very heavy so you want to make sure that you don't add too many and add them evenly through the tub.  If the weight is not distributed probably in your washer, your machine may try to walk across the floor - mine has done this many times before and it is somewhat of a scary-poltergeist kind of an experience.  Try not to let that happen at your house!  Refer to the instructions on the lid of your washing machine to see how many towels your unit can hold.  If you don't find it there, Google it!

After clothes are washed, shake them out so they will dry easier and w/less wrinkles (and that makes us ALL happy!) - Now this is really important.  I never did this before but I have found that if you pull each piece of clothing out separately when you are emptying the washing machine and shake each piece out a little bit, your clothing will be a little less wrinkled.  I tend to give each article of clothing a good thwack  or snap and then throw it into the dryer. It really does help cut down on the wrinkles.

See that it says CLEAN BEFORE EACH LOAD!

Check the lint tray before putting clothes into dryer - This is a really important step that you don't want to skip - EVER!  I can testify to the importance of cleaning your lint tray after every use.  A few years ago my dryer actually caught on fire and fortunately I was home that day and was able to catch it before any damage was done to my home.  I have always cleaned my dryers lint tray but there was also lint inside my dryer that actually caught fire and ruined the dryer.  If you clean your lint tray after every use or before every use (get in the habit) you should not have this problem.  Also, it is a good idea to check your dryer ducts at least yearly to make sure that lint or other dirt and objects are not blocking the exit of hot air from your dryer.  Again, a fire hazard!

Choose your drying options - After referring to the drying instructions on the labels of your clothes, set the dryer dial to the appropriate settings and start.

One of the most important tips I can give you for assuring that your clothes come out of the dryer without needing any additional attention is to take them out right after they are done.  Don't leave them in the dryer as they will wrinkle easily and since they are warm when they are done, the wrinkles will really set in.  Take a few minutes and fold or hang everything immediately and your laundry will be ready to go!

So those are my basic tips of doing a generic load of laundry.  Let me know if you have ideas on what are some easy steps and tricks that may not be listed here.  I would love to hear them, really I would!

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