It's easy to get lazy when it comes to laundry...we've all been guilty. But will you really notice a difference if a few whites get mixed in with the darks or if your silk top gets tossed into the wash with your t-shirts? With time, you certainly will. Get into a habit of following these simple steps and the money you invest in clothes will go further than ever before.
Choose an appropriate cycle. The regular cycle is suitable for most cotton garments, and delicate/gentle should be used for lightweight and loosely woven materials like silks. The permanent press (or easy-care) setting is great for minimally soiled clothes because it agitates for a shorter time, finishes with a cool rinse, and spins more slowly than the regular cycle.
Don't let laundry sit in the washing machine. In just hours, wet laundry can breed bacteria or mold. Your terry-cloth towels may come out of dryer smelling fresh, but as soon as they get damp again (as you're drying off after a shower), they'll stink of mildew.
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Maintain your machines. After every load, leave the washer's lid or door open for a bit to let moisture evaporate, and clean the dryer's lint screen after each use.
Don't let stains sit. Experts agree that the best way to fight stains is to treat them immediately. Stash a treatment like Tide to Go or Shout Wipes in your purse for instant stain relief. If you can't address a stain right away, treat it as soon as you get home. Even if you wait a couple days to actually launder the item, the pre-treatment will help prevent the stain from setting.
Sort your garments. If you're lazy about sorting, your clothes will suffer. Always divide washables into whites, lights, darks, and towels (which can leave linty bits on other garments). Even already-washed dark garments can bleed dye into wash water, making any light clothes in the load look dingy. White-whites should be washed with a chlorine bleach, to keep them bright. As you sort, turn darks inside out to protect them from friction, which leads to fading; unfurl socks and cuffs to release dirt from creases; empty pockets; and fasten zippers, hooks, and buttons to prevent snags. Find out what type of detergent works best for your laundry habits.
Don't overfill the machine. Clothes need room to move in the water; if the washer is too full, clothes won't get properly cleaned. Packed machines also cause more abrasion and wear on fabrics. Steve Boorstein, the "Clothing Doctor," recommends filling top-loading washers two thirds full and front loaders about three quarters full.
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What is that stain? All stains are either water- or oil-based. To identify a stain, look at its border. Water-based stains have a very distinct outline; these stains are easy to treat at home with liquid detergent or stain remover. Oil-based stains have no clear outline; use a stain remover specifically formulated for oily stains, like Goo Gone, or consider handing the stained garment over to the dry cleaner.
How do you make your clothes last longer? Share your laundry secrets!
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.