By Abigail L. Cuffey
Simple laundry mistakes can end up costing you precious time and money later on. Use these tips from Steve Boorstein, otherwise known as The Clothing Doctor, to avoid these mishaps and take the best care of your garments in the least amount of time.
1. Inspect clothes in good light. If you scan your garments in dimly lit rooms, you may miss some stains that you'll have to go back and take care of later on.
2. Know your stains. Recognizing the kind of stain you have is critical. Here are the basics: Water-based stains (soda, coffee, blood) typically have an outline around the perimeter like a road map. Oil-based stains (food oils, grease, Vaseline) are typically blotchy and darker than the actual garment. If it's water-based, you can pretreat it with a stain remover and throw it in the washer. But oily stains generally don't come out in most washers, so your best bet is a dry cleaner. Never put an oily stain in the dryer, because the heat will further set the stain and it just may be a lost cause after that.
3. Check all pockets! Make sure there's nothing lingering in any pocket or clothing crevice. Small items like gum, lipstick, credit card slips or crayons can wreak havoc on a whole load of laundry.
4. Use mesh bags for small items or delicates. Putting socks, bras or scarves into small mesh laundry bags before tossing them into your washer will save you time later when you're sorting the items.
5. Give your clothes (and washer) a break. Most basic soil and dirt on clothing will come out in the first two minutes of a wash after the initial soaping. So, for clothes that aren't too dirty, always choose the shortest cycle on your machine (six or eight minutes) instead of the full 20- to 30-minute cycle to avoid wearing down your garments unnecessarily.
6. Don't overfill. If you overload your washer, you may end up with clothes that are dirtier than when you started. As the cycle is going, it needs to run enough detergent and water through your clothes to release soil and flush it down the drain. If the washer's stuffed too tightly, it will just redeposit the dirt and grime into the water and onto another garment, with no chance to clear it out.
7. Keep your washer clean. Even if it looks spotless, there are microscopic bacteria and dead skin cells in there. On your next laundry day, wash your white load last if you use bleach with it, or do a "dummy load" with the shortest rinse cycle and throw in a quarter cup of bleach to kill germs. Similar to cleaning your dryer's lint filter, you have to keep the washer clean in order for it to do its best work.
8. Leave the door open. Purposely keeping the lid or door slightly ajar once you're done will help air it out, avoiding musty odors that could build up and seep into the load of laundry you do next week.
9. Cut drying short. When you let your clothes get bone-dry, meaning they go through the full cycle, you can cause static electricity, shrinkage, and undue wear and tear. Consider pulling them out five to 15 minutes before the end of the cycle and then letting them air-dry the rest of the way for the best results.
10. Use the wet towel trick. If you forget a load in the washer or dryer, causing the clothes to sit for a long time and end up very wrinkled, throw a damp towel with the clothes into the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes. This will put humidity and moisture back, reducing the amount of wrinkles.
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By Abigail L. Cuffey