Laundry is one of those deceptively simple household chores: Clothes travel from hamper to machine and back again in a repetitive cycle that runs on autopilot. But there’s more to doing laundry than separating colors and fluffing the load you forgot about in the dryer. These are a few ways to do the wash effectively without turning the chore into a complete drag.
Separating clothes by color is one of those necessary evils that keep whites bright and colors from bleeding into other fabrics. There’s another dimension to this process: Picking out the truly dirty from the lightly soiled and the clothes in-between. It’s standard procedure for companies who work in hospitality — after all, you wouldn’t want the towel at your hotel to have stains from the dining room on it. Why shouldn’t you employ the same tactic at home? Before you throw the next load in, take an extra look at how grimy things really are, and sort things accordingly.
Grass, chewing gum, red wine, coffee — if you toss clothes with these types of stains right into the washing machine, it’s going to be near-impossible to get them out later. Pretreating takes a little bit of research and time, but it’s the easiest way to maintain the integrity of your favorite button-down or pair of slacks. Plus, if it becomes a regular part of your routine, you won’t think twice about the few extra minutes you’ll need to fight stubborn stains.
Take clothing color, fabric type and soil level into consideration when you’re spinning dials on your machine. Generally speaking, cold water is less likely to cause colors to bleed or fade, and your clothing without care instructions can likely be washed with no problem on cold settings. Other apparel might require warm or high heat. Take a look at care instructions to be sure, and remember you might have to tweak instructions based on factors like stain type or suspected bacteria.
Use your dryer correctly
Nobody likes pulling twisted up sheets out of the dryer, or folding laundry to find several socks have disappeared into the abyss. If you want to avoid tangling up your linens, make sure you don’t overload your machines. You can also take a look at the care instructions of your sheets. Depending on thread count and material, you might want to toss in a few dryer balls to keep them from wrinkling, or dry them on a different setting to make them as soft as possible.
Don’t neglect maintenance
Regularly cleaning your washing machine and dryer doesn’t just ensure they’ll last longer and clean your clothes more effectively. There are 2,900 dryer fires reported each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, and those result in an estimated $35 million in property loss. There are also multiple deaths and injuries reported each year because of dryer fires, and 34% are caused by a failure to properly clean the dryer.
Diana Crandall is a reporter for Angie’s List, a provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services.