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Is your laundry routine incorrect? A professional’s advice on properly maintaining your garments.

For many years, I dealt with laundry in a similar manner to how criminals dispose of incriminating evidence: by completely destroying the offending material until it was unrecognizable.

What is the temperature of the water? It’s hot. What about the dryer temperature? It’s like being on the surface of the sun. The longer the clothes are tossed around in the drum, the better. I was never taught this cruel method. In my younger years, I believed that “hot=clean” and stuck with it. If this caused damage to my nice clothes, I was oblivious – most likely because my wardrobe mainly consisted of poorly-fitting, cheaply made clothing that fell apart after a few wears.

With the help of concerned friends and helpful discussions on Twitter and other online platforms, I was able to improve my habits. Taking proper care of your clothing, bedding, and towels not only makes sense hygienically, but it can also significantly prolong their lifespan. Additionally, it is better for the environment. According to the National Park Service, the average American household washing machine uses 41 gallons (155 liters) of water per load, and dryers contribute to about 6% of a home’s energy consumption.

We consulted with professionals on methods for improving and optimizing laundry practices.

What is the recommended frequency for doing laundry?

After consulting with experts, it was determined that by increasing the time between washes, we could prolong the durability of most clothing items.

Patric Richardson, also known as the Laundry Evangelist, and star of The Laundry Guy on HGTV, says that with the exception of underwear and socks, which should be washed after every wear, he tries to wear his clothes as many times as possible before washing them.

According to him, it is not necessary to wash clothes after every wear as it can cause them to wear out quickly. He personally wears his shirts three times before washing them and his jeans nine or ten times.

According to Richardson, certain items need to be washed more often. For instance, towels should be laundered every three to four times they are used.

According to Ann Russell, a TikTok influencer and former full-time cleaner in the UK, it is considered good etiquette to have a clean and fresh bed when you have guests staying over. She recommends changing your sheets more frequently than just once a year, ideally every week or every two to three weeks.

According to Richardson, the clothing you choose to wear while sleeping can impact how often you need to wash them. If you wear pajamas, washing them every two weeks is acceptable. However, if you sleep without a shirt or bottoms, you may be able to go a week without washing them. For those who sleep naked, it is recommended to wash your sheets at least twice a week and no longer than once a week.

What is the ideal water temperature for washing clothes?

Experts typically suggest using cold water for laundry. According to Russell, modern fabrics are typically low-maintenance and can handle cold water well. Unless you frequently work with tough grease stains or require deep cleaning for your clothing, there is usually no need to use hot water.

Additionally, she states, “Energy is costly, and the issue of climate change is pressing.”

According to Energy Star, a washing machine uses 90% of its energy to heat water.

Derek Guy, the author of the blog Die, Workwear!, also known as “the menswear guy” on X, washes his clothes on cold too. But Richardson, who lives in Minnesota, has another view: “Warm water express cycle.”

The speaker states that their temperature is approximately 42 degrees Fahrenheit. They believe this is too low for effective laundry cleaning. They suggest using warm water and a shorter wash cycle, as this is better for clothing. They also mention that prolonging the life of clothing is important for sustainability.

What is the recommended amount of detergent to use?

The prevailing opinion is that people tend to use excessive amounts.

According to Richardson, using two tablespoons of detergent is sufficient for a big laundry load. Overusing detergent is not only costly but also ineffective, as it can hinder the cleaning process. The purpose of soap is to capture dirt, so if it is not properly rinsed off, the dirt will remain on the clothes. Using less detergent ensures that the clothes are fully clean, as they can be thoroughly rinsed.

Where is the appropriate place to put the detergent?

Russell advises that powder detergent should be placed in the designated drawer to prevent clumping in the drum. Liquid detergent should be poured directly on top of clothes, while pods should be placed at the back or bottom of the machine, under the items, for quicker bursting and circulation of the detergent.

Is softener beneficial or harmful?

Richardson strongly disagrees with the use of fabric softener, stating that it can cause allergies in certain individuals. Additionally, coating fabrics with softener can decrease their ability to absorb moisture, which can be a major issue for items such as towels that are meant to absorb liquids. This can also be problematic for everyday clothing.

Richardson explains that we may not be aware of it, but the absorbency of our clothes is beneficial. For instance, on a hot day when wearing a cotton shirt, the fabric absorbs sweat and allows it to evaporate on the surface, keeping us comfortable.

Per Russell, using softener not only decreases the absorbency of the items being washed, but it can also make them more difficult to clean in the future. Many people may notice a sudden unpleasant odor in their clothes, which is often caused by fabric softener. Although it may have a pleasant scent initially, Russell clarifies that frequent use of softener can lead to a buildup of conditioner that traps dirt and odors.

If you have been using fabric softener on your clothes for a long time, don’t worry. Russell suggests using washing soda, which is also called sodium carbonate, to eliminate any buildup from conditioner.

A young person holding a garment in her hand over a basket of laundry looking dismayed

Should different types of clothing be separated?

It’s time to wash your clothes and you’re faced with a full hamper. What is your next step?

Russell’s most strict rule is to never mix pure white with anything that is not pure white when washing.

If you need to wash items that are brightly colored and have multiple colors, Russell has a helpful tip. She suggests using a product called a “color catcher.” This is a highly absorbent material that is placed in the washing machine. It collects any dye that may come out in the wash water, preventing it from staining other fabrics.

Russell’s preference is to divide items made of natural materials and garments containing animal hair, which should typically be hand washed or washed on a delicate cycle. However, the garment usually includes instructions on how to properly launder it.

According to Guy, it is important to always check the garment label. If the label instructs to dry clean the piece, it is best to follow those instructions rather than taking a different approach. Understanding the construction and materials of the garment can help prolong its lifespan through proper cleaning methods.

An image of washing machines placed together side by side

What is the best way to locate a quality dry cleaning service?

Guy advises against excessive dry cleaning and suggests researching before taking clothes to a nearby store.

Guy suggests limiting the frequency of dry cleaning, as many dry cleaners in densely populated areas like New York simply act as drop-off points. The clothes are then sent to larger cleaning facilities, some of which reuse their cleaning solutions, which Guy finds unappealing.

In order to determine the level of care a dry cleaner provides for clothes, Guy recommends inquiring about their on-site cleaning process and how they handle stains. Are they transparent about treating oil and water stains differently? Do they remove trims, such as brass buttons on a blazer, before cleaning? According to Guy, a dry cleaner who can provide these details is likely more trustworthy than one who outsources to a low-cost cleaning facility and relies on luck for your garment to remain undamaged.

If you are looking for a more targeted suggestion and have the resources to send your cherished possessions on a lengthy trip for revitalization, Guy suggests the following: “RAVE FabriCARE in Arizona is highly recommended as one of the top dry cleaners in the United States,” he states. “They will carefully remove all buttons and trims, treat any stains, and successfully eliminate them. If you have a valuable item, this is your best option for removing the stain.”

What is your method for removing stains?

Pre-treatment stain removers can be useful in removing specific stains. However, it is crucial to have knowledge about the fabric and type of stain in order for this method to be effective. Guy cautions that not all pre-treatments are equal, so it is important to understand the differences. The approach to treating a stain depends on whether it is oil-based (such as salad dressing or pizza drippings) or water-based (like orange juice or wine).

“If you encounter a water-based stain, you can typically handle it yourself with a damp wash,” he explains. However, attempting a wet wash on an oil stain can actually cause it to become more embedded in the fabric. In that case, it is best to entrust the garment to a professional and dependable dry cleaner to completely eliminate the stain.

Some pre-treatments may be effective for certain types of stains, such as water-based but not oil-based stains. However, certain stains may require a combination of treatments. This information is not always clear from the product packaging, making it challenging to find a pre-treatment that effectively removes the specific stain you are dealing with. As a solution, Guy suggests taking valuable items to a professional dry cleaner for stain removal.

A person cleaning lint from a lint trapper

For less expensive items that you do not have a strong attachment to, he suggests using OxiClean as an alternative to chlorine bleach. It is safe for colored fabrics and is widely available in the US. However, it is not suitable for all fabrics, such as dry clean only garments or those made from animal-derived materials like wool, silk, and leather.

According to Guy, a soak in OxiClean overnight can often solve many of the issues that people commonly complain about. For instance, if you have a shirt that is discolored with sweat stains, an overnight soak in OxiClean followed by a wash will likely resolve 90% of the problem.

Is your dryer being used excessively?

According to Guy, many individuals heavily depend on their dryer, which can actually damage clothing. He explains that dryers can cause fabrics to shrink, even if they have already been pre-shrunk. Additionally, they can strip clothes of their shine and fade their color.

Richardson stated it more directly: “The lint found in your dryer’s lint trap is a result of your clothes deteriorating.”

According to Richardson, the only items he puts in the dryer are sheets, towels, underwear, and socks. He states that sheets and towels are too large to air dry in his apartment, and he chooses to dry his underwear and socks because they are cheap and it frees up space on his drying racks.

Ann Russell advises against drying a large amount of laundry on racks indoors for a whole week, as it will not dry properly and may develop a bad odor. Instead, she suggests washing smaller loads more frequently.

According to Richardson, if you must use the dryer, be sure not to overload it and refrain from using dryer sheets. These sheets, similar to fabric softener, contain chemicals that can coat your clothes. Richardson strongly dislikes fabric softener and dryer sheets, even more than squirrels and mosquitoes.

Is it possible to eliminate unpleasant smells?

According to Richardson, the most effective method for removing odors from clothing is to spray them with vodka. He claims that vodka has the ability to absorb smells without leaving any color or scent behind. He recommends using the least expensive vodka available. This technique has proven successful on musty winter jackets, car seats, and even your furry friend’s preferred spot on the couch.

Source: theguardian.com