18 September 2007

Tips for a perfect wash

I usually use cold water in my washing machine, I will do a hot water wash only on whites. I use homemade laundry powder (recipe here) and I always treat stains before I put them into the washing machine. I have a front-loading, five star washing machine. I’ve washed this way for years. I’ve never had a problem with dirty clothes, colours that fade too quickly or hygiene problems with underwear, tea towels or tablecloths.

Always pre-treat stains
For small new stains use the homemade laundry powder mixed into a paste and apply the paste to the stain. Leave for 15 minutes, rub over the stain and then wash as normal in the washing machine. Most new stains, if treated just after the spill, will respond to this treatment. If you have a really dirty item, fill a nine litre bucket with hot water, place in a cap full of a non-chlorinated bleach powder or nappy soaker, dissolve the powder in the water and soak the dirty item in the bucket, preferably overnight, or at least until the water is cold. After this treatment you can wash the garment as normal in your washing machine. This treatment usually removes the worst stains.

Read the care labels
Be guided by the labels on your clothing but use your common sense when dealing with your laundry. If the label reads “dry clean only”, try a delicate hand wash on a small portion of the item to test for colourfastness and durability. If that small piece dries well, you can hand wash the entire piece. I’ve done this with clothes over the years with no ill effects. Always try to hand wash it as it will save you paying for dry cleaning and it will also save you from chemicals used in the dry cleaning process.

One ward of caution here. If you start hand washing, you should always hand wash it. If you dry clean, always dry clean. You can’t swap between processes.

Sorting the washing
I used to think this was a thorough waste of time. Now I do it routinely. It’s worth the effort. Remember when sorting before washing, also turn clothes out the correct way and empty the pockets. You can also check for stains at this point. If the stain is not removed by hand washing prior to machine washing, then it will have to be treated and soaked according to the instructions above.

Sort you clothes into piles before you start your washing. The basic sorting is to sort whites from everything else. If you have a pile of white clothes, it might contain things like white t-shirts, tablecloths, underwear or nighties. It’s fine to wash all these things together, although you might want to put your underwear into a mesh washing bag to keep them all together and to stop the bras and fine shoulder straps tangling with other clothing.

The next level of sorting will depend on the size of your family and the washing you have to do. If you have a big family, you can probably have a load for jeans, one for towels, one for cottons and so on. If you have little washing to do, you may just sort the whites from the darks or the heavy materials, like jeans, from the delicates.

Make sure you don’t wash new towels with dark clothes as you’ll get lint on the dark things and always be careful with red clothing. If you can, wash red with other bright colours or hand wash it if you know the colour will run. I have a red top that never runs but I have other red clothes that, no matter, how many times they are washed, they still shed some red pigment in every wash. If in doubt, test for colourfastness or hand wash.

When it's all washed, I hang the washing on the line to dry. I have a dryer, I never use it. Hanging washing outside allows the sun to give an extra bit of cleaning as UV radiation kills bacteria and prevents fungi from spreading. Don't leave the clothes on the line too long though as, over time, it will fade bright colours. There are two lovely side effects of line drying - seeing your clean clothes gently swaying in the breeze and smelling the sun in the clothes when you bring them inside. There is nothing better than sleeping on newly laundered sheets that have been dried in the sun.

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