Washing and folding

7 May 2018
Our laundries are mainly used for washing clothes and household fabrics but they also hold a place of importance as your home cleaning headquarters. I'm sure you don't like having too many harsh chemicals in your home and it makes sense to keep all cleaning chemicals in one place - this is vital if you have young children living in or visiting your home.  But today we're talking about washing clothes, next week, we'll go on to general cleaning and making your cleaners.

Dealing with Washing
I know it’s difficult remaining upbeat when you’re doing the fifth load of washing and you’re tired. I find that doing all the heavy chores like washing and ironing are easier in the morning. If you can organise yourself to have the washing ready to go when you get up and your energy is at its highest, you’ll get through it without having already worked a full day before you start. Maybe you can put a couple of loads through the machine in the evening and either leave them in the washing basket overnight or put them in the dryer to be folded just before bed time. Or just before you go to bed, fill the machine and soak a load to start in the morning.

It’s also a good idea to use products you like. I love using the laundry liquid I make because I know it’s safe on my skin. I don't like to add fragrance to anything, I'm very suspicious of products that are fragrant, and then, when the clothes are drying and brought in from the line, they smell of sunshine and cleanliness.

It’s easy to become a bit obsessive about sorting pre-wash, so I like to keep it simple. Rather than having separate hampers for different kinds of washing, I have two hampers - one for us and one for floor rugs and Gracie's blankets and towels. I hang damp dishcloths and tea towels over the rim of the hampers so they can dry out.

When I’m about to do a wash, I empty the hamper and sort the items into heaps. Sometimes I have one heap, sometimes I have more. Most of our clothes are either cotton or linen and we have no permanent press to worry about. But you need to be familiar with your fabrics – every time you have something new to deal with, including secondhand items, read the care label. It will probably just confirm what you already know: that it can be washed along with the regular washing. But sometimes an item will require special care so that it doesn’t get damaged or pulled out of shape.

As you pick up each item for sorting, empty pockets, do up zippers and turn your darks inside out if you want to reduce fading. It’s a good idea to fasten the collar button on shirts and button long sleeves together to prevent tangling.

When you do your pre-wash sorting, decide what needs pre-treatment, such as stained or dirty garments, and what has to be handwashed. Small items such as pantyhose, bras and hankies can go into a small mesh bag. If there are a lot of small items I sort the whites from the darks and wash as two separate lots. If you only have one wool jumper or one pair of jeans and no other dark clothes, it would be prudent to wash the woollen jumper by hand and leave the jeans to be washed on the next washing day. It’s not environmentally sound or economically efficient to run a wash for only one item.
This is a general guide for sorting:

  • Whites and light colours
  • Darks and jeans
  • Towels, pillowcases and sheets
  • Small items and pantyhose 
  • Stained or very dirty items
  • Nappies
  • Wool, alpaca and knitted pure cotton
  • Delicate fabrics – silk, cashmere, embroidery, lace, etc.
We always hang the washing on the line and take it in when it's dry, folding and sorting as we go.  Dealing with the folding straight away makes the job easier because if you leave it for a few days, it will have new creases. Even if you can't put it all away immediately, try to fold everything and leave it in piles to be dealt with later.

Everyone has their own way to wash fabrics so if what you're doing is working, don't change.  Try to get into a routine with your laundry and work out the best way and time to do it.  Rethink how often you wash clothes - this is different for everyone. Don't automatically think everything needs to be washed after it's been worn once. If you can cut down on your washing, you'll save money, time, effort, water and electricity and that will help both your budget and your environment.

Next week will be the last of the laundry posts and it will be on general cleaning and how to make a few environmentally-friendly cleaners and pastes.