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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Prepping to Make Doing & Storing Your Laundry Better & Easier Than Ever

Simplify your available laundry products, for starters. I’ve found in over twenty years of doing laundry that all those additional specialty cleaners are unnecessary. A heavily-marketed example of this is the alleged need of a separate detergent for washing delicates. When you read the ingredient lists, it becomes quite obvious that there’s really no difference from product to product. I prefer scented products, as they make me feel pampered, and have no skin allergies to them. Please use fragrance-free formulations if you need to, though- it shouldn’t affect the cleaning quality at all to do that. Also be aware that more suds doesn't necessarily equal more cleaning power. The amounts called for by detergent companies are listed for a reason on the cap and/or their written directions- using more doesn't do much beyond increasing your water usage (because of additional required rinsing). Use the minimal amount of detergent needed to clean your clothes, as the more soap & rinsing you put into the clothing, the faster the clothing will wear out. The following list is comprised of my personal laundry room product essentials. As usual, feel free to substitute whatever you like best, but I wanted to give you a head-start with a list if you need or want it.

1) Resolve Foam Spray Stain Remover (This was formerly under the “Spray ‘n Wash” name. This is very hard to find now, which is a shame, because it got every stain but bleach out of clothing- blood, oil, old stains, everything.) However, a Tide To-Go pen or Earth Friendly Stain & Odor Remover also work. Don‘t start your outerwear load of laundry without checking for stains on your clothes, especially shirts! That old adage, "It'll come out in the wash"- yeah, sure it will. I love people who utter that only to sheepishly acknowledge that the marinara sauce did not in fact come out of that white shirt they threw in the washer untreated. Look at the front of your shirts before putting in the washing machine to see if any spots need treating, every single time you do a load of laundry, unless you are an insanely neat person or you don't cook.

2) Tide Powdered Detergent, which should come with it‘s own measuring scoop in the box. Original Gain powder is my second choice. Soap is soap, essentially. Ivory detergent works fine, too, but it’s not my favorite product scent-wise. Powdered detergent is best for hot water loads such as bed sheets, white bleachable loads & towels. If you want to kill dust mites, remove skin cells & dissolve body oils from items, the hotter your water is, the better. In cold water, powder has less ease in dissolving, and therefore I recommend using liquid detergent instead for warm or cold water loads.

3) Clorox Bleach & a two-cup plastic measuring cup. I only use this product on white or ivory clothing. If you want white towels to stay white, bleach is your new best friend. I can always tell instantly if a family doesn't use bleach in their laundering by the look of their towels. Sorry, but it's true. Dull laundry is a result of not sorting laundry properly, not using hot water when one should & not using powdered detergent and/or bleach. One cup of bleach is the max you’ll ever want to use in the washer, but buying a two-cup size means you won’t be filling the cup to capacity- less chance of splashing & spilling that way. Don’t use a glass measuring cup, as it’ll be at a greater risk of shattering. Bleach is hard on fabrics over time, so only use it in the amount called for based on load size for your washing machine.

4) Tide Liquid Detergent. I like the Mountain Spring Scent, and you just measure it into the detergent cap. Tap or wipe off excess detergent into the washer before putting the cap back on to avoid messy drips.

5) Downy Fabric Softener. Mountain Spring is also my favorite fragrance of their line, too. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets in loads containing towels, dishcloths, cotton cleaning cloths, microfiber cloths used for any purpose or polishing cloths. Fabric softener will create streaks & limit absorbency in household cleaning supplies & towels. Overuse of fabric softener will make cotton or linen sheets & clothing less absorbent of sweat, which is not good in warmer climates.

6) Scented dryer sheets- my preference is Bounce’s Outdoor Fresh Scent. These are optional, but are nice to have on hand if you forgot to use fabric softener in the rinse cycle. I also use them in my bedroom- I line my dresser drawers with them to keep my clothes stored in there fresh. The scented sheets are utilized in my suitcase, beach bag & any storage bags, too. What a difference this makes in keeping stored-away clothes & handbags fresh-smelling! When moving, they are nice to pack in cardboard boxes for the same exact reason.

7) Biz- This powdered laundry addition is spectacular for use on items that cannot take Clorox bleach. Biz has additional stain-removing qualities, upping the power of your detergent, especially important for clothing loads (who wants to ruin a shirt over one stupid stain?) It also makes clothes come out extra fresh-smelling, without adding a bunch of unneeded suds. A scoop may or may not come with the box. The usage size is ½ cup for a full laundry load. I recommend keeping a separate, plastic measuring cup set aside for this- don’t mix up the cup that you use for bleach with this cup. The best way to prevent cross-usage is to label the measuring cup with a black permanent marker- one for the Biz, one for the bleach. Sounds like a lot to do, I know, but once it’s done, it’s done forever!


Help for set-in  or hard-to-treat stains: Don't give up hope. Usually the item can be rescued. The one exception is getting chlorine bleach on clothing- unfortunately, there is no fix for that beyond possibly re-dyeing the entire item. Once bleach is allowed to absorb into a fabric, it will also weaken the fiber & eventually create a hole where the bleach spot originated. This is especially true if the bleach hit your item while it was dry & did not get laundered right away.

Hot water will typically only set stains (especially blood) more in clothing or sheets- if that got on an item, I highly recommend that you soak the garment before attempting a normal wash cycle. Add in a normal-sized portion of both Biz + powdered detergent, set your washer to run on the COLD water cycle, let it fill & then run it for a few minutes. Stop the washing machine while it's still on the agitating cycle & let the items soak overnight. The sooner you treat & wash a blood stain after it occurs, the better. The detergent & Biz solution can dig deep into the stain to treat it well. The next day (allow at least twelve hours of soaking- blood is notoriously hard to get out of items), run the washer as normal. Check your item(s) carefully- if any trace of the stain remains, put a good pre-treater on it & run the item through the washer once again in cold water, adding in liquid detergent this time. Make sure every last trace of detergent is gone from your rinse cycle afterwards. I've never personally had a stain so bad that this process didn't work, even with old stains.

There are all kinds of sorters out there for laundry, even labeled ones, with logos such as “Whites”, “Colors” & “Darks”. You don’t have to go all out, though. Buying a simple set of three to six matching laundry baskets is usually all that one needs, with the addition of one or two mesh zippered laundry bags for washing delicates in. Tide makes these bags, and they come with FlyLady’s Purple Rags in a Bag (which are indeed nice microfiber cloths), and that’s a big bonus. Being able to wash bras, panties, hosiery, bandanas, cloth headbands, handkerchiefs & other small, fragile items on the delicate cycle of the washer can be a huge timesaver. It certainly saves your hands from the dreaded chore of soaking & rinsing out a bunch of delicates. The spin cycle of the washer ensures that you won’t have delicates dripping down a bunch of water from wherever you hang these items out to dry. Items dry much faster, too, since all of the excess water is already out of them. Drying them with a fan directed at them, of course, speeds up the process even more. I don’t recommend putting bras, panties, lacey lingerie or hosiery in the dryer at all. You will shorten the life of the items, annoying pilling will appear on the fabric & lace, elastic will be worn out far faster, bras lose their shape in the dryer‘s heat & harsh motion, and lace will almost certainly tear & rip (bra hooks seem to catch on everything lacy, don’t they?)

On to the actual sorting process. I simply have three matching laundry baskets laid out neatly in a row. They’re in my bedroom, against one wall. If I had room in my closet for them, I’d put my laundry baskets in there, but I don’t. No big deal. My bedroom is for living in- it doesn’t have to look like it’s ready for a photo layout in “Better Homes & Gardens”. Mine are set out for whites (dishtowels, cotton handkerchiefs, basket liners, clothing & sheets), colored towels (my bathroom towels are beige for me, ivory for guests) & the last is for my clothing. As I change the towels throughout the days & weeks, undress each evening, and finish using cleaning cloths, I simply put the dirty items right into the appropriate basket or bag. You guessed it- this means no sorting right before you have put a load in the washer. It’s another variation on the FlyLady-is-right-again rule: Pick up after yourself as you go along, and you‘ll cut back on the straightening up you have to do right before you clean house or do laundry each day or week. Doing the sort-as-you-use process is more friendly to the eye, as you can clearly see when the basket or bag is full & ready for the washer. It therefore makes it so much easier to develop the habit of grabbing a basket and/or bag a day & doing the laundry- with everything already sorted, procrastination is less likely to occur. Of course, keeping the color scheme consistently going from lightest to darkest by basket means that my brain gets to go on auto-pilot as I sort, too! It also looks more orderly this way, and not so visually glaring.

My mom uses white bath towels & washcloths, and we use white hand towels in the kitchen (in addition to the dishcloths), so she has an additional laundry basket for that type of load in her bedroom. I don’t mix white towels with sheets or other items that can attract the towels’ lint. She has her own laundry basket for her outerwear, and her own mesh bags for her delicates. I advise against mixing up laundry from one person to another in one load, if at all possible. I realize that in big families this may not be possible. But it can make putting away laundry more complicated & time-consuming, increases the chances of a mix-up in whose stuff is whose & may transfer dyes from dark items over to lighter items, if they were not carefully sorted out beforehand. I recommend that each bathroom and/or person, as applicable, have their own color designated to them in towel color. Usually having a quantity of three to four in bath towels, hand towels & washcloths per person is enough to get them through a week, maybe two, if you‘re lucky. I have three mesh laundry bags, one for my personal delicates, one for my polishing cloths & dusting mitts (which I often use with Pledge Furniture Polish) and finally, one for household cleaning cloths. I don’t mix the cleaning cloths with polishing cloths. If any Comet or other abrasive cleaner from plain cleaning cloths leaves residue on your polishing cloths, you could end up scratching whatever furniture you wipe down your polishing cloths with. Don’t ever mix a product containing ammonia with bleach in the wash, and don’t clean cloths that were used with ammonia-based products in a bleach load. Doing so creates a dangerous chemical reaction that can destroy the lungs & even cause death.

No matter how tempting it may be to let it go, always see your laundry chore through from start to finish- sort, wash, dry, iron if absolutely necessary & put everything away. I know you may get so tired you feel about ready to drop sometimes before the dryer goes off, but leaving clothes & sheets in the dryer just leads to wrinkles. I’m not a fan of ironing, so I force myself to get my stuff out of the dryer ASAP no matter what. Don’t use household furniture which isn’t intended as laundry storage or exercise equipment as laundry “hanging space”. There are TONS of inexpensive free-standing drying racks, hang-over-the-closet-rod storage pieces (great for folded sweaters), underbed storage bags & boxes, over-the-door hook and/or shelving units, valet hooks & more to add room for clothing, if your closets & drawers don’t give you the room that you need. And beautiful armoires are sold in many places if you want more hidden clothing storage instead. Hopefully, though, you have already simplified your wardrobe as I suggested a few blogs back and this won’t be an issue. I like to hang up or fold away my laundry by “rainbow”- white, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, beige, brown, grey & black. This way, I always know where my stuff is. Make sure that you have enough hangers for your clothes, but get rid of the excess hangers to preserve space. I like to keep my dresser drawers done by a one-category-per-drawer strategy if I can, though. Again this helps the auto-pilot of simplifying turn on. For me, since I have five drawers in my dresser, this means drawer one is for panties & handkerchiefs, two is for socks & hosiery, three is for bras, four is for workout clothes & five is for sweaters & other items that can’t be hung up without damage. If you have the room, put your out-of-season clothes & shoes in a clear, vacuum-sealed bag to free up the most space possible for your currently-worn items. White, matching plastic hangers that have little hooks on each side for tank top straps, but are also big enough to slip skirts, pants & shorts over in half are my pick. Try to pick one or two closet organizer colors & stick to them, for the most continuity in design. If your hangers are white plastic, white plastic laundry baskets & white shoe shelves look great together, as one example.

I hope this helps. I know this is a long entry, but it’ll make you into a laundry goddess or god- I promise!!!

-Liz

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