Texas Living

The Laundry List

By Jennifer Smith 9.28.15

Thirty-five years ago, I watched my mom and three aunts make notes for my cousin on how to do laundry. He was heading off to college, and he’d never washed a scrap of clothing in his life.

Now a 43-year-old mom myself, I think about that list often. It mostly comes to mind when I face the mounds of whites, lights, and darks generated every other day by my family of five. I long to know what was in their instructions. Were they secrets only the older generation knows? Long-forgotten stain removal tips and whitening tricks, perhaps?

I’ll likely never know what was on the list, but I have compiled my own list of must-know laundry tips.

Get to know the new technology. New, high-efficiency washers work differently than older models. They require less detergent. Popular front loaders have mildew issues on the rubber seal around the door that require cleaning periodically. Read and follow the instruction booklets for your washer and dryer. Using your washer correctly is good for your clothing and the machine, and it will make both last longer. 

Use the right detergent. High-efficiency washers (versus standard machines) require specially formulated detergent. Look for the “HE” (high-efficiency) logo on the packaging. Most brands offer this version.

Develop a sorting strategy. Lauren Hill, the mom behind MamasLaundryTalk.com, says there’s more than one way to sort laundry: by color (darks, whites, lights), by fabric weight (heavy cottons, thin cottons, denim and delicates — washing heavy denim with cotton shirts can tear the thinner fabric, for instance), or by stains (make a pile of pieces that need special attention). Hill puts towels and sheets in a category by themselves. She also acknowledges that some folks wash everything in cold water to avoid sorting altogether.

Read the labels. When the manufacturer says to wash an item in cold water, there’s always a reason. And noticing the “Dry Clean Only” and “Lay Flat To Dry” tags will save you from shrinking or stretching your favorite new sweater or little black dress.

Save your socks. Real Simple magazine offers the simplest solution of all time: Pin pairs of socks together before washing and drying. Never again lose your mind trying to match them.

Find a go-to guide for stain removal: Clorox offers a convenient, one-click-and-you’ve-got-answers guide. It offers solutions for the most common stain emergencies.

Skip liquid softener on towels. The author of the CleanMama.net blog says towel fibers become coated with liquid softener in the wash and can lose their softness. Try white vinegar in the rinse cycle or dryer sheets instead.

Fold clothes immediately. Save ironing time by hanging and folding clothes right as they come out of the dryer. Having hangers handy makes the task more likely to get done.

While laundry will always be a chore, these tips can make it easier, more efficient, and keep your clothes looking their best.

Does your college student need help with more than just laundry? Check out our college-prep checklist for more life skills every young person needs.