Around the House: Preserve Pristine Clothing by Practicing Care in the Wash

Around the House: Preserve Pristine Clothing by Practicing Care in the Wash

By Yehudit Garmaise

Washing machines are convenient but can leave clothes that remain stained, suffer shrinkage and tears, and produce fabric with mysteriously bleached-out spots. 

By following nine simple steps, clothing, sheets, and towels can stay spotless, look great, and last longer.

1. Don’t let dirty laundry sit for too long before throwing in a load. Every mother knows that grape juice and cholent that gets on children's clothing early in the day on Shabbos has to be washed right after Havdalah, or those clothes are likely ruined forever. Likewise, all dirty clothing should be washed as soon as possible to prevent stains from setting into the fabric.

Every day, try to throw in at least one or two loads of laundry to get stains out as soon as possible and to reduce the big mountain of laundry that might be waiting for you by the end of the week.

1. Empty the pockets of all clothing before washing them. Tissues, candy, candy wrappers, pens, and markers can create all sorts of problems once they are washed along with clothing.

2. Remove from the washing pile: dressier dresses, suits, wool sweaters, and wool winter coats: all of which will shrink, tear, and become covered with little pills if you try to get away with skipping the dry cleaner.

3. Sort your laundry in the following categories: towels, whites, colors, and delicates that must be washed on gentle settings and cannot be dried. 

Towels take a longer time to dry than other items, so it is best to wash and dry them only with other towels. Colors and whites should always be washed separately so that colored dyes do not leak onto whites and ruin them.

Delicates can easily get thrown into the dryer with other items accidentally, so things that should not be dried should be washed separately or at least put in a mesh bag that can be removed when each wash cycle is completed. 

4. Pretreat any stains you see while sorting your laundry. Separate the sprayed items for five minutes before running the load. 

5. Save very hot water for washing sheets, towels, and maybe very stained items. Hot water is what shrinks clothing in the wash. Clothing retains its size and shape best when washed in cold or warm water on gentle cycles.

6. Skip the dryer for many items: Dryers are very hard on clothing, so the best way to keep clothing in good condition is to dry it on racks and hangers. Skirts, cotton sweaters, anything knit, cotton shells, cotton pants, and casual dresses all should be washed in cold or warm water and then hung up or out to dry. 

7. Choose the “More Dry” Setting on your Dryer so towels get dried in one cycle. For most cotton clothing, choose the “Permanent Press” or other cooler settings so as not to over-dry, shrink, or otherwise damage clothing.

8. Get out of the habit of running a load of wash and then leaving items to sit in the machine overnight. Doing so not only causes machines and clothing to emit a moldy smell, but leaving clothing in machines overnight drastically increases their wrinkles, and they seem dirty all over again. Only run a load of laundry when you will be around to take out items to hang or put into the dryer as soon as possible.

9. Clean your washing machine regularly with two cups of white vinegar instead of detergent, and run an empty load on hot. Then, without any vinegar, run another regular cycle on hot. After that, use a soapy sponge to wipe down the exterior and top of the washing machine and dryer. 

Lastly, before using your dryer, remember to clean the lint remover to prevent clogs and to avoid creating a fire hazard.

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