Recently, a reader left me a message on Facebook, requesting that I write about laundry.
While I’m on this subject, I’d like to share a little observation, because I’m curious to know if anyone else has had this same experience. Since the birth of my third child, my weekly laundry seems to have doubled. Surely this can’t be right, can it?
Part of the problem is that my 3rd child happens to be a messy, slobbery little urchin who goes through 2-3 outfits per day, so I must do laundry every day. If I don’t, it becomes an unmanageable problem really, really quickly. Every morning, I find a laundry basket and walk through the house, picking up stray underwear, socks, and towels, and emptying the bedroom hampers. I used to be able to do one load of laundry each day and keep up pretty well, but not anymore. Now, I must wash, dry, fold, and put away at least two loads per day, or risk suffocating under a laundry mountain. Perhaps it will get better as the children get older (*snort*).
These are my tried and true laundry products:
Free and clear detergent - whichever brand is cheapest. I alternate between Purex, and All, depending on sale prices and coupon availability. I cannot tolerate scented laundry detergents. The smell gives me a headache, and the perfumes and dyes irritate my skin. I occasionally make homemade laundry detergent if I have the time to spare, and am unable to find a good deal at the store. See How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent.
Chlorine bleach - I prefer Clorox.
Clorox bleach pen – I love these because I can put the bleach right on the stain, and it doesn’t bleed onto the rest of the garment.
Spray and Wash with Resolve (it might be called “Resolve” now. It’s the green bottle with the red cap). This is the best pre-treatment spray I’ve found.
OxyClean, or generic equivalent. I use this to presoak badly stained clothing before washing. I do not use it in every wash load, because it’s very expensive.
Baking soda – even with a water softener, our water is still moderately hard, and a tablespoon of baking soda in each wash load helps boost my detergent’s sudsing power.
Bounce Free dryer sheets – I use a half sheet per load, with no discernible difference in fabric softening power.
Small scrub brush – to scrub stain remover into stains.
Dishpan – for presoaking, because I don’t have a laundry sink
We recently boosted the temp on our water heater to 130 degrees because we read an article which indicated that this temperature is necessary to kill dust mites. Since doing so, I’ve noticed an improvement in my asthma symptoms, and our clothes and dishes are cleaner.
Insert completely unrelated and unnecessary mini-rant: It drives me crazy when people say, “hot water heater.” Because it’s redundant. Hot water does not need to be heated. Aarrghhhh!
I sort my laundry into the following loads:
This includes most of my children’s clothing. I do not use a special detergent for baby clothes, because free and clear detergent is gentle enough for sensitive skin. I wash light colors in warm water.
Cold water cycle to prevent the colors from bleeding
Turn embellished jeans inside out before washing, and use warm water.
Colored towels and washcloths
Hot water cycle, plus one capful of bleach (add to wash water before you add towels). One capful will help kill germs, but will not damage colored fabrics.
-Socks, underwear, towels, dishtowels and cloths
Hot water, plus 1/4 cup bleach
-Other white clothing
Hot water, plus stain pretreatment as necessary
Sheets and pillowcases
Hot water cycle plus one capful of bleach. I try to wash sheets every week (more often if there’s illness in the family), but sometimes this gets stretched to every two weeks, depending on our schedule, and my associated level of exhaustion, and by extension, laundry tolerance and/or enthusiasm.
A few laundry tips:
Chlorine bleach whitens clothes and kills germs, which is why I use it when washing dish towels and cloths, bath towels, sheets and pillowcases, and socks. Don’t exceed 1/4 cup per load, and make sure to dilute it before adding to your wash water. I keep an empty OxyClean container next to my washing machine, and I fill it with water, add the bleach, then pour it into my wash water. This helps prevent “bleach disasters.” Also, be sure to read fabric labels carefully, as some fabrics are damaged by chlorine bleach.
Don’t overload your machine! Your clothes must be able to move freely, because the agitation is what cleans them. Fill your machine 2/3 full, and remember, clothes are not like brown sugar. They shouldn’t be firmly packed. I was taught in Home Ec (which isn’t even offered in most schools today. Sad) to fill the machine about 1/3 to 1/2 full with water, add detergent, then add clothes and allow machine to finish filling. If using powdered detergent, allow your machine to agitate for 10 or 15 seconds to dissolve the detergent, before adding clothes. If you see caked-on detergent on your clothes after washing, this step will help remedy that problem.
Treat stains right away. The longer they sit, the harder they will be to remove. If you use a scrub brush to rub your stain treatment into the clothing fibers, you may have better luck.
Save yourself unnecessary work, and improve your laundry outcomes by inspecting every item before it’s washed. I started doing this after Cakes left a Starburst (the original fruit chew) in her pants pocket, and it melted in the dryer, ruining several items of clothing.
- Empty pockets
- Close zippers, hook fasteners (such as on bras), and velcro
- Turn embellished items (IE: embroidered jeans, items with sequins or ornaments, etc) inside out to prevent damage
- Check for stains that may need special attention
- Straighten bunched up socks, and turn shirts and pajamas right side out (or teach your kids to do this themselves!) to save work when folding.
- Assign a laundry basket for each bedroom. When I finish folding the laundry, I sort it into the appropriate baskets, and put them just inside the bedroom doors. The occupants are required to put their own clean clothing away (except for DJ, obviously).
Also, in our house, whoever does the laundry gets to keep whatever goodies are found in pockets, such as money, candy, winning lottery tickets, etc. So far, this is the only perk of being the household laundress that I can think of.