We spend a lot of money on our clothes, so we have to maintain them. Don’t risk losing your favorite sweater, jeans, or blouse to a laundry accident. Here are nine tips that will help you channel your inner Martha Stewart and launder your clothes with the special care they deserve.
Tip No. 1: Sorting Matters. I didn’t separate laundry until I put a pair of jeans in with my t-shirts an turned them all pale blue. Such an epic loss will make you change your ways.
There are four laundry categories: darks, lights, towels/linens, and delicates. Many people combine their towels with their lights, but, because towels take so long to dry, commingling increases the risk of shrinkage.
To make the sorting process easier, choose a hamper with compartments. I own this Household Essentials hamper with two sorting sections. I also like this three-compartment hamper attached to a rolling rack so you can hang things to dry.
Tip No. 2: Become a Master of Stain Removal. With a bit of know-how, any stain can be removed. This chart is a handy jumping off point, but the best stain remover is Fels Naptha. This miracle bar will even remove those yellow underarm stains. Just remember to let the garment sit for at least an hour (or even overnight) if you’re dealing with a tough stain, and pre-soak set-in stains.
Tip No. 3: Check Care Labels. Know those white care-tags inside your clothes? They tell you how to properly launder a garment. This guide tells you how to decipher the symbols.
Tip No. 4: Not All Detergents Are Equal. I use Woolite for nearly all of my laundry. The mild formula protects my clothes from fading and shrinking. I keep regular Woolite and Woolite Dark (keeps your black clothes their blackest) on hand. It costs a bit more than other brands, so buy it at Costco. I also recommend The Laundress delicates wash for lacy lingerie.
Tip No. 5: Use Mesh Laundry Bags. At $22 a piece, Hanky Panky thongs must be washed with care to extend their lifespan, so use mesh bags. This keeps your delicates from getting twisted around other clothing, which can easily ruin them. You can also wash baseball caps, sleep masks, and anything you don’t want crushed in the bags.
The Laundress makes a fine mesh bag that’s perfect for lacy underthings. For a less expensive option, try this set from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Just make sure to buy one with the zipper and not a zip-tie. The cord can tangle in the agitator.
Tip No. 6: Dry It Right. Be careful not to overfill your dryer, or else nothing will get dry and the clothes could tangle. And make sure to follow the care instructions regarding heat settings; nothing ruins clothes faster than too much heat. If I’m ever in doubt, I air dry the clothes on this hanging mesh rack.
My sensitive skin hates fabric softener, so I throw in a few tennis balls instead (if it’s too loud, use these anti-static dryer balls). I also recommend this mesh dryer net for women who wash their gym shoes regularly.
Tip No. 7: Just Do It, Buy the Steamer. When K moved in, he brought one semi-neurotic dog and an industrial clothing steamer. It seemed like a fair trade. Steaming your clothes is easier than ironing, and saves you from burning delicate fabrics with a hot iron. This Rowenta is the best one on the market under-$150, because it allows you to steam both sides of a garment with ease. If you don’t have space for a full-size steamer, people rave about The Joy Mangano Little Steamer.
No. 8: No Wire Hangers, Ever! Want to send me into Joan Crawford fits of rage? Use those crappy, wire dry cleaner hangers. That garbage will stretch out your sleeves, snag your sweaters and snap without warning.
Tip No. 9: Don’t Forget Your Shoes. Boots looking dirty? Don’t have time for a shine? Buy these Jason Markk Quick Wipes to remove dirt and road salt (so important) and gently clean your footwear. I keep a few in my desk in case I step in a puddle or something. In a pinch, they also make a great cleaner for leather handbags.
[photos by Jennifer Debarros]