A laundry basket’s worth of clothes-washing tips

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Even if you try to do your laundry by your self, here are some tips that can help you to have a effective and joyful laundry time so next time you approach that load of laundry, consider this:

Hot water: It cleans better than cold. For tough stains, use the hottest water the fabric can bear.

Hand washing: It isn’t just for delicates. It’s also for the tough stains. When nothing else works, use some elbow grease and start scrubbing.

Animal vs. plant: For clothing fibers deriving from the animal kingdom — silk, wool, cashmere — all-purpose detergents are bad because they’re alkaline. Hand-wash with a mild or neutral-pH detergent, such as liquid dishwashing detergent. For fibers from the plant kingdom — cotton, linen, hemp — heavy-duty or all-purpose detergent is generally safe.

Rust buster: Using chlorine bleach on rust stains turns them brown. Use something acidic, such as lemon juice or vinegar.

The dope on soap: It’s OK to use mild bar soap for hand washables.

Odor eater: To rid your laundry hamper of odor, throw in a cup of baking soda.

Soak it up: This is the most powerful laundry trick. Need to remove mud from a kid’s pants? Soak them overnight in hot sudsy water.

How to Clean Your Front-Loading Washing Machine

Front-loading washing machines are energy efficient and use less detergent than top-loaders, but they sometimes have a tendency to harbor mold and unpleasant smells. By giving your washing machine a quick clean once a month, you’ll keep your front-loader fresh, which means cleaner clothes, too. This eco-friendly method doesn’t use bleach, costs only pennies to make, and comes together with ingredients you already have on hand.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Scrub sponge


  1. Start by mixing together the baking soda and water in a small bowl. This is going to be the “detergent” for cleaning the washing machine. Pour the vinegar into a measuring cup and head over to your washing machine.
  1. Add the baking soda mixture to the detergent container of your machine and pour the vinegar into the drum. Set your washer to normal load at the hottest water setting. Close the door and start the machine, letting it do all the hard work for you. The baking soda and vinegar naturally break up mineral deposits and any mold growth while cleaning and refreshing your washing machine.
  2. Use a clean scrubber to rub around the opening of the washing machine, removing stubborn mold or residue. Wipe clean with fresh water.
  1. Your washing machine is sparkling clean and ready to do a load of laundry! Give your front-loader a cleaning once a month to keep your clothes smelling fresh and your machine working in tip-top condition.
  1. Once you’re finished with your washing machine, take a few minutes to clean your dryer too!


16 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer Without Spending Big

As a reformed clothes-horse, I struggle to prevent myself from shopping for new duds on a daily basis. These are ways I’ve found that have helped me hang on to clothes I already have. (See also: To Buy or Not to Buy? Criteria for Thrift-Store Clothes Shopping)

1. Know Thyself

The first step in maintaining a wardrobe is to be aware of your cleaning limits and your clothing habits.

If you can’t afford to dry clean clothing, don’t buy dry-clean-only clothes. If you despise ironing and avoid it with all your might, don’t build your wardrobe around French cuff shirts or blouses that need starching. You’ll only regret it later when you can’t be bothered with the cost or hassle of upkeep, and you’ll either have to get rid of the clothes, or wear them wrinkled.

2. Color Wisely

If you have a habit of spilling coffee down your front, there’s no shame in wearing lots of chocolate brown, charcoal gray, and navy blue. Dark colors hide a multitude of clumsy moments.

3. Folding vs. Hanging

Make sure that you don’t fold clothes that need to be hung and don’t hang clothes that need to be folded. Sweater stretch on the hanger and dress shirts don’t do well folded, unless you are an expertly masterful folder of some kind.

4. Dress for The Task at Hand

It can be tempting to simply get messy chores done while wearing whatever it is we wore at work, but that’s a fast way to ruin work clothes. There’s a reason why moms frequently make a distinction between their kids’ “play clothes” and “school clothes.” If tackling a potentially dirty project, don’t do it in a dress shirt and slacks. Change into your grubbies before you get muddy. Also, wear an apron while cooking. I’ve ruined many a lovely dress over a pot of simmering bolognese.

5. Stop Laundering So Often

It’s really easy to want to wash an item of clothing after having worn it just once. But washing is the fastest way to help the fibers break down. The fewer times you have to wash, the longer it will last.

If you are too lazy to rehang worn (but clean) clothing, it’s OK to drape it over surfaces like your dresser or a chair, just as long as you don’t drop it on the floor. Once clothes are on the floor, they will HAVE to be washed before being worn again, but a draped shirt will live to see another day of wear.

The following items can also help you wear a shirt or a pair of pants more than once before washing:

  • Tide To Go Pen: These little pens cost less than $5, last for a long time, and will save your blouse when you manage to drop a dollop of marinara down the front. Coworkers and friends are always wowed by how quickly this trick works to remove stains from fabric. I use a Shout stick stain remover as well, on large stains, but the Tide pen allows you to use the stain treatment without having to wash the clothing item immediately thereafter.
  • Lint Roller: Sometimes a pair of black slacks doesn’t really need to be washed — it just needs the cat hair removed from around the cuffs. My white dog really loves to jump on my lap whenever I’m wearing dark colors (it’s like he knows), and it’s not that he’s dirty — he just sheds like it’s going out of style. I have lint rollers in every room of my house, and they keep my slacks looking professional. I also keep one at the office to pick up stray hair and fluff that inevitable lands on my back and shoulders during long days spent scratching my head.
  • Deodorant: Your shirts will smell better and stand up to multiple wearings if you yourself don’t stink.

6. Keep All Those Buttons

Every time you buy a new clothing item that comes with spare buttons, immediately put the buttons in a jar or box reserved entirely for buttons and spare thread. It’s easy to lose track of these important surplus buttons, and it’s one of the fastest ways for a cardigan to become useless.

7. Wash in Cold Water

People who wash their clothing in cold water will notice a drop in their energy bills very quickly. In addition, many fabrics (especially nylon and elastics) hold up better when subjected to less heat. Cold water detergents are designed to remove dirt even without the help of hot water, but even normal detergent will work well. Also, even though I try my hardest to be a stickler for the environment, a good capful of bleach will do amazing things for your whites — it’s almost like having new clothing.

[Some parents might note that it is very difficult to remove grass stains from a kid’s pants using cold water washes. To this I respond: this is why children should be dressed from head to toe in black. Not only can you imagine that they are little ninjas (or French poets, if they are pouting), but it’ll save you the pain of trying to remove all kinds of goobery stains from their clothing. Those of you who would like to note that I am not, in fact, a parent, and don’t know what I am talking about, I would just like to say this: you are right. I’m still planning on having black-clad children of my own, no matter what you say about how adorable they look in t-shirts with froggies on them.]

8. Obey the Laws of Color Separation

At the end of a long day, with loads and loads of laundry facing you, it can be tempting to just throw the reds in with the blues, but try to keep like colors washed with like colors. Reds and blues fade easily and everyone knows how one red sock can turn a whole load of whites a light shade of rose. Try your best to keep dissimilar colors apart in the laundry.

9. Zip Up Jeans/Hoodies Before Washing Them

Unzipped zipper edges on pants and hoodies are often very rough, and if left unzipped during the washing and drying cycles, they’ll chew up the rest of your clothing in no time! Make sure that all zippers are zipped to the top before tossing them in the wash.

10. Be Considerate of Your Underthings

Don’t tumble-dry your over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders. Bras and underwear made of fabrics and fabric blends (especially nylon) besides cotton don’t do well in the heat of a dryer. Hang or drape them to air dryinstead. And those little mesh bags that your mother used to nag you to use when washing delicate brassieres? They really do help to keep bra straps from wrapping around other clothing while in the wash. Be sure to fasten the bras, too, to prevent hooks from catching on delicate knits or sweaters.

11. Slip into Something New

Consider wearing some of the more traditional underclothes that have fallen out of fashion as of late — slips, body shapers, and undershirts will both help your clothing drape better over your body, and also protect clothing from sweat stains and friction that can cause wear and tear. I recently spent $70 on a body slimmer by Spanx (I used to buy the cheaper ones called Assets), and not only do I look slimmer, but the darn thing actually helps improve my posture. Also, it keeps my wobbly thighs firmly encased in fabric, which means that the insides of my pants don’t wear as quickly because my thighs don’t rub together as much.

You obviously don’t have to spend nearly as much for a cotton undershirt or a silk slip, but these things keep clothing away from your skin, and it doesn’t matter if they get stained, since no one else is going to see them. Undershirts, slips, and camisoles can help your clothing last longer.

12. Notice Your Surroundings

Those Aeron chairs, while comfortable, really rub the seat of your pants the wrong way. If you are noticing increased wear on your clothing, look around to see what part of your work or home environment could be contributing to it. The edge of your desk might be wearing down your shirt cuffs. Look for small ways to improve your position so that your clothing isn’t taking a beating while you are working.

13. Clean and/or Polish Your Shoes Frequently

Polishing may seem a bit tedious, but frequently wiping down your shoes with a barely-damp cloth with prevent dirt from settling into cracks permanently, and to keep leather from getting too dry (which causes cracking).

14. Don’t Wear Dress Shoes While Driving

I’ve ruined many a pair of dress pumps by doing nothing more than driving — the back of the heel rubs against my car’s floor mats, and before long, my black shoes are spotting fuzzy gray patches on the back where the carpet did its work. I’m not high-class enough to wear driving moccasins, so I just wear sandals or Crocs in the car and put my shoes on once I arrive at the office.

15. Patch Early, Patch Often

Blue jeans are usually the first items of clothing to develop little holes in them. You can patch clothing by buying fabric patches and applying with heat-activated adhesive, sew a cute patch over a tiny hole, or just stitch it up with a little needle and thread.

16. Reinforce Hems

Even cheap clothing can last a long time if you reinforce the hems with a simple stitch on a normal sewing machine. Skirts, pants, even underwear will wear longer and better when the hems are less flimsy. You don’t have to be a talented seamstress to hem a pair of pants – anyone can do it with a little practice. In addition, once a shirt’s wrists are looking ragged or your slacks are starting to wear at the hem, you can always take them in a bit. Hemlines rise and fall every season, but you can probably safely remove a half-inch from your favorite jeans without anyone noticing. This keeps hems nicer and overall appearance neater.

How often you should clean your washing machine — and how to do it

Laundry soils, detergents and hard water minerals build up in the washer in areas you can’t see and, over time, they develop an odor. Mold and mildew in the washer lid and the door are another cause of stink, says green cleaning coach Leslie Reichert.

RELATED: Start scrubbing and dusting! Spring clean with these room-by-room tips

So how do you de-funk a washer? Reichert suggests using these easy green-cleaning tips every six months to avoid any issues.

Top loading washers

Set the washer to the highest level and the hottest setting. Add four cups of white cleaning vinegar (six-percent acid) to the wash cycle. After the cycle starts, pause the machine and allow it to sit for an hour. During this time, wipe down the top of the washer with a microfiber cloth dipped in the hot vinegar water. Use an old toothbrush to clean the fabric softener and bleach dispensers, too. After an hour, continue the wash cycle.

Next, run another wash cycle using one cup of baking soda. At the end of the cycle, wipe the top inside of the washer tub to remove any scum.

One final tip: Stop mildew and mold by leaving the lid or door open when not in use.

Front loading washers

The rubber gasket at the front of the washer, especially in a high-efficiency (HE) washer, accumulates water, hair, scum and mildew. Before cleaning the washer drum, clean the gasket by spraying it with white vinegar and wiping with a damp microfiber cloth.

With the gasket clean, it’s time to take care of the washer. Set the washer to the highest level and the hottest water temperature. Add two cups of white cleaning vinegar (six-percent acid) to detergent dispenser. Run it through a complete cycle.

Run another cycle on the highest level and at the hottest water temperature, this time adding one-half cup of baking soda to the drum. When cycle is done, wipe inside drum of washer with a damp microfiber cloth. While you’re at it, wipe down the front of the machine, too. Now your washer’s looking and smelling good again.

A Laundry List of Helpful Clothes Washing Tips

Get Clean, Go Green

Our tips will help you reduce energy costs and be more environmentally conscious. Your clothes will be just as clean, but without the waste. And with that extra money you save on energy, you can go out and get some new clothes! It’s a win for your washing machine and for your wallet.

  1. Cold Water Wash – According to Energy Star, 90% of energy used by the washing machine is for heating water and only 10% goes to powering the motor. Lower your temperature settings for a more efficient wash. Whenever you can use cold water for your load, do it. Unless you need to run a hot water cycle to remove grease stains or wash whites, pick the warm or cold option. You can also consider cold-water detergents specifically designed for lower temperatures. Additionally, always turn the washing machine on cold-water rinse.
  2. Turn Down Thermostat – Head to your water heater and turn down the thermostat for energy savings. Most homes are set to around 140-degrees. Setting the thermostat to 120-degrees, if adequate for your home’s needs, is recommended to help with energy savings when running hot water loads. Reducing your hot water heater temperature is another helpful tip for energy conscious clothes washing.
  3. Maximize your machine – Maximize the space in your washer by washing full-size loads. Washing smaller loads uses unnecessary water and excess energy. Separate your colors and wait to do the load until there are enough clothing items of a particular kind. Regardless of how many clothing items you put in, the machine will use the same amount of water. Save time, water, and energy with this simple tip.
  4. When it’s dry, it’s dry – There’s no need to over-dry your clothes. Auto-dry your clothing so that it doesn’t run over. Drying uses excessive energy, especially if you’re used to doing things like adding wet items halfway through a load.
  5. Always clean the dryer filter – A clogged filter makes it so your dryer cannot perform at its peak. After every drying session, remove the filter and clear it for the next load. A film can build up if you use dryer sheets, so lightly scrub your filter when needed.

An earth-friendly laundry routine is beneficial for your home and our planet. Energy Star estimates that the average household does 400 loads of laundry annually. This uses 13,500 gallons of water! Operating costs, energy consumption, and water usage are all addressed by following some of Hiller’s helpful clothing tips.