Experts Tell Us How We’re All Doing Our Laundry Wrong
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Even if your wardrobe rotation has shrunk considerably (shoutout #WFHLife), how you take care of that revolving cast of garments matters even more. If you’ve been doing laundry the same way since your teenage years, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong.
“People traditionally use too much laundry detergent and do laundry way too often,” says Puracy CEO Sean Busch.
Besides soiled workout and performance clothes, your day-to-day actions probably aren’t enough to warrant washing shirts, pants, and other exterior pieces. When it comes time to run laundry, there are many ways to improve the efficiency and cleanliness of your work and perhaps improve your clothes’ longevity.
With that in mind, we spoke with several laundry experts to gather some easy ways to improve your overall laundry routine.
First, a Note About the Environment
More science and research continue to emerge about synthetic laundry products’ harmful effects on our bodies and the environment. While considering these steps to improve your laundry, take the time to switch out those chemical-laden cleaners for ones with more natural ingredients. Not only are you sparing your skin contact with a range of nasty byproducts, you’re also lessening the chemical leakage that drains into our waterways, one load at a time. (More on this here.)
Specifically for drying, stop using fabric softeners and dryer sheets. These typically contain synthetic fragrances that do more damage than good to your clothes. The chemicals that comprise these products will ruin technical aspects of performance clothes and speed up the degradation of natural fabrics.
Without getting too specific, fabric softeners end up leaving a layer of film on certain fabrics, leaving less room for the fabric to breath. That coating builds up with more use and traps in water and detergent. Whatever is getting trapped underneath the layer of film has no choice but to hamper the textile it’s touching. This ends up blocking the performance ability of certain textiles, like moisture-wicking. Dryer sheets leave extra residue behind that can cause similar issues not to mention degrading the efficiency of your dryer itself.
Cleancult Complete Liquid Laundry Bundle
Pay Special Attention to Outdoor Gear
If you’re like us, your routine has likely shifted to include more time outdoors these days, and that means your waterproof and insulated jackets and pants are getting more wear, and that means more care. Like anything else, however, there’s a right and a wrong way to maintain that precious water protection — don’t just throw your GORE-TEX in the washer on “regular”.
“If your jacket is a 2.5-layer waterproof garment — one where the ‘membrane’ or waterproof coating is against your skin, you need to wash it regularly to remove your skin oil from the layer or it will begin to break down that protection,” says Shannon Walton, former marketing and PR manager, Schoeller Textiles North America. “This sort of jacket should be washed in cold [or] warm water with a little detergent and hung to dry unless it says to tumble dry."
You could also use one of the Nikwax or NATHAN products specifically designed and formulated for your items. It’s a small investment, but these are the brands the pros turn to keep their outdoor gear in fine shape. These special textiles are like anything else: Take good care of them and they will take care of you.
Nathan Power Wash Detergent
How to Do Better Laundry in Shared Laundry Situations
If you live in an apartment complex or share in-home laundry with a couple of roommates, it’s worth adding a quick pre-clean to your routine.
All you need is some old, torn-up t-shirts and a good, plant-based surface cleaner. Spray the inside drum of both the washer and dryer, then wipe clean. You’re getting rid of any fabric and detergent residue left behind by the last user, giving your clothes a cleaner slate and you more control over what kind of detergent will touch your go-to garments.
“(An alternative option) is to make sure that the landlord and/or tenants agree on a cleaning schedule for the washer and dryer,” says Dan Rozek, Whirlpool Laundry Brand Manager.
If this ends up being the case, make sure whoever is doing the cleaning uses a neutral cleaner that won’t aggravate clothes or sensitive skin.
Puracy Nontoxic All Purpose Cleaner
Why Cleaning Your Laundry Machines Matters
Cleaning our laundry machines is something we don’t do often enough.
"We typically recommend that consumers give a quick towel swipe to their washer after each wash cycle and clean their dryer once a month,” says Ali Cafferty, Bosch home appliances Laundry Care Category Manager.
What you’re looking to remove is detergent residue in the washer and any lint that gets stuck over time in the nooks and crannies of the dryer.
For the washer specifically, Cafferty suggests after removing clothes from the washer, wipe the washer’s rubber gasket dry with a small hand towel and leave the washer door and detergent drawer open so that any remaining water can evaporate.
“If there is a buildup of residual detergent or additives, remove the detergent dispenser tray from the washer and hold it under warm running water. Then, lightly wipe away any remaining detergent residue before inserting back in the washer,” she adds.
For the dryer’s heat exchanger (the mechanism that cools excess heat and drains the vapor), remove it from the bottom of the dryer once it’s cool to the touch, remove any lint, and rinse under cool water. You can reinstall it once it’s completely dry.
A dryer’s moisture sensor measures how damp the laundry is and after long periods may become covered by a fine layer of limescale or detergent residue. (The sensor is typically next to the lint filter inside the dryer.) Simply wipe it clean with a soft cloth and a bit of white vinegar.
Whirlpool High-Efficiency Smart Washer and Dryer Set
How to Better Clean Linens and Fabrics
Now that you’ve improved your detergent game, you need to look at additives and other things you throw into the drum.
First off, don’t use chlorine bleach. Bleach is harsh and can damage the working components of your washer. Detergents and/or solid bleaching agents with oxygen bases, such as sodium percarbonate, are better alternatives. If you’re using an increasingly common “high efficiency" machine (typically marked with an “H-E” symbol), don’t use regular detergent in it because it could produce too many suds in low water levels.
Linus Adolfsson, founder of The Sleep Spa by Hästens advises to wash linens in cold water and dry gently to keep their intense color and delicate texture. For pillows, wash them and dry them with tennis balls twice a year and "a quality down pillow will feel like new and last for a decade”.
OxiClean Revive Laundry Whitener
When it comes time to dry, a good rule of thumb across the board is to only dry as much on the lowest possible temperature as needed. The loss of moisture is actually what shrinks clothing, so even taking out clothes just before full dryness can save shrink-prone fabrics. (Of course, if the tag says no machine dry or hang dry, follow those directions. Those tags are there for a reason.)
Following even just a couple of these tips should start to show significant improvements in your laundry, prolong your clothes’ life and ensure years of great wear.
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