Laundry: Are You Doing It Wrong?

When it comes to life’s more unpleasant tasks (waiting at the DMV, cleaning hair out of the shower drain), there's one banal chore that tops the list. Every. Time. That age-old ritual — laundry. Every weekend we hear ourselves muttering, “Again?” And if, like us, you’re rushing to toss those jeans in, throw in some soap, and turn the dial so you can get to really important issues (like brunch), your clothes might just be getting the short end of the stick.
However basic or mundane it is, clothing care is one of those weird, personal things that people definitely have feelings about. And, chances are you're still doing laundry that same tried-and-true way. Habits can run deep, says Gwen Whiting, cofounder of the laundry-product line The Laundress. But, unfortunately, that routine could be based off misconceptions, and more importantly, could be costing you the big bucks. So, for the sake of preserving your Alex Wang tee and other go-tos, read on.
Oh, the dreaded armpit stain. It’s been responsible for the death of more gorgeous, silk, white tops than we can count. But there's good news: While soiled shirts may seem like an unavoidable summertime casualty, there are more preventative measures than just slathering on more deodorant. Whiting says you should be actively treating the armpit areas with each wash before that yellow stain ever starts creeping in. “It's always like, 'My shirt's disgusting! What happened?' While you see it appear overnight, it's been really building up,” she says. “The pit stain is a combination of your body oil and the products you use. It’s important to treat it and penetrate the fibers first.” Giving that little extra love with a few squirts of stain remover may just let that sundress have another season ahead of it.
If you imagine money burning when you think of dry-cleaning, well, you’re not alone. We confess to not buying certain items just because of certain directions on the care label. But the truth? According to Whiting, there are no garment-industry regulations when it comes to stating whether an item should be dry-cleaned. Crazy, right? She says that most labels will merely put it on the label to protect against complaints against consumers washing incorrectly. For instance, “many people consider linen a delicate, but it is really the strongest fiber, more so than cotton,” Whiting says. Likewise, silks can be washed on delicate, while wools should have their own cycle but should be washed in cold and laid out to dry. The one thing you shouldn’t put in the dryer? Your Lululemon. "The lycra and sports blends will lose all their elasticity and reduce the life span of the piece,” says Whiting. With all that extra money…yes, you thought it, more shopping.

Forgo The Pen
We’ve all been there. You’re out on Friday night, and that obnoxious drunk girl next you spills her Pinot Noir down the back of your white sheath dress. Next thing, you’re leaning over a sink scrubbing for dear life. But sometimes that frantic on-the-spot treatment can do more harm than good, according to Fred Holzhauer, a green chef at Method laundry. “Most stains do well if they are treated with just a drop or two of laundry soap just a few minutes before the article goes in the wash.” However, he mentions that ink is one that should be treated immediately. Whiting agrees: “I always leave the spots and treat them later and best when I can. I can’t stand when people spill, then make a bigger mess and huge spectacle drowning themselves in water and getting lint all over the area from the clothes or tissue!” she says. So, instead of fiercely clutching that on-the-go stain pen and spending an hour in the restroom, hit that dance floor. No one's looking anyway.

Hot wash? Cold wash? Sometimes, it can be tricky determining just what you need for those whites and brights. Whiting suggests that hotter is better in most cases. Bath towels need that scorching temp to break down sebum build up, but delicates should be put in a mesh bag and washed in cold. Brian Wallace, the president and CEO of the Coin Laundry Association says that while there is no industry standard on temperatures, hot cycles should be from 112 to 145 degrees and can include whites and colors. "The colder the water used, the more chemicals that may need to be used to achieve the desired results. However, new water-heating technology is significantly more eco-friendly and leaves a smaller carbon footprint." Moderately soiled, synthetic fiber, and permanent press items should be washed in warm (87 to 111 degrees). And those bright colors? Always ice cold.

Soap First
It's not rocket science, right? You dump the detergent in and clean magic happens. Well, not exactly. According to Justine Woodburn, Tide R&D researcher, front-loader machines have compartments for soap and bleach, which properly mix the solution through the agitation process. On the other hand, for top loaders, you need to put the soap directly into the drum of the machine. "It's always important to add your detergent as quickly as possible. That way you have a more even distribution so your clothes can get cleaner faster. If you're stuffing every item of clothing you own and then pouring the soap over the top, you're sabotaging the whole process." It's always important to follow the instructions with your machine but generally you should start the wash cycle, then add soap (and bleach if you're using it) and finally pop your clothes as the machine is about halfway full. And fabric softener should always go in during the rinse cycle. Yes, order does matter.

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