The average household washes around 20 kg of laundry per week – more than 6,000 items of clothing in a year! Laundry is one home cleaning task we often allow to literally pile up. Choosing the right products for the job and utilizing some clever laundry hacks and techniques will help keep your laundry pile manageable and your clothes in good condition for years to come.
Stocking your laundry with supplies
Your first step is to stock your laundry with the right supplies. We recommend:
- Washing machine. Choose a model that’s large enough for your family’s typical load, and consider brands with the best energy ratings – this will help save money off your power bill, as well as lowering your energy consumption.
- Dryer. This is not essential unless you don’t have space for an outdoor line. Dryers use lots of power, so beware of these hidden costs.
- Indoor drying racks. Absolutely essential. Choose a good portable one you can move to different rooms of the house. It’s good to set up near an open door/window or on a deck where air circulation will dry your clothes.
- Garment bags. Ideal for keeping delicates like underwear and hosiery safe during the wash.
- Iron and ironing board. Essential for removing wrinkles from your clothing. It’s a good idea to keep these in your laundry and iron as soon as clothes come out of the dryer or off the line.
- Baking soda. A great, natural tool to help remove many common stains and odours.
- Scrub brush and sponges. For scrubbing at tough stains.
- Paper towel roll. These are just insanely handy and you’ll have a million different uses for it.
- Lint roller / brush. Essential if you have pets in your home. Keep these convenient for removing stray hairs and lint from washed clothing.
- Hampers and baskets. To help you sort and carry laundry.
- Natural Laundry detergents, soaps, and stain removers.
When choosing products, the most important decision you need to make is what type of ingredients you want to use on your clothing. You might be surprised to learn about the common ingredients in laundry detergents and supplies. Some of these can have a harmful impact on your family, clothing, and the environment:
- A surfactant helps to slough the soil away from the fabric. Sounds great, but when these chemicals end up in waterways they surround fish and prevent them from being able to breathe through their gills.
- Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are chemicals are used in thousands of common cleaning products. SLES/SLES come with a long list of health concerns, including skin irritation, eye irritation, organ toxicity, endocrine disruption, cellular changes, and cancer.
- Bleach may help keep your fabrics white and bright, but it will wear down fabric faster than any other product. It’s also made from chlorine, a common carcinogen that can cause allergic reactions in humans and destroy ecosystems once it ends up in waterways.
- Petrochemicals derived from synthetic crude oil are used as the cleaning agent in some laundry liquids. These have been linked to cancer and lung damage, as well as having a harmful effect on the environment. According to one study, if every household replaced one bottle of petroleum-based laundry detergent with an eco-friendly one, we could save 149,000 barrels of oil per year.
For this reason, you should consider alternative options that are safer for your family, your clothing, and the environment.
Choosing all-natural laundry supplies
There are many benefits to using all natural laundry products, including:
- No residue. Products like chlorine bleach leave a residue on your clothes that can be absorbed through your skin. Babies, children, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to skin, breathing and other health problems caused by this. All-natural products won’t leave this harmful residue.
- Increased longevity of clothing. Natural products are gentler, giving less wear-and-tear than laundry products containing harsh and toxic chemicals.
- Saving the environment. A geographical survey in the US revealed 69 percent of streams contained high levels of chemicals commonly found in laundry detergents. Using all-natural ingredients helps to keep toxic substances out of waterways where they hurt ecosystems.
- Saving energy. 90% of power usage from doing the laundry is used to heat hot water. With many all-natural ingredients, you’ll able to use them with cold water, meaning you’ll save money on your power bill while cutting back your energy consumption;
- Cut back on softeners. Because all-natural detergents have a different makeup and remove stains in a different way, you often won’t require fabric softeners, which saves money and also improves the longevity of your clothing.
There are so many reasons to stock your laundry with all-natural products. Check out the selection from Living Green for all your laundry needs.
Dealing with common stains
One of the worst parts about laundry is trying to get rid of tough stains like tomato sauce, blood, and grass. Here are our recommendations for dealing with the toughest stains.
- Blood: For a fresh blood stain, soak in cold water (hot water will set the stain), then launder as usual. For dried blood, soak in warm water with a stain remover, then launder as usual.
- Red wine: Soak in cook water for half an hour, or use a sponge to dab the stain with cool water. Treat with a pre-wash stain remover, then launder as usual.
- Grass: Soak item in water with a little detergent, then launder as usual.
- Tomato sauce: Don’t dab at the stain, as you’ll spread it through the fabric. Instead, use a knife or spoon to remove excess sauce, then as soon as possible run the stain under cold water from the opposite side to flush out the stain. You can now launder as usual.
- Grease/oil: For a light stain, treat it with a stain remover or laundry detergent, then launder on the hottest possible temperature that’s safe for the fabric (check the instructions carefully).
For best results, you should deal with the stain as soon as possible, ideally right after it happens.
The Cleaning Institute has an excellent list of stain removal tips for all kinds of different stains. For a more natural approach, the Humbled Homemaker blog has a great article filled with DIY solutions to treating common stains with natural household products.
Caring for different items and fabrics
Our clothing is made from many different types of fabrics and materials, each with its own unique properties. To get the best results, avoid misshaping garments, and keep clothes looking better for longer, it’s best to follow these guidelines for specific fabrics and items:
- Cotton: Many of our everyday clothes – including t-shirts and trousers – are made of cotton, as well as fancier garments. The most important thing to note about cotton is that the fibres will shrink in hot water unless the items has been pre-processed or pre-shrunk. Check the label – anything cotton that says “cold-wash only” will shrink if you put it in hot water. Otherwise, all your cotton can go in hot or warm water to wash, and should be line dried or dried at a lower heat to avoid shrinkage.
- Linen: Another natural fabric, linen is very delicate and often requires dry-cleaning. Check the labels carefully before washing. If you can machine-wash your linen, follow instructions on the label, which will vary depending on the colour. Linen absorbs a lot of water during washing so be careful to wash only with similar colours to avoid bleed and not to overcrowd the machine. Air dry your linen and iron on the inside-out.
- Silk: Another natural fabric, silk is often used for luxury clothing, formal wear, and accessories like ties and scarves. Silk is technically washable, but the weaves used to create the fabric will often snag and pucker in the wash, and the dyes are often not colour-fast. The most important thing to do when washing silk is to check the labels – many items will be dry-clean only, and others will require hand washing or a delicate cold machine cycle. Air dry and use a warm iron to press if required.
- Wool. Another common natural fibre, wool is great for keeping warm in winter. It’s soft and cuddly, and technically washable. Be careful, though. Many woollen garments are constructed using methods that mean they can’t be washed. Read the label carefully and follow the instructions. Too much hot or cold water can cause irreversible shrinkage. It’s also good to lay delicate woolen items flat to dry so the shape doesn’t distort.
- Polyester. This is a synthetic fabric that’s durable and colourful. It’s often used in kids clothes. You can wash on warm (check the label first, of course) and tumble dry on low heat. Polyester will melt under too much heat so if ironing, use a low heat.
- Spandex. Another common synthetic fabric often used in activewear. Spandex is what gives clothing a little stretch. Spandex is often incorporated into other fabrics to create a blend. Spandex can be washed in the machine (check labels first), you don’t want to use hot water or chlorine bleach, as they’ll damage the fibres. For this reason, avoid drying in a machine, and use a low heat iron if required.
We’ve compiled these great tips to help you get the laundry done quicker and smarter:
- To clean towels, wash them in their own loads, separated by colour (to avoid discolouration on white towels) every 3-4 days. It’s best to use softeners sparingly (every 3-4 weeks if you absolutely must use it) and to avoid towels with decorative trims made with ribbons, lace, or rickwork, as these will wear out before the rest of the towel.
- To make your job easier later on, hit your clothes with the appropriate stain removal action as soon as possible after the stain occurs.
- Use multiple hampers around the house to eliminate sorting. For example, in each closet, have one for whites and one for colours, and have a separate one for towels in the laundry.
- Ask yourself how often you really need to wash your clothes. The less often you do washing and the less clothing you wear, the kinder you are to the environment and the more you save on money and time. Wear clothes more than once unless they’re stained or they smell. Did you know that some people never, ever wash their jeans? (but apparently putting them in the freezer helps them stay fresh).
- Are you sick of constantly searching for matching socks? Two things can help with this problem: have a box in your closet for single socks – once new laundry comes in, hunt through for any that pair up and place them together in your sock drawer. Another idea is to buy the same colour/shaped socks in bulk – this way it never matters how many you lose as they always match.
- Choose laundry products made with all-natural ingredients. They’re kinder on your clothes, will help garments last longer, and require less quantity so can end up saving you money.
- Clean your washing machine regularly to get rid of lint, animal and human hair, and soap gunk. This clean will help keep your machine running happily as well as improve its performance.
- Learn how to fold efficiently! Check out this video of 10 clever folds in 60 seconds. It will change your life.
- Wash clothing inside out. This helps keep them from fading longer.
- If you dry your sneakers in the dryer, but you hate hearing them banging around in there, jam the laces in the door so they hang (or use a sneaker dryer bag).
- Use garment bags for delicate items like lingerie. Hosiery, and socks, to keep them looking good longer and prevent snags.
- Dry sweaters and other woollen items flat to keep their shape.
Getting your laundry done doesn’t have to be an arduous chore filled with strong chemicals that damage your clothes, your health, and the environment. With a few simple tricks and techniques and the right products and supplies, you’ll be enjoyed fresh, clean, and healthy clothing every single day.