Is your laundry technique unstoppable? Teach me your ways.
September 13, 2023 7:45 AM   Subscribe

We use small amounts of the cheapest detergent. Sometimes I sort by color. When my undergarments are dingy I soak them for 24 hours in Oxiclean. When I clean out the dryer lint trap, I wonder if I am slowly destroying my wardrobe. The burden of living a mediocre life is almost unbearable. I want to level up my laundry game. What are your life-changing laundry tips?

I'll also take tips on accepting my mediocrity in general, if you're not into laundry.
posted by mecran01 to Religion & Philosophy (33 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Ok, I'm not really into laundry (I don't sort by shade, nonetheless by color), but once for work I toured a big dry cleaning operation (a client) and the one thing I remember from that is the owner lamenting how most people over-wash their laundry. After that, I stopped using hot (or even warm) water for anything besides stuff like sheets/towels.
posted by coffeecat at 7:51 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]

Your clothes will last longer if you can dry them inside out on an outdoor washingline rather than in a tumble drier.

Tumble driers are HARD on clothes.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 7:53 AM on September 13 [8 favorites]

I'm not exactly hard on my clothes. (Desk job, no pastimes that involve sweating.) I wash everything in cold water on delicate. I hang my clothes to dry. And I wear things more than once (sometimes lots more than once) other than undies.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:59 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]

Don't tumble dry things with elastic, or stretch fabrics. Heat destroys the elastic.

In fact, hang things to dry whenever possible. I usually tumble dry sheets and towels, but not much apart from that.

Once in a while, sniff your machine after you take the clothes out, while it's still damp. If it smells mildewy, run it empty on the hot cycle with some bleach in it. (Do light-coloured things in the next load after that.) This goes double if you wash most things on cold with little detergent.

Wash your pillowcases more often than the rest of your bedsheets.

Socks should be quarantined into their own wash. So, separately, should underwear. Even if you cold-wash most things, use warm or hot water for those.

Seriously, don't wash underwear and socks together unless you want jock itch.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:05 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't describe my laundry techniques as unstoppable, but they are pretty good, I think. I do many of the same things listed above: I wash everything in cold water (modern detergents work fine in cold). I wear many things other than underwear more than once (often many more times than once -- often, with things like trousers you can just give them a decent airing out and they're ready to go). I almost never use my dryer -- all shirts get hung on plastic hangers and allowed to air dry in a doorway; other garments get hung either outside on a line or indoors on a folding rack -- which means they last much longer. Dryers are terribly hard on clothing and often really unnecessary.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 8:08 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]

It has recently been reported that a vast amount of the plastic nano-particles in our environment come from our textiles and they mainly get released during laundering.

This is not to say that switching to all cotton clothing and linen is an environmentally safe idea - cotton growing requires masses of pesticide and uses masses of water for irrigation, but you might still want to consider working towards a higher percentage of durable natural fabrics in your wardrobe and reducing the time the synthetics spend in the dryer as close to zero as possible.

Synthetics usually do very well indeed with hanging, except rayons which are such a bad idea they don't do well in the dryer either. Synthetics won't pick up moths if you hang them outside and are less likely to mildew if their drying is delayed. But hanging things to dry requires space inside if you have weeks of poor weather, and may not be a home decor aesthetic that you can handle - it that case it can be helpful to do laundry in the evening and hang before you go to bed, or do laundry in the morning and hang before you go to work. Fast fashion made out the usual flimsy synthetic fabric is likely to be dry when you get up in the morning or come home from work, and can be taken down as part of your daily routine.

If you do hang things to dry indoors they will dry faster if there is an ordinary household fan pointing at them.

In the winter when your home is heated hanging things to dry will be good for the humidity, unlike using the dryer.

I am another one on team cold water wash - and keep in mind that detergents can trigger asthma and often has some not very nice chemicals to breath, so if anyone in your family has allergies or suffers from respiratory problems like frequent sniffles, it's a good idea to go for a completely unscented detergent.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:17 AM on September 13

Ditto’ing the “wear clothes multiple times.” I wash all of my clothes in a single load (sheets and towels are a separate load) - I’ve never had issues with jock itch or anything similar - but I also purchase only natural fiber clothing - cotton, wool, a bit of silk or linen added - and natural fibers don’t have the same issues with microbial retention that synthetics do (especially wool socks). I use 1/3 as much detergent as recommended.

I can’t hang things outdoors, so I highly recommend 100% wool dryer balls for use in dryers. Yes, it does reduce drying time, and yes, they come out static free. I never use fabric softeners - have never needed to.
posted by Silvery Fish at 8:17 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]

I wonder if I am slowly destroying my wardrobe

I look at the lint left behind on my dryer's filter and come to the same conclusion. And as Jane the Brown said, if your clothes aren't made of natural fabrics you're introducing micro-plastic fibers into the environment, with every load.

Tumble driers are HARD on clothes.

Depends on the mix of clothes, IMO. I hear zippers and metal buttons banging against the side of the machine and believe they're slowly shredding my wardrobe. I've also heard side-loading washers are easier on clothes than top-loaders (especially those with rotors, which seem to be less common, nowadays, in the US).

And there was the time I put a favorite pair of shorts in my parents' dryer, down in the basement, forgetting its timed shut-off control was busted. The next morning, realizing it was still running, I went down there to find my shorts reduced to threads, result of an inadvertent stress-test.
posted by Rash at 8:19 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]

A vote for accepting mediocrity: I don't do anything special and yet my clothes seem to last for many years. Would they last for additional years if I treated them better? Maybe, but getting 6 years rather than 4 years out of a $30 shirt isn't worth the extra work for me.

Like others, I do try to wash only clothes that are actually dirty (not just because I've worn them). To minimize the dryer run-time, I use the extra-fast spin cycle and hang towels and heavy clothes to dry; that significantly reduces the amount of water that needs to be evaporated but only takes a minute, whereas hanging every item would take a lot more space and time.

There seems be a debate on the dryer balls. E.g., "We looked into them awhile back—There’s not really any evidence that they do anything except make bangy noises when your dryer’s running, but they don’t really hurt anything either, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ... Dryer balls do help fluff your towels and comforter if you tumble dry them, but there's nothing important about the wool ones vs tennis balls, for instance." vs. "dryer balls are a great solution to cut drying time and save money on your energy bill."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:26 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]

I was trying to figure out the dinginess problem and found out about Shout Color Catcher, which is supposed to prevent things from bleeding colors into each other. I had just bought a shirt that was blue and white, so I decided to try it. I noticed the color catcher sheet sometimes came out of the laundry discolored and sometimes didn't. It seemed like it was doing something, but I wasn't sure until one day I washed a red shirt with a white towel. The Color Catcher sheet came out dark red, and the towel was completely white. So I'm a big fan.

And if you do end up with color bleeding, Rit makes a color remover that works really well. I once had a whole load turn green, and the color remover saved everything.
posted by FencingGal at 8:28 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]

I fully believe everyone that clothes last longer if not tumble-dried, but I accept the mediocre truth that I'm simply not invested enough in saving the earth or my laundry to line-dry anything except wool and obviously-delicate garments, of which I have very few. (And I suppose I do hand-wash and hang dry the few plastic-containing synthetics I have.) I counter-balance this by only fully washing things when they actually need it and giving things that have been worn only once or twice under benign conditions a chance to just air out instead. And, you know, that's okay. I and my family have clean and comfortable clothing to go about our lives wearing. I am honestly not sure that'd be reliably true if we didn't use the machines. As it is, however, laundry takes up only a very small slice of our lives and is very rarely a source of stress. That's as we want it, rather than having yet another weather-dependent chore and/or something that takes up too much space in our small home. Again, I don't doubt that others also find peace and prosperity in air-drying everything but my tip for accepting mediocrity is to keep this issue in perspective. Everything is being slowly destroyed by entropy no matter what. And if you're in it for the planet, there are other choices in other areas of life you might make that would have just as much if not more impact. It's fine if others want to make different laundry decisions. We're all doing the best we can with what we've got and if tumble-drying is the thing that has to give in your life, I'm glad it's an available option.
posted by teremala at 8:37 AM on September 13 [7 favorites]

Some dryers have moisture sensors and you can tell them to leave the clothes varying levels of moistness. This reduces how much time they spend flopping around, making drying cheaper. If you take your hot but still slightly damp clothes out of the dryer promptly and fold them right away, most of the moisture will have evaporated while you are manipulating them, so by the time you put them away they're dry enough. Bonus: no static. There's no point at all in running the dryer until things are bone desert dry, that's hateful on your laundry.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:43 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]

All I care about is that towels get washed on HOT with oxiclean and some vinegar from time to time. Every so often all the whites get bleached, but this certainly isn’t an every wash situation.

I do a second rinse cycle on everything otherwise i don’t feel like all the detergent gets washed out (or enough to my liking).

There are some really fancy brands out there (le laundress) that can be worth gently washing your sweaters or something you want to smell extra nice from time to time. My friends have done it and I’ve noticed, but I haven’t forked out the money myself.

Keep a tide pen on you. Even if it doesn’t get out the stain immediately it makes it come out much easier later.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:43 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]

I recommend the book Laundry Love by Patric Richardson. I have switched to doing multiple things recommended in it, such as:

-washing EVERYTHING, meaning no more trips to the dry cleaner ever, for anything. There are specific techniques in the book for washing items you would not normally consider washable.
-washing everything in warm water, short cycle. This is instead of cold water, which I always used in the past. The author explains that washing in warm water only exposes the fabric to warm water for about 8 minutes and this is not enough time to cause shrinkage. I have done this with cashmere sweaters, blazers, cotton, linen, etc., and it has proved true.
-using liquid laundry detergent and a toothbrush to pre-treat for stains.
-not using commercial fabric softeners. The book talks more about this but I just don't use any fabric softeners and it doesn't seem to be an issue for me.
-hanging almost everything to dry, and only using the low setting on the dryer when you do tumble dry. I tumble dry all kitchen, bath, and bed linens and a few old socks, undergarments, and PJs. Everything else gets put on hangers and we hang it all up on a metro rack in the garage. It takes less than a day to 2 full days to dry, depending on weather. If it's more time-sensitive I hang it from the shower or towel rod.

*Edited to add that sometimes I add white vinegar to a load of towels to prevent odors. You are not supposed to do this regularly as it can damage some washing machine components and reduce the life of your washer. But it's an effective occasional treatment of towels.
posted by happy_cat at 8:48 AM on September 13 [5 favorites]

My only serious separation concern is textural, as I've had stuff ruined by washing motion and it makes me mad. So the first rule is you wash clothes with clothes, towels with towels, and bedding with bedding. I'll put some washcloths (which I use for a lot - face, household, etc) in with other things, but I put them in a lingerie bag. Clothing is always washed on cold, I might go higher on towels and bedding but it's not usually a huge priority.

Most of my clothing is selected for dry-ability in a clothes dryer, but a lot of women's nicer washable clothing will last longer air-dried. So those items all go into lingerie/sweater bags so that they are washed more carefully and easily set aside during dryer transfer. Those things I dry on a hanger, usually in an available doorway or on the shower curtain rod. With the wash bags, this is easy-peasy to manage.

I also use lingerie/wash bags for socks. I don't want to go sock-hunting every freaking load. They go in the bag, the bag goes in the dryer - tip: I use open-weave wash bags for things that DO go in the dryer, and closed/net mesh for things that hang dry. Unzip bag and dump in drawer. If I'm really organized I will also do all my underpants in bags (bras already go in bags for hang-dry) so I can again dump the bag in the drawer.

There's a bottle of oxi-clean spray IN or hanging from the HAMPER, which lives where I take my clothes off. I spray stains at point of removal (non-delicates only - my nice hang-dry clothes I may try to remove any debris with a washcloth at this time but I don't want oxiclean sitting on it for half a week or more, so those I do spray just before washing), then don't have to think about it again.

If at all possible, I fold and hang directly out of the dryer. If I take that pile to a second location, we're all screwed, it's not getting done. That's just me being in touch with who I truly am as a human trash panda, but honestly laundry is easier if you strategize it for who you really are and not who you wish you were.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:55 AM on September 13 [15 favorites]

I agree that washing on the lowest temperature to do the job is helpful and saves energy.

Don't overload the machine, but also, do full loads whenever possible.

Pre-spot with Shout or some other spray, there are a lot of brands, find what works for you. I've been using Shout for years, I don't love it, but I buy the big jug & have been refilling the same spray bottle for 22 years. I actually have two, one in the laundry area and one by the hamper. Hopefully we spray stuff at night when we get undressed, if not, every garment gets checked when it goes into the wash.

Check your stains to see if they came out before you put them in the dryer, as you can run them again. For troublesome greasy stains (like bike grease) a little dawn dishwashing detergent & some rubbing can do the job. There are very few stains that I can't get out. Turmeric is hard, but a little oxyclean paste on it in the evening before you put it in the hamper (and then it sits for days until the laundry) can work wonders.

All new or newish bright/dark items get washed with other dark things just in case a bleed episode. I sort, I have three loads a week. Dark or medium colored clothes, light clothes and delicate clothes. (Sheets/towels get their own load.)

Delicates usually get a product called sport suds, which is basically borax and much better and getting out the sweat and oils but works well on cold.

I rarely use bleach, but if I have something disgusting that needs it, I'll use it. I also opt for pine sol for things like dog laundry for disinfecting (but not being too harsh). Often soaking, if your machine has the setting, is best for getting rid of odors or stains.

I dry on the lowest setting, and many items get hang dried, or I take them out before they're fully dry (that's where the damage to elastics happens) and let them hang dry the rest of the way (I live in a humid area, so the dryer part really helps prevent mildew). For hang drying, I have a set of large molded suit hangers (thick shouldered ones) that are great for hanging blouses or cycling jerseys without making any shoulder boops. They hold the fabric apart especially at the top seams so they dry quicker. I just hang them on the rod in our sunny bathroom to dry over a day or two.

I use those washing soap sheets, which means I can tear them to the right size for the load, so no "over soaping", which I know can help.

I also use that oxyclean powder (generic unscented when I can find it) for light colored loads.

I've never used dryer sheets, instead I use those wool balls. They do beat up the clothes a little bit more, but they do speed drying.

I do almost all my delicates (except for wool/cashmere sweaters) in the machine. There's a setting on mine that's basically fill/mix & rinse. If you have a setting for extra spin, that's great for getting the most water out. The more water you get out, the less residue will be in your clothes.

Clean your washing machine regularly. Either a load with vinegar & hot water, bleach & hot water or one of those products for that. A mildewy washer just transfers that to every load. A crusty washer with scale will deteriorate quicker.

Always check pockets for coins, tissues & other little bits of plastic. For some items, I take out the strings or pulls and wash them in there or separately in the sink.

I dump the dryer items out on the bed, that way we'll deal with it. I always fold while it's warm, to avoid wrinkles.
posted by typetive at 9:02 AM on September 13

To fix your laundry game: have some clothes you wear at home that you don't mind getting dirty or wrinkled or some stains or dog hair or whatever, and wear them more than once. Maybe for a week - maybe for 2 if you are just sitting around watching tv and not working hard labor everyday. Put on nicer clothes when you leave the house or guests come over. This dramatically reduces the amount of clothes to wash, and keeps your 'out' clothes looking nicer.

The complaints about 'fast fashion' or clothes in general not lasting are overblown in that most clothes just aren't worn often enough to destroy them. They move out of style or people's size changes and they don't fit right anymore way more often than clothes are worn enough to be unwearable.

If you stay the same size for a relatively long number of years or you have a small 'capsule' warddrobe that you wear items often, I recommend spending a lot more on your clothes, because the price per wear moves quickly towards pocket change. A $100 shirt is down to $10 per wear if you wear it ten times. A $5 shirt down to $0.50 cents. You are worth more than covering your top with $.50 cents.

Also, when the drying is done, put them away immediately. Listen to music, whatever, don't stack them on the dryer or leave them in a basket.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:02 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, I meant to call this out specifically: I have Home Clothes. Aside from some pieces that are especially climate-specific my Home Clothes are the same v-neck 3/4 sleeve shirt and the same pajama pants, roughly 9 of each, and I re-wear them until I feel they've seen enough. I work from home and my shirts are generic enough to not matter on camera. My pants are cute, though.

Nice Clothes get put on directly before leaving the house, and changed immediately upon return, and hung up to air or back in the closet. This has made the biggest possible difference in the longevity of my Nice Clothes.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:59 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]

When you get undressed, pre-treat any oil spots with some foaming dawn detergent (refill with Dawn:water 4:1). Stains vary; it's easy to search for the right treatment.

Anything with elastic, which includes a lot, but especially underwear, will last several times longer if you dry it on a rack instead of the dryer. Heat kills elastic, tumbling wears stuff out.

The recommended amount of detergent is calculated to sell more detergent; extra detergent doesn't rinse out well and clothing gets dirtier. Small loads need less detergent. Don't jam 2 loads in to the machine.

Softener and dryer sheets leave a coating that makes towels less effective, and I've never seen the need for it. Stuff seems to need washing more often if you use it. Scented stuff promotes asthma.

Borax, the 20 mule team stuff, works on really dirty laundry and removes bad smells. I separate white stuff and do an occasional load with bleach, which also cleans the washer.
posted by theora55 at 10:04 AM on September 13

Lots of good answers above — chiming in to add my particular perspective as someone who is a bit neurotic about clothing and textiles, pretty bad at executive function, and has to use a laundromat. Here is my laundry routine:

1) Sort and treat laundry ASAP: I have a laundry hamper with compartments so I can sort as I go. If I have The Good Oxiclean Spray™ on hand I treat stains when I put clothes in the hamper. Unfortunately, lately I can only find The Bad Oxiclean Spray™ (which you can't just leave sitting around on your laundry) so I put stained things into a lingerie bag in hopes I will remember to treat the stain when it's laundry time.

2) How to sort: I don't have in-unit (or even in-building) laundry so I can't do a bunch of little fiddly loads whenever I want, YMMV. Also, I have very few things that would go in a load of "whites" — lots of black and bright colors — so I haven't sorted loads by color for years. Instead, I sort by water temp. I run a cold water load for jeans and delicates, a hot water load for sheets and towels, and everything else goes in a warm water load. I used to wash more things in cold but I feel like it doesn't actually remove deodorant residue as well as warm water, even with specialty detergent.

3) Laundry products: I used to use natural (Seventh Generation) detergent for many years and ... I feel like it did not get all the body funk out of my clothes. I switched to Tide Coldwater Clean and solved that problem. I also add unscented Oxiclean powder to the hot and warm loads — I don't notice that this is destroying my clothes any faster than usual. I use (and highly recommend) this giant rolling tote for laundry transport.

4) Drying: Again, trying to balance the realities of the laundromat with the value of my time and also the value of not destroying my clothes. All the hot wash stuff goes into a dryer on "high" for speed. I may add stuff I care less about (t-shirts, pajamas) into the hot dryer as well. Warm water load goes into the dryer on "low." IMO dryer temp matters more than water temp re: shrinkage and fading. Cold water items I hang to dry once I get home.

5) Special procedures: Like happy_cat, I wash almost everything in the machine. For RTW silk, wool & cashmere I run a delicate load with silk/wool detergent (important!), then dry flat. I do hand wash bras and handknits, and I dry clean my blazers and my wool overcoat, not because of the wool but because the fusible interfacings inside. And finally, if something is particularly gross, I will soak in the sink with OxiClean and hot water before taking to the laundromat.
posted by sparkling at 10:13 AM on September 13

This drying rack is absolutely huge but has made me much more likely to hang things to dry because they actually fit on the rack.

I'm a firm believer that higher quality detergent is worth it and use Tide (free and clear/unscented), except for athletic gear which gets the special sports detergent. No fabric softener or dryer sheets - wool dryer balls work fine.
posted by misskaz at 10:33 AM on September 13

We have separate hampers (well, compartments) for each type of laundry, so starting a load of laundry requires very little time. Also, it's easier to see which of the categories is closest to a full load (or to overflowing).

We use powdered detergent. I have a few small containers that I fill with one scoop of detergent each so that it's just as easy to use as the laundry pods, but cheaper, dosed according to my own preferences and not a poisoning risk for kids.

I don't do this myself, but closing zippers and turning clothing inside out before washing is supposed to help prevent wear and tear.
posted by demi-octopus at 10:33 AM on September 13

Spin dryer. Got delicates or special care items you want to take better care of, but air drying takes flippin forever? Spin most of that water right out. Minimal agitation, maximal water removal. Plus you can look at the water that comes out to see how much soap was left.

To be a real mediocre answerer, I don't know if this is more effective or efficient or THAT much more gentle than the spin dry cycle on the average washing machine. It is easier to stop it immediately whenever you like. My old top loader would take forever to stop enough to unlock the lid, and it seems that there's a bit of tumbling action in the spin of my front-loader.

I got my spin dryer (Amazon link but it's an old model) back in 2015 when I did all the laundry by hand. I still use it most loads because my washing machine shouldn't spin things more intensely than "low" for health & safety reasons. I can't imagine laundry life without a lil spin dryer.

For really delicate stuff and hanks of yarn, I hear a salad spinner works well!
posted by Baethan at 11:06 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]

For really delicate stuff and hanks of yarn, I hear a salad spinner works well!

Okay, this just blew my mind. I am going to try this on my bras next time I hand wash them.
posted by eekernohan at 11:11 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]

The last batch of all cotton T’s I bought from Lands End were basically made of lint.

Older iterations and T’s from Maggie's Organics and Clean Clothes are like a completely different fabric.
posted by jamjam at 12:25 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]

Yes to wash bags for socks. I have a few so I can wash socks in one, stockings/kneehighs in another, tights in a third.

I confess I let the handwashing build up then do it all in the bathtub and throw the sopping things in the machine to spin the water out. Just spin, no rinse or anything. Then hang to dry.

Check your washing machine's trap (if it's accessible) for coins, buttons and anything that's fallen off or out of your clothing through the years.

You stated that you clean your dryer's lint trap, and that is good, because not doing so is a fire hazard. If it's a condenser dryer, learn how to take out and clean the condenser and the water tank.

At one point, in desperation, I put a cat-fur-covered sofa throw in the dryer to beat the fur off it (on the tumble/no heat setting). It worked but this was a MISTAKE because the dryer smelled dusty for a long time afterwards. You can clean a washing machine, but cleaning a dryer is harder. I eventually put in a soaking wet towel with some lavender oil dribbled onto it and that made it somewhat better.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:00 PM on September 13

I always sort by color- even when I went to the laundromat. It's the number one thing you can do to keep clothes from looking dingy. I don't wear white, but we have white towels and I can't stand them looking dull.

We have an indoor drying rack that hangs over our machines and we use it a lot, though it doesn't hold a ton of stuff. I find that anything that is stinky or possibly oil stained has a better chance of truly coming clean on the second wash if it's air dried instead of having the stain or smell cooked into it.

I wash everything in the machine- ours has a delicate cycle that can be set to low or none for spin. we use Seventh Generation detergent because I like a bit of natural scent but not overpowering perfume. I highly recommend wool dryer balls to make everything fluffy, like comforters and feather pillows.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:17 PM on September 13

We (I) do a lot of the things mentioned here (socks in the lingerie bags, hang/flat dry most stuff, wool dryer balls) but one thing I haven't seen mentioned, maybe I missed it, was cleaning out the washing machine on the regular. When we moved into this house, we bought a new washing machine and it came with some Affresh tablets. I think there are other brands but that's the one we got. Every month I toss one in and run the tub clean cycle overnight as recommended. Probably I could get by doing it less often but that was the manufacturer's recommendation for the machine.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 1:18 PM on September 13

I've been experimenting with air flow tumbling to save energy. I do two cycles of air flow tumbling and then run the dryer on extra low heat. It takes about 5 hours to dry, but spinning the drum is about 1/12 the energy of heating the resistor. Once the dryer motor dies, I'm switching to a heat pump dryer as it also uses a low heat to dry and I can foam insulate the dryer exhaust vent in my house.
posted by DetriusXii at 3:26 PM on September 13

I sort by fabric. Cottons and durable fabrics get regular cycle. But mostly I wear Merino Wool and linen, which I do on delicate. I use cold water and half the recommended soap (I use the fabric strips and tear them in half).

I line dry everything except dishcloths and bed sheets. (My bath towels are linen so dry on the line. If they were cotton, I would put them in the dryer.)

Never use fabric softener, Bounce sheets or equivalent.
posted by dobbs at 6:57 PM on September 13

Trying not to repeat too much that's already been said, but I have a couple more:

- If possible store clean laundry near or in the laundry room. An example would be storing towels and linens (in bags) in a cabinet in the laundry room. If your home's layout can accommodate it, this set up helps streamline putting away things. One day when I retire, I hope to build or renovate a home to have the bathroom next to a laundry room/shared closet/storage room. This would save me so much time!

- Reuse clothes as much as possible. Most items of clothing can be used multiple times. The key is to not use them on consecutive days to allow them to dry in between (same goes for wearing shoes too).

- Use way less detergent and definitely don't use the manufacturer's suggested amount. I've read that you really only need 1-2 tbsp (yes tbsps!) per load. My mom used to use to fill up those big measuring cups that come with the detergent. Also check if you're using concentrated detergent vs. regular strength, you may need even less. I'm actually thinking of switching over to the sheet detergent as well for environmental reasons (cost of shipping large bottles, excessive use of phosphates, etc.).

- Hang clothes to dry and then put them in the dryer for 5 minutes to get the wrinkles out and make them softer. Easier on the clothes but you still get the benefits of the dryer.

- This more of a clothes buying hack, but I buy socks in bulk when I can. Much easier to match.

- Clean out your dryer and dryer hose routinely. I have a hose thing that attaches to the vacuum plus a large bristle brush thing that really cleans out the lint.

- I have a lot of black stuff for work and I use Woolite for darks. It does help to keep things from fading.

Also nthing not overloading the washer and using cold for almost everything.
posted by jraz at 8:11 AM on September 14

This isn't exactly protecting your clothes, but my personal laundry hack is taking it to the fluff & fold. I have done this for 15+ years and it is SO WORTH IT. A few things have been ruined over the years, but the time and annoyance I've saved have more than made up for it. I'm a single person and don't go thru a huge amount of dirty clothes so it's really pretty affordable, say $30-40 every 2-3 weeks.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:28 PM on September 14

Thought of one last one: check the level of your machine with a spirit level in both directions (forward/back and left/right). If it’s not level, water can pool inside it and get moldy and gross.

Also, your machine will make less noise in the spin cycle if it’s level, and the wear & tear on the bearings will be less.

Most machines have little screwy feet that you can unscrew to adjust the level. It’s better to have 2 people to do this: one to slightly lift the corner of the machine while the other crouches down to adjust the foot.

If you don’t have a spirit level, the iPhone Measure app has a Level function that does the same thing.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:21 AM on September 17

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