Cleaning The Laundry

Before putting clothes in the washing machine, empty out all pockets, fasten buttons, zips and buckles. Do up bras. Tie loose sashes, and button sleeves to the front of blouses and shirts to prevent them tangling up. Remove any belts and large buckles. Mend any small tears, which are likely to become bigger in the wash.

Check for staining, especially for grease spots or protein stains such as blood, which will set if exposed to heat, and deal with them before washing. For grimy collars and cuffs, rub in a little neat washing-up liquid, or use a stick stain remover, such as Vanish.

Turn jeans inside out to reduce color run. Other items such as fleeces also benefit from being washed inside out because they are prone to pilling, better known as bobbles.

Wash sets of things together (sets of underwear, colored sets of bedding, pairs of socks). This way, they will all wear at the same rate. Do not overload the machine, because the water will be unable to circulate round the drum, leaving the clothes soapy or dingy. You can usually gauge by eye how much your machine can take – no more than three-quarters full is a good guide. Add detergent, fabric conditioner and/or bleach, if using.


How to wash woollens?

With gentle handling and a bit of common sense, woollens can be washed and worn for years. The most common problem with them is that they shrink or felt in the wash. This is caused by washing at too high temperatures, rough handling when washing by hand, and drying in a tumble-dryer or with direct heat. Unfortunately there is nothing to be done about this once it has happened; shrinking is irreversible. You can prevent it, though, by remembering the following:

– never machine-wash woollens unless the label specifically states that it is safe to do so. If no doubt, wash by hand and wash gently;

– do not tumble-dry wool unless the care label says you can. Dry flat, out of direct sunlight and away from direct sources of heat.

How to wash synthetics?

Synthetics include all polyesters, acrylics, lycra, triacetate and so on. They do require a bit of care, so always use a special synthetics programme on the washing machine.

Synthetics can crease if you use the wrong wash programme, or if you overload the machine, so clothes cannot move about. Washing at too high a temperature, leaving wet washing in the machine for long periods, over-drying, and leaving dried clothes in the tumble-dryer for long periods can also cause creasing. If this happens, you can either grin and bear it, or wash again at a lower temperature in a smaller load and using the right synthetics programme.

To prevent creasing, always check the care label for the correct wash programme and temperature; remove washing from the machine as soon as it is feasible to do so; do not tumble-dry at high temperature; remove clothes from the dryer promptly and fold or hang up.


How to wash sportswear?

Considering that sportswear is designed for rugged use, it is surprisingly demanding. Look at the care labels. Much sportswear should not be laundered with fabric conditioner; or should not be tumble-dried; or should be washed inside out, which means that the outside does not always get clean.

Many modern fabrics are designed to ‘wick’ away moisture. This means that, while you are exercising, sweat is drawn out of the fabric, keeping your body dry. But while the moisture is drawn out, the bacteria that cause clothes to smell sweaty remain and seem to set indelibly into the fabric. To compound the problem, the synthetic fibres from which sportswear is made should be washed only at low temperatures (usually a 30-40°C synthetics cycle), which can make it more difficult to get clean.

Wash sportswear as soon as possible after wearing. Do not let it sit in a sports bag, allowing sweat to dry in and grass stains to set. Soak in a lukewarm solution of enzyme pre-wash detergent, such as Bio-Tex, for an hour or so. Wash according to the instructions on the care label. Dry naturally, not in tumble-dryer, and iron, if necessary, using a cool iron on the reverse of the fabric.

Some washing machines now have a sportswear programme that includes long pre-wash soak and super-rinse cycles.

Apart from sweat, the three stains on sportswear are mud, grass and red polish from the ball. To revive dingy cricket jumpers, soak for up to an hour in a solution of Calgon water softener, diluted according to instructions, rinse thoroughly, then wash as usual.


How to wash cottons?

Cotton is the most versatile of fabrics – light, yet strong and durable, and with the ability to take deep dyes and to be woven into different weights and textures, from the lightest muslin to heavy towelling. Cotton is also very forgiving, washes like a dream and can withstand quite hard handling.

Although cottons can be washed at very high temperatures, all except very hardy cottons will eventually fade or even shrink with repeated boil washes. A 30-40°C wash will be adequate for most cleaning purposes.

For best results use detergents specifically designed for whites or coloreds. Turn colored cotton clothes inside out and in the most cases wash at 30-40°C. Cotton creases easily, so iron while still damp.

Tags: home cleaning tips, laundry

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