Laundry Service is very expensive now, so I was lucky growing up to be raised by mother and grannie who believed that a needed to know certain things in order to be self-sufficient. Good, at the moment, I didn't feel all that fortunate because my education in these matters was imparted by practical experience, meaning that I had to DO all of the things they want me to learn. But, decades afterward, I can appreciate the value of knowing how to take care of myself. I learned to cook, clean, sew, make little household repairs, and do laundry.

It’s this latter task that I want to talk about here. In the years since my education at the hands of my mother and grandmother, I’ve met scores of young people who haven’t the vaguest clue about something as simple as basic laundry care. Doing laundry is a necessary evil at the best of times, and a daunting task at the worst of times. Hopefully, the following information will help make things easier when it comes to facing the task of getting clean clothes.

Note that this information applies to general laundering of washable fabrics. There will always be certain items in your wardrobe that – while being washable – need to be treated carefully to keep them looking their absolute best.

Step One: Separating the Loads
The first step prepare the laundry equipment. Then separate the clothes. Almost all of the clothing made today comes with care tags, which should be followed carefully. If the care tag for a garment says that the garment must be dry cleaned or professionally cleaned then that is what must be done. To do otherwise is to risk wasting the money spent to buy what is probably a fairly expensive article of clothing. Fortunately, most garments can be cared for and cleaned at home. Hand-wash items should be separated from machine washable clothing. The machine-washable clothing should be separated by fabric and color (what follows are basic separation categories and examples of the garments that belong in those categories):

Heavy, durable fabrics:
These garments tend to become the most soiled through their normal use. If your washer offers multiple wash cycles, use the most vigorous cycle to ensure proper soil removal when needed.

Dark and Colorfast Bold colors: These include blue jeans, denim skirts work uniforms, flannels shirts, dark or brightly-colored casual knits, dark and brightly colored sweats and tee shirts and similar clothing.

Light and Pastel colors: These include stone-washed jeans and skirts, khaki pants, casual broadcloth shirts, casual knits, light-colored sweats and tees, and light-colored flannels.

Mid-weight fabrics:
These garments usually receive only moderate amounts of soiling through their normal use. The normal wash cycle is sufficient for most of the garments that need cleansing. In cases of heavy soiling, use a pre-soak cycle. (If your machine doesn’t have a pre-soak cycle, simply stop the wash cycle for 15-20 minutes after the tub has filled.)

Dark and Colorfast Bold colors: These include dress pants and skirts, colored and patterned dress shirts and blouses, and dress socks.

Light and Pastel colors: These include light-colored dress knits and separates, light-colored dress socks, pastel and white dress shirts.

Light-weight fabrics:
These generally receive the lightest level of soiling and should be washed using the gentlest of the available wash cycles on your machine.

Dark and Colorfast Bold colors: These include washable silks, rayons, and delicate synthetic fabrics, such as lightweight synthetic blouses and shirts, lingerie and hosiery.

Light and Pastel colors: These include washable silks, rayons, and delicate synthetic fabrics, such as lightweight synthetic blouses and shirts, lingerie and hosiery.

Linens:
These are items that typically serve more utility functions and generally need thorough cleaning. Use either normal or heavy wash cycles depending on the level of soil.

Dark and Colorfast Bold colors: These include fashion bedding and towels, and most men’s colored undergarments.

Whites and Pastels: This is by far the largest category of washables. It includes most bedding and bed linens, towels, most cotton undergarments for men and women.

Step Two: Preparing the Wash

After you’ve separated the laundry into loads, you need to properly prepare the wash for laundering. At this point you pre-treat any specific stains, select water temperatures and add detergent and other wash additives to the washer and fill the tub. Here’s a general rule of thumb on water temperatures and tips for best results according to fabrics

General: Add your detergent and additives to the washer as the tub is filling with water. This allows the laundering agents being used to dissolve into the water and means that the detergents and additives will spread evenly throughout the load. This prevents the potential problems of detergent residue that can occur if the detergents are added last.

Second, allow the tub to fill completely with water before adding the laundry items. This allows you to avoid over-loading the washer by making sure that the items in the washer tub can move freely during the agitation.

Heavy, durable fabrics: These loads should use either cold water (for the dark and bold color-fast colors) or warm water washes (for the lighter colored loads).

Mid-weight fabrics: These loads should use either cold water (for the dark and bold color-fast colors) or warm water washes (for the lighter colored loads).

Light-weight fabrics: These loads should use either cold water (for the dark and bold color-fast colors) or warm water washes (for the lighter colored loads).

Linens: If the fabrics of these items are not color-fast, be sure to further separate by color and wash with cold water. With color-fast fabrics or pastels, use warm water. For whites use a hot water wash to ensure the cleanest and brightest results.

Step Three: Additives
Selecting additives to boost cleaning in the laundry can make a world of difference. Choosing the right additive is simply a matter of the fabrics being cleaned. For whites try adding oxygen-based bleach, in addition to a chlorine-bleaching agent. For light colors and pastels, oxygen-based bleach will boost the cleaning and leave the colors vibrant. With darker colored fabrics, use a non-chlorine bleach alternative when you need extra soil removal and to prevent dulling of the colors.

Once you know the basics of laundry care, keeping your clothes clean and fresh looking becomes a simple matter. Do try to avoid mixing loads, however, because even if the effects aren’t immediately apparent, you will notice the results of doing so over time as your clothes will begin to look more worn when they aren’t laundered properly.

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