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17 Best Laundry Tips, Tricks, and Hacks of All Time

I love to do laundry. I’m crazy that way. And I enjoy discovering new laundry tips that help me do it more efficiently—and by efficient I do mean cheaper, better, and faster. In fact, I was about ready to give myself a proper title, The Laundress, until I discovered a couple of very bright young women in New York City beat me to it.


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It’s OK. They can keep the title and charge an arm and a leg for their chi-chi laundry products in little bottles. Me? I’d rather use every tip I can find to create equally beautiful results and keep my money, too. Are you with me? Great! Here are some of my favorite laundry tips to get going.

When wrong is right

Wash your clothes inside out to keep them looking newer longer. In this way, the wrong side of the garment takes the abuse and fading caused by the agitation, not the right side. Clothes get just as clean when washed inside-out.

Easy does it

Almost everyone is guilty of using too much laundry detergent in a load. More detergent does not always equal better cleaning, especially in a front-loading HE machine that uses very little water! In fact, the detergent that can’t get rinsed out settles back on the clothing to the finish dull and stiff, the white looking gray and dingy.

Begin by using half of the usual amount of detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda as a detergent booster—even if that means you will be using only a tablespoon or two of detergent. You will be amazed that your laundry comes out just as clean and you’ll be saving money. If you are not pleased, add a tiny bit more detergent the next time.

No more shrunken jeans

You’ll never experience the heartbreak of shrunken jeans if you do this: Put them in the dryer set to medium or low heat for only 10 minutes. That’s enough to soften them.

Take them out still wet and hang them on a hanger from ankles. The weight of the semi-wet jeans will pull out the wrinkles and keep them at their proper length when fully dry.

By the way, unless you dumped an entire smoothie in your lap, there is not need to wash jeans after each wearing. In fact, the folks at Levis suggest just a couple of times a year! If that grosses you out, let’s compromise—once every five wears to preserve their original size and integrity.

blue jeans hanging by their ankles from a clothesline in a wooded grassy area

Aluminum dryer balls

A tightly formed ball of aluminum foil (about the size of a tennis ball) works much like a dryer sheet would—and it’s reusable. Laundry comes out completely static-free and that cuts down on wrinkles, too. Use that same ball for a year or more—or until you notice static has returned, which means it’s time to make a new aluminum ball.

Stain magic

For nearly magical, all-purpose stain remover, mix one-part blue Dawn dishwashing liquid with two parts hydrogen peroxide. (You can make 1 part equal any measurement of your choice, then simply multiply accordingly). Pour directly onto the stain. sprinkle on a bit of baking soda for an extra scrubbing element. Let it sit for an hour or so, then launder as usual.

Keep it loose

Cramming the washer full of clothes may seem like a good way to get the laundry done in a hurry, but it is bad for your clothing and linens. First, they don’t get as clean, and secondly, they rub together so much there is actual harm to the finish of your clothes. Your things will wear out prematurely, you end up with “pilling,” and your sheets, towels, t-shirts looking oddly gray and dingy. It’s much better to lighten the load and give your items a chance to wash properly.

Button, zip, close

Button, zip, and close your garments before they go into the washer. They’ll be less likely to snag another fabric or even get hung up on themselves. Open zippers are like little chainsaws looking for something to chew up as they tumble and get all cozy inside the washer and dryer! Turn them off by making sure all those zippers are fully zipped going in.

Load up on mesh bags

Whoever came up with the idea of mesh laundry bags should get a standing ovation. A mesh laundry bag is perfect for protecting delicate garments like lingerie as they go through the rigors of a washing machine. It is also wonderful for socks and baby items that are so small they seem to disappear. Put all the little pieces in one bag, and you’ll always find them and their matching pairs.

Easy sort

Separating laundry by whites, colors, and darks is one of the smartest things you can do. That’s because when you throw your clothes into a washer, they essentially snuggle up and then dance with each other as they move around. Color bleeds from the color items onto the whites and lights. But more than that, delicate items can get caught on zippers in jeans and hoodies.

Another benefit of sorting laundry correctly is that when it is time to use the dryer, one type of fabric will not get overheated while others are still quite damp when you select the correct drying temperature. Sorted laundry makes the last step of folding and putting away so much easier as well. An entire load of just one thing—say bath towels or socks—is so much easier to deal with than a big pile of everything in one load.

Add coffee or tea

It’s not as crazy as it sounds—since coffee stains are the topic of lots of my mail—both black tea and coffee are natural dyes. When added to black clothing, they darken the hue and add strength to the dye that is already there. Just make two cups of strong coffee or tea and add that to the rinse cycle.

Lemons to brighten

Pre-soak white items for a couple of hours in a basin with the hottest water appropriate and lemons. Allow soaking overnight. After that, just put them in the washing machine as usual. Not only will those clothes smell fantastic, but they will also practically sparkle.

Peroxide for whites

Peroxide is a natural alternative to bleach and can help to make your white items whiter. Pour one cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide into the washing machine or bleach dispenser. Then just add your clothes and start the cycle. It is also good for removing underarm stains when mixed with the same amount of baking soda. Just let the mixture sit directly on the stain for thirty minutes and then gently scrub the material.

Unshrink wool

Mix a solution of one-gallon lukewarm water and two tablespoons baby (no tears) shampoo. Soak the shrunken garment for about ten minutes. Don’t rinse! Simply blot out all the excess water with a dry towel and very gently lay it flat on a fresh towel.

Reshape slowly and carefully stretch it back to its original size. Dry out of direct sunlight or heat. This tip comes from the Wool Bureau, which verifies this technique will work provided the fibers have not become permanently damaged. (Best laundry tip, ever!)

This process works on cotton and linen too, because like wool, they are natural fibers. Just make sure you do this rescue as soon as that item shrinks—not after years of washing and drying which, will have damaged the fibers and made the shink permanent.

Quick dry

Need those jammies or towels to dry fast? Add a dry bath towel or two into the mix and it will reduce dry time significantly—like in half the time! Just don’t overload the machine so that everything can tumble well.

Dryer sheet rescue

Don’t throw away that box of laundry softener sheets since you are no longer using them in the laundry. When you have an impossible-to-clean casserole dish or pot, toss one or two of the used sheets into the pan, fill with hot water, and presto! in 20 minutes it wipes clean, no scrubbing needed.

Baby shampoo

Instead of using expensive cold water detergents for delicates and fine sweaters use baby shampoo. The results with be the same, and the cost considerably less.

Brilliant white

If you want to keep your white laundry stain-free and brilliantly white without using chlorine bleach, here’s a secret: From time to time, fill the washing machine with the hottest water available. Add 1 cup Cascade automatic dishwasher powder and 1 cup washing soda.  Add washable whites, allowing to agitate for a few minutes. Turn the machine off and allow items to soak at least three hours. Overnight is fine. Finish cycle and dry as usual.

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a roll of aluminum foil on white background slightly unrolled and crinkled
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  1. Laura Parker says:

    I like the foil ball trick, but I can’t get them to last longer than a few dry cycles before they compact to 1/3 the size and start shedding little pieces of foil.
    Also, been using vinegar in every wash for decades! Keeps towels fluffy and looking/smelling great seemingly forever!

  2. Kristine Smith says:

    Great tips! I would take issue with putting garments into the laundry buttoned, though. Zippers can and should take the harsh tugging and pulling of the wash cycle by being closed. But, as a seamstress, I would say that buttons are not meant to take the twisting and yanking that the wash cycle will put them through. Unbutton any buttons before putting in the wash and they won’t tug at the point of the fabric where they are attached and deform it or the buttonhole and they won’t get pulled off, either.

  3. CATHY says:

    What’s the best way to add vinegar to a front-load HE washing machine? I tried using the dispenser for liquid fabric softener and it appeared to run straight through into the tub with liquid detergent. What did I do wrong?

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Check your manual. I doubt that it ran into the tub at that point, but possibly into a “holding” area to be released in the last rinse. Machines with a softener reservoir are set up that way. That is the best way to add vinegar to the last rinse … by pouring it into the liquid softener reservoir.

  4. Mariehette says:

    I gave small hotel and always looking for ideas. So thank you. One question when people drop sun block on towels or linen uou cant see it but when washed it leave a orange spot. And I have tried alsorts. Maybe any idea

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Lestoil. Once you’ve put the item through that dryer, you need to understand that you have pretty much “set” it. But don’t give up. Soak that stain thoroughly with Lestoil, wrap it up and let it sit overnight at least. Then launder as usual. Good luck!

  5. Sharon Christman says:

    Mary, I have enjoyed your column for many years. When discussing adding items to laundry, letting them soak, adding items during “rinse” cycle, etc.; it appears to be relevant to top load machines. How do we add items only during the “rinse” cycle with a front load unit?

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I have a front loading HE washing machine! Last rinse: Add that item to the “liquid softener” dispenser. It is designed to release during the rinse cycle. As for “prewash” my machine does have a prewash setting, and a corresponding dispenser. So I add borax and or washing soda (very little as a front loader uses very little water!) to that dispenser and select the prewash option. My machine doesn’t have a “soak” setting, but some do. In that case, if there is not a corresponding dispenser, I would add whatever product I want the items to soak in, to the clothes before closing the door and hitting start making sure any liquids are absorbed by the items rather than pouring them into the drum inself, which will trigger the machine to drain before starting. It’s not easy to outsmart a smart washing machine 🙂 Hope that helps!

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