Laundry and Color

Great Laundry Tips and Tricks

I love to do laundry. I’m crazy that way. And I enjoy discovering ways to 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. 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.

Laundry and Color

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 all of the abuse and fading caused by the agitation not the right side. Clothes get just as clean when washed inside-out.

SOFT DRY JEANS. You’ll never experience the heartbreak shrunken jeans if you do this: Put them in the dryer for only 10 minutes. That’s enough to soften them. Take them out still wet and hang on a hanger from ankles. The weight of the semi-wet jeans will pull out the wrinkles and keep them at their the proper length when fully dry.

DRYER BALLS A ball of aluminum foil (about the size of a tennis ball) works just as 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. That 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. Pour directly onto the stain. Add in baking soda for an extra scrubbing element. Let it sit for an hour or so, then launder as usual.

UNSHRINK WOOL. Mix a solution of one gallon lukewarm water and two tablespoons baby shampoo. Soak the shrunken garment for about ten minutes. Now the important part: 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.

QUICK DRY. Need those jammies or towels to dry fast? Add a dry towel or two into the mix and it will reduce dry time significantly.

DRYER SHEET RESCUE. Don’t throw away all of your used laundry softener sheets. 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. Store the sheets in an empty tissue box.

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 the secret: Fill washing machine with the hottest water available. Add 1 cup Cascade automatic dishwasher powder and 1 cup Super Washing soda (or soda ash from a pool supply store). Add washable whites, allowing to agitate for a few minutes. Turn machine off and allow to soak at least three hours. Overnight is fine. Finish cycle and dry as usual.

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12 replies
  1. Charlotte Friberg says:

    Mary, I have the greatest FREE clothes dryer….solar power from the sun. However, I struggled with clothes lines that were puny and easily damaged by the wind. After much searching I have found a great rugged clothes line produced in the USA that holds up in the windy area in which I live. Sunshine Clothesline has been in business for 100 + years. I have had mine up for 3 years in all weather and it is still as nice as when I set it up.
    Char Friberg
    Prosser, Washington

  2. lynn alexander says:

    I’m trying to find a way to neutralize the chlorine in my city water when I am washing dark clothes. I already turn them inside out, and have used the special detergent for darks, but the chlorine still fades my darks. Any ideas?

  3. Emjay says:

    Do you have a nifty trick to soften bath towels? Mine have become stiffer with age, and though they will need to be replaced someday, I’m not ready to invest in new ones yet.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’m 99% sure that stiffness is caused by detergent build-up that’s never been rinsed out fully. I would put those towels through the hottest and longest cycle you have on your washer—adding no detergent, but at least 1 cup white vinegar. Go ahead and add that at the beginning (normally this should go in the last rinse). You may have to do this multiple times depending how much detergent has been washed and dried into them. I think you are going to be surprised by the result. In the future use only the amount of detergent absolutely necessary and be sure to measure it.

  4. Mervin Hart says:

    I notice in the picture of the jeans hanging on the line that they are right side out and some facing one way and some the other. The same sun that bleaches your white clothes will eventually fade everything else. I not only wash them inside out but hang them inside out with the back facing the sun. I do the same with shirts and such, too. My mother, now 85, a hanger-upper from way back,
    told me long ago that the fading was less noticeable on the inside and the back.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Depends on how your machine works. My front loader has a “Pause” feature. I put the products into the basket with the clothes/linens, let the cycle begin and run for a few minutes than hit “Pause”. I could leave it all night and then hit “Start” in the morning. That machine is in storage at the moment but I can’t wait to remodel the laundry room so I can put it back into service. I cannot possibly know how every front loader works, but check yours to see if you have a pause feature.

    • MissHerring says:

      If you can’t pause your washing machine, you could try replicating the process in a utility sink basin or large bucket. Add clothes, water, powder, soda ash, and stir around with a broom handle for a few minutes. Cover with a board and leave overnight, then the next morning stick the clothes in the washer and pour in as much of the water solution as you can.

  5. Me says:

    Been washing my clothes inside out for years and they do last a lot longer.

    I find that jeans are stiff even after a short spin in the dryer, so after they are dry I stick them back in the dryer for a few minutes (probably 10 or less, never timed it) with no heat and it softens them right up.

    Using a whole cup of Cascade to wash towels (that’s what I use bleach for) would be pretty expensive, so “no go” on that tip.


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