A common problem that I have witnessed as I watch others doing their laundry is the fact that so many of them tend to use so much product. The product may be laundry detergent, bleach, fabric softener, and scent beads/crystals.
There are number of reasons for this, clothes smell or are extremely filthy, so they use lots of detergent, bleach, and other laundry additives to attempt to kill germs, loosen stains, or to make sure that the fragrance that is marketed on the bottle lingers in their clothes at the end of the wash.
I’ve mentioned this, in other posts, but another problem that I see perpetrated is over-stuffing of washers and dryers.
If you are prone to overdoing it in the laundry room, your clothes may look great and smell great, on the surface, but you may be doing more harm, (to your machines, and even your clothes) than good. You are also not doing any favors to your time, effort, or your wallet.
The following is a list of suggestions to help you get the most of your laundry day and most importantly, your laundry budget:
Getting the most out of your washing machine: Today’s washers don’t use as much water as the machines our mothers and grandmother’s used to operate. It might have made some sense to fill up a washer as much as you could, to get the most of the water, so it would seem less wasteful.
Today washers use about half the water of older machines. Over-stuffing a modern washer will result in only about half your clothes even getting wet, nevermind clean. If you add more detergent than is necessary, you end up a wet, soapy mess, but not clean laundry (if you use powdered detergent, it’s even messier).
For starters, only fill your washer no more than 2/3rds of the way full. If you have to force any items into the washer, it’s time to take a few items out. Leaving plenty of room in the washer will allow your laundry to get the best saturation of water and detergents and other additives and also the best agitation for a much better clean.
Getting the most out of your laundry detergent: Whether you use a big name-brand product or an off-brand, please read the label. It does not take much laundry detergent to make a whole-lotta bubbles. The average load of laundry only requires about one-eighth (1/8) cup of detergent and only one-quarter (1/4) for extra grimy laundry.
Pro-tip: A lot of modern washers have sensors that sense the amount of water in the washer drum. Using too much detergent will cause an excessive amount of bubbles which are read as “water” in your machine. This effect can lead to machine malfunctions including overflow issues, as excess bubbles spill out of your machine causing flooding in your laundry room or complete machine shut-down as the machine waits for the water and bubbles to balance out so that it can get back to work.
If you have the problem of excessive bubbles, you can try one of two tricks. If you use liquid fabric softener, dispense, at least, one cap full of softener, followed by two caps of water to the washer. Within a few moments, the softener should disolve the existing bubbles and your washer should begin running normally. If you prefer a more natural method, I recommend white vinegar. Dispense a half-cup (1/2) of vinegar and one cup of water to the washer, to achieve the same effect as the fabric softener. If the problem doesn’t correct itself within 3-5 minutes, repeat, as needed.
Getting the most of our your in-wash fabric softener: Today’s fabric softeners (and detergents) smell SO nice. But, don’t let the sweet smell fool you. Too much softener will stain your clothes and may cause skin irritation from items you wear or linger in (linens, blankets, etc.). If you are using softener beads or crystals, you may be doing damage to your washing machine, as the beads/crystals that don’t dissolve in the cycle get congested in your washer’s pipes. You may also be doing damage to your clothing articles, as some softener products are waxy and can lead to a greasy stain build-up on your laundry.
The solution is as simple as following the instructions on the label. Do not use more than is recommended by the manufacturer. Similar to the measurements for detergent, an average wash only requires about 1/8th cup of liquid fabric softener and only about a tablespoon of crystals or beads.
Pro-tip: If you do find that your clothes have been stained by your liquid fabric softener (usually a blue tint), re-treating the stain with detergent, hand-rinsing in the hottest water recommended by the manufacturer and then re-washing in similar fashion, should eliminate the stain. If the stain is deep, you may find that it takes several treatments to do the trick.
Getting the most out of bleach or ammonia in the wash: You need way less than you think. One of the reasons why your socks and unmentionables are slowly deteriorating is because the chlorine bleach you are using is eating away at the fibers. Sure, your clothes look very white, but you are doing irreversible damage. Over time, the fibers begin to split and eventually, your clothes may begin to yellow, instead.
The average load of whites requires about one-quarter (1/4) cup of chlorine bleach; an extra large load, no more than one cup. I recommend that you use bleach, rarely, but when you do, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Ammonia is great for whites and grease-stains, but too much may irritate your skin. As usual, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s recommended that you only use white ammonia, as yellow ammonia will tend to stain your laundry. If you use bleach, do not use ammonia, as it may cause a nasty chemical reaction and may damage your clothes.
Pro-tip: Hydrogen Peroxide and other “oxygenated” detergents and additives are a good substitute for whitening when your whites are lightly soiled.
Do Not mix hydrogen peroxide with bleach! You will get a very nasty chemical (gas) reaction.
Getting the most out of your dryer: Just like with your washer, over-stuffing your dryer will prevent it from performing at its optimal level and it will take your clothes longer to dry. Similar to how you fill your washer, there should still be plenty of room for your items to tumble freely and allow for maximum air-flow between your laundry items; about 1/2 full at maximum and on “High”, 1/3 full at maximum, if on “Medium” or lower.
Pro-tip: Adding 2-3 standard tennis balls or balls designed specifically for laundry purposes (wool balls or silicone) will help increase air-flow between your laundry items in the dryer and help them dry faster.
The tips I’ve offered above should help you save time, extend the life of your clothes (long-term financial savings) and save money as you extend the amount of your available detergents and other laundry additives (short-term financial savings). You will also, likely, extend the working life of your washer and dryer by not overloading or overworking them.