Whether it’s your favourite pair of jeans or an expensive cocktail dress, your clothes will look better and last longer if you show them a bit of love in the laundry…
1. Wash less
Research has found overzealous washing can fast-track fading and reduce fibre strength. So unless it’s socks, undies or sweaty gym wear (phew!), most garments can be worn several times before you need to wash. When you do need to clean, Brad Reed, senior marketing manager for home appliances, says go easy on the detergent. Using too much will leave a residue, which can cause marks on dark clothing or skin irritation (so you’ll have to wash them again).
2. Wash longer
Many people default to a short ‘eco-wash’, thinking it will save them time and money. However, Brad says modern machines are very efficient with power and water and are designed to perform long wash cycles to allow adequate time for soaking, rinsing and spinning. “Clothes will come out cleaner and probably last longer if you’re selecting the right cycle and not always the quick-wash option,” he says.
3. Read instructions
As well as reading your washing-machine manual (scintillating, we know), it’s also vital to look at the washing instructions on your garments. “Especially if you’ve got expensive or delicate clothing,” Brad warns. “You will find that different clothes will respond very differently to different wash cycles.” And if it says ‘dry-clean only’ or ‘do not tumble dry’, do as it says.
4. Sort out loads
A rogue red sock can destroy an entire load of washing, so sorting laundry into whites, colours, woollens and handwashing is a must. Also take the time to empty out pockets (toss those tissues), unroll socks and sleeves, place delicates in a mesh bag and turn T-shirts or sweaters inside out to protect motifs. According to US domestic doyenne Martha Stewart, it also pays to zip up zippers and secure hooks and velcro to prevent snagging. However, leave shirts unbuttoned to avoid straining the buttonholes.
5. Tackle stains fast
Nothing condemns clothing to the rag bin faster than a forgotten stain. The key is to attack it as soon as possible while it’s still fresh. Scrape off any solids (a butter knife works well) and blot liquids with a clean white cloth, working towards the centre from the outside edge. Stick a stain-removal chart inside your laundry cupboard and apply the appropriate treatment before washing. Most importantly, check the stain has disappeared before you hang it on the line. Once it’s dry, that sucker is almost impossible to shift.
6. Hang tight
Many a misshapen T-shirt is the product of poor pegging. In Speed Cleaning (ABC Books), authors and Jennifer Fleming suggest hanging clothes from the strongest section of the garment: “Trousers and skirts should be hung from the waistband; shirts should be hung from the tails and pegged on the side seams.” Meanwhile, dryers can become a torture chamber for clothing if tumbled for too long. Brad recommends taking clothes out while still slightly damp. “If you hang them, they will continue to dry and require less ironing,” he says. Or invest in a dryer with moisture sensors that prevent clothes from becoming ‘crunchy’.
7. Store things right
Do the clothes in your wardrobe have more wrinkles than a purebred Shar Pei? Avoid the damaging heat of ironing twice by spacing hangers about 3 centimetres apart. While you’re at it, toss wire hangers (they are too thin and cause clothes to slip off and lose shape) and remove plastic from dry-cleaned clothes. Never hang knitwear, as it creates pointy shoulders and stretches the neck. Instead, fold woollens neatly and store flat. Be kind to your clothes and they’ll have your back for much longer.