Whites and colors, hot wash and cold — these are the basics of laundry. But beyond not bleaching your darks or letting a red shirt bleed all over your linens, there are still many ways to make sure you're caring of your fabrics so that they last and stay their best as long as possible.
Wash temperature is an ongoing debate. On the one hand, using cooler water is an energy-saving move and is often touted as being gentler on fabrics. But on the other hand, one long-time owner of a dry cleaning store says, "If you wash your clothes in cold water, you might as well not wash them at all." Heat helps soap do its work, loosening dirt and freshening fabrics. Super-hot water isn't necessary, but wash clothes in warm water when possible. Skip the hot drier to save on electricity and possible damage.
Our dry cleaner source also advocates for hanging delicate clothes to dry, but putting them in the drier - even on an unheated air fluff cycle - for five minutes afterward, to release wrinkles and soften the fabric. Of course, line-drying in the sun can achieve these goals, too, but this time of year you're more likely to get icy, snowy garments than a soft and fresh sun-dried feel.
A few more tips:
- Turn clothes inside-out before washing to protect fibers from damage and to protect your washing machine from hard zippers and buttons.
- Put delicates like stockings in a pillow case to protect them and keep them from tangling.
- Clean your washing machine. Run an empty hot load with a cupful of white vinegar instead of detergent.
- Vinegar won't harm your clothes, so there's no need to clean it out afterward. A periodic cleaning will keep your machine working well and your clothes coming out extra clean.