Select the Correct Washing Cycle
This is very important! Basically, the cycle determines how intensely the clothes will agitate and spin, and for how long. With the fancy settings on new machines, this may include a pre-soak time, steam treatment, or sanitary option that could have your load in there for over an hour! Take a few minutes to read the operating manual if you are not familiar with the washer. If you are at a Laundromat, the machines are usually pretty basic and have instructions printed on it, or have an attendant nearby. The most standard settings are:
- Normal - Usually the longest cycle, good for natural fibers, cottons and anything heavily soiled.
- Permanent Press - This cycle is a little shorter and meant for synthetics like polyester, rayon and knits. They are spun at a slower speed to avoid friction and wear.
- Delicate - The shortest cycle with the least amount of agitation and spin. This cycle has less to do with the material and more to do with the actual garment. Bras, lingerie, items with lace or anything fragile will usually call for the delicate cycle.
Do not overfill the tub! There must be room for the clothing to circulate freely; otherwise the detergent will not be distributed evenly and your load will not get a thorough cleaning or rinsing. It is a good idea to put articles of different sizes in each load, for better circulation and weight distribution. Filling a washer with only heavy sheets or towels will not allow them to agitate properly and it will increase the wear and tear on the washer. Permanent press and synthetics, like sweaters, should have fewer items per load in order to limit the amount of wrinkling.
Presoak options are great for heavily soiled items and may eliminate the need for a re-wash. Usually when the presoak cycle ends, it proceeds right into the wash cycle.
Small or delicate items should be placed in a mesh laundry wash bag, to prevent them from becoming tangled or trapped in the washer (mostly meant for top loaders). If doing your laundry at the Laundromat, you may want to consider hand washing your delicates at home. Some of those older, heavily used machines do not have a delicate or hand-washable cycle and can wreck havoc on delicate items.
Delicates, if washed in the machine, should be washed in cold water with a mild laundry detergent, at the "delicate cycle" setting. Some new machines go a step further with a "hand wash" setting. The "delicate" setting is also great for dress clothing and sweaters.
As far as temperature goes, I believe that all colors should be washed in cold water. Old school says dark colors in cold and light colors in warm, but cold water works just fine and uses less energy (if you are paying the hot water bill). If you want to prevent your colored clothing from fading, always wash them in cold water. Detergents have really progressed over the years and most all colors come out as well in cold water, as in warm or hot temperatures. I even wash my white clothing in cold water sometimes. Yes, whites can also be washed in cold water, however for items like towels, wash cloths, sheets and underwear, they should be washed in the warmest temperature possible, with a bleaching product safe for the fabric – and if they are different colors, they would need to be separated and washed by color, of course. These types of items should also be washed on the Heavy Duty setting, the longest cycle, for deeper cleaning.
Bleach helps to whiten fabrics and remove soil. Chlorine bleach also acts as a disinfectant. Always be sure to double-check the care labels of your items before using bleach in order to avoid irreparable damage. Always follow the instructions!
If you are using the bleach dispenser on the washing machine, you should be sure that there is enough water in the washer to dilute the bleach, before adding your clothes. You may want to consider what your next load will be, just in case any remaining drops of bleach manage to sneak in; it happens. If you manually add the bleach, then either add it directly to the water before loading, or dilute it (1 cup to 1 gallon of water) and add when clothes are agitating.
Using too much bleach in the wash will tend to turn some white fabrics yellow and also causes fabrics to break down before their time. It is not necessary to use bleach each and every time you launder your clothes.
Do not use bleach if you are using an enzyme based pre-soak, as it will destroy the enzyme action. If you wish, you may add bleach when you are finished with the treatment.
Chlorine bleach can react with iron in hard water, which may cause pink or yellow stains. You can test for this reaction by adding a tablespoon of bleach to one cup of water and watch for a color change. If the water turns brown, or reddish, the water contains high amounts of iron and you should use only oxygen bleaches.
Follow the instructions on your laundry detergent and use the recommended quantity. Using too much will leave a residue on your clothing, wasting your time and energy (literally), by having to run extra rinse cycles. Using too little will not clean them properly and they will not smell fresh – over time you may notice a graying and deterioration in the appearance
Liquid fabric softeners makes clothing fluffier, reduces drying time, eliminates static cling, aids ironing and makes your clothes smell nice. Fabric softener should only be added during the rinse cycle. If the washer has a fabric softener dispenser, just add the correct amount according to the instructions and it will be added automatically during the rinse cycle. If there is not dispenser, then you should add the fabric softener during the rinse cycle, when the tub is agitating. There is also the option of using the dryer sheets containing fabric softener. Do not use too much fabric softener, as it will give your clothes a dingy appearance and result in a greasy feeling.
Proper laundry sorting and selecting the correct washing cycle are important keys to a perfect wash, but drying clothes properly can have an equally important part in the final results.
A final tip to help prevent fading and some of the wear and tear that happens during the washing and drying phases of laundry: Especially for denim jeans and dark pants, turn the clothing inside out before washing and drying can reduce fading and pilling of some fabrics, so if you would like to prolong the life of your favorites, consider this before washing.