I often hear desperation in your voices when it comes to laundry problems. It’s as if you feel like you’re the only one in the world with these issues. Well, let me assure you, you’re not! The same questions come up time and time again. So today I thought I would tackle some of the most common laundry problems we all have, and how to solve them.
How Do I Keep My Whites White Without Using Harsh Chemicals?
I know, the frustrating yellowing of white towels, socks, etc. It’s enough to make you grab for the bottle of bleach. Besides not wanting that stuff to run off into the environment, did you know that overuse of bleach can cause yellowing over time?
Look no further than your kitchen for a solution to keep your whites looking white. Simply add 1/2 cup of kosher salt to the wash to help whiten whites. (Incidentally, this can also help set new colors that might otherwise run.) If it’s yellowing whites that you’re trying to whiten back up again, follow the instructions on a container of oxygen bleach (which is much gentler to the environment) and add some to your next washing cycle. For yellowing armpits on white t-shirts, make a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, and apply it to the stain with a toothbrush (both inside and outside of the shirt). Let it sit overnight, then rinse and launder the shirt as usual—this is one of our favorite laundry hacks.
Laundry Detergent: Am I Using Too Much, or Too Little?
For some reason, people worry about this issue. My advice is, don’t overthink it. If you have a front-loading washing machine, just load it up, close the door, and use that porthole window as your guide. If the laundry is stacked halfway up the window, then you have a medium load. Look inside the cap of your detergent and choose the middle notch as an indicator of how much detergent to add. If it’s just along the bottom of the window, fill to the lowest notch. If it’s stuffed in all the way to the top, use the highest notch.
Static Cling is Making Me Nuts!
Never fear, there are a few ways to reduce and even eliminate static cling. One is to hang clothes to dry, or at least hang your synthetics. It’s the friction in the dryer that causes the cling, and synthetics are the worst offenders. Just removing these pieces will “drop the charge” in your dryer for all the natural fibers tumbling around in there. Another method is to use dryer balls. They reduce friction and fluff up clothing so that there’s no need for fabric softener. Finally (and this is my favorite hack), pin a safety pin to something in the load that will be unlikely to tear—something sturdy like a towel or sweat sock. The pin will act as a lightning rod, attracting and absorbing all the static electricity so that the fabrics are left static-free. We actually have a whole article on how to eliminate static cling.
My Towels Smell Funky!
Towels are notorious for this problem, and it’s easy to see why. We often leave them crumpled and wet for long periods of time. We overstuff the washer and dryer, so they may not really rinse properly and then dry properly. They hardly stand a chance since they tend to hang out in damp environments, like in humid beach houses and bathrooms. But don’t toss those towels yet! There is hope for saving them and restoring their fluffy sweetness. Run them through the washing machine twice, putting white vinegar in all the detergent-dispensing compartments of the washing machine: the bleach one, the detergent one, and the softener one. Temperature doesn’t matter here. You can go ahead and choose cool for your colorful beach towels, and hot (or whatever you like) for your white bath towels. Dry as usual, or hang them outside on a hot, sunny day.
I Want to Ditch Fabric Softener, Won’t I Miss That Fluffy, Soft Feeling?
I hear you! But you’re wise to want to stop using fabric softener. They deposit waxy films on your clothing that can leave buildup. It is a totally unnecessary chemical (or actual trash item, in the case of dryer sheets) that are released into the environment. I’ve been adding a cup of white vinegar to my laundry in lieu of fabric softener for years and I’ve never looked back! And don’t worry about a vinegar smell—not only does the vinegar wash away cleanly so that there’s no aroma of vinegar, but it also neutralizes any other odors.
Where in the Universe Do My Socks Go?
If you’re fed up with matching socks back together after a load, or if you have one of those infamous sock-eating dryers, you’ll love this fix. You know those mesh bags that you usually use for washing delicates? Get one for every member of the household. When it comes time to do a load of laundry, just stuff all the socks into each person’s respective bag, and wash and dry as usual. The socks come clean without ever getting separated from each other. #winning
I Feel Like My Clothes Just Haven’t Been Coming Clean Lately.
There are a number of causes for that dinginess that sometimes starts to plague your laundry, so instead of giving you a single fix, I’ll help you troubleshoot.
First off, you want to make sure that your washing machine itself is clean and not stinky. You can’t get dirty clothes clean in a dirty washing machine. Add about 2 cups baking soda to an empty washing machine, run your machine’s self-clean cycle or if it doesn’t have one, just a long hot water cycle. Then run a second cycle adding 2 cups of white vinegar and 10 drops of tea tree or lavender essential oil. The oil helps to combat mildew and remove mineral deposits. Then, soak a clean cloth in white vinegar and wipe down the inside of the machine. Don’t forget the gasket on a front-loader. Finally, wipe down the insides of the detergent dispenser, using a cleaning toothbrush as necessary to scrub any clinging grossness clean.
Another culprit in dingy clothing is your detergent dosage. It can be from too much, too little, or from using the wrong kind. I often see this complaint in people who have recently switched to a high-efficiency washing machine. This is for a few reasons. First, be sure that you are using a detergent that is approved for an HE machine—just check for the symbol on the packaging. Second, keep in mind that a much smaller amount of detergent is necessary for these HE machines. Don’t, out of habit, toss in that cupful that you’re used to using! It’s a good time to double-check the package instructions and make sure you’re not overdoing it.