Laundry. It’s often a dreaded yet necessary task. I assume I’m not the only one who has let the clothes in the hamper pile up until it’s overflowing then groan at the thought of having to fold it all once it’s washed. While I’m not sure I can provide any information that will make the process of washing laundry more pleasant, I can share a few tips amended from the American Cleaning Institute that might help clothes last a little longer and save the headache of needing to rewash, as well as dispel some laundry myths.
The first tip is a tedious one - follow instructions. I don’t really enjoy reading the instructions for everything, and I’m probably not alone in that sentiment, but reading and following the instructions for items included in the laundry process like detergent, appliances, and fabrics will ultimately save time and money. For example, using too much detergent is money wasted while using too little may leave clothes dirty and needing to be rewashed.
The second tip is to sort the laundry. Maybe this tip is tedious, too… but still important! Several fabrics hold their color well due to the way in which they were dyed, yet dyes can transfer from one piece of clothing to another so it’s a worthwhile practice to sort and wash similar colors and soil levels together. Why risk ruining that favorite shirt when a couple extra steps will help it stay pristine? Also, consider “specialty sorts.’” For example, sort by fabric type. Separate out clothing that’s loosely knitted or fabrics that create lots of lint, like fuzzy sweaters.
The third tip is to learn the fabric care symbols. Okay, maybe all the tips are tedious, yet each has value. Have you ever looked at the tags in your clothes? These tags contain symbols that show how to care for specific fabrics. By following these guides, clothing should last longer. Find a comprehensive guide for these symbols by doing a quick web search, or locate a downloadable guide at cleaninginstitute.org
Now to dispel some laundry myths. Have you ever wondered how many times you can wear something before washing it? The answer might surprise you. That favorite piece of clothing may not need to be washed or cleaned just yet. Many believe it’s necessary to wash all clothing items after one wear and for some clothing, like most undergarments, that’s the recommended guideline. However, not all clothing needs to be washed after every wear. For example, jeans can be worn three times before washing unless sweaty or visibly stained. A detailed guide of how often to wash certain clothing items can be found at cleaninginstitute.org and a comprehensive stain removal guide by the University of Illinois Extension can be found at extension.illinois.edu/stain
The truth behind this next myth may be surprising as well. Have you heard about freezing rather than washing your jeans? The idea behind this practice is that it will keep jeans from smelling bad and preserve the fit and color. Since it can be difficult to find perfect-fitting jeans, it seems appealing to try about anything that might keep that favorite pair looking great and fitting well. Unfortunately, freezing jeans in your home freezer does not kill bacteria. According to an article highlighting a Q&A session with a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist, killing bacteria typically requires temperatures of 80 degrees below freezing. Our home freezers are usually around zero degrees, which is not cold enough. The post discusses the types of grime that might be hiding in our clothing like dead skin cells, oils from skin, as well as food and dirt, which help bacteria grow. Washing is the only way to remove these, as laundry detergent will work to get rid of the bacteria. Why does this matter? Because excess bacteria on skin can cause things like rashes or spread of fungal organisms.
So how can we save the look and feel of our favorite jeans while keeping them clean? Remember, those favorite jeans do not necessarily have to be washed after every wear. Instead, wash after wearing about three times unless visibly soiled or sweaty. Wash in cold water to help preserve the fabric and reduce color fade. Jeans can be line-dried rather than in a dryer to help preserve fit, but make sure the fabric dries totally, as bacteria can grow back if clothing is left wet or damp. This tends to happen in humid or warm environments in which the clothing has trouble fully drying.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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