My Best Laundry Tips -- How To Keep Your Clothes Looking (Almost) Like New Longer




Ever since I have been paying much more attention to the quality instead of quantity in my wardrobe, it is important to me that the pieces last longer. I think that nothing ruins your look as run-down pieces.

Learning how to do laundry right is simple, but learning about it took ages. There is hardly any resource with a simple overview of things such as detergent ingredients and temperature. Labels on the clothing are misleading. And did you know that the pH of the detergent is really important?

I sort my laundry into:
White
Coloureds
Woolens and silk
Delicates* and viscose*
Household linens and heavy fabrics 

The basics:

Fabrics and detergents:
Plant based fibers need a basic pH and animal fibers (wool, silk) need acidic pH level detergents.
Animal fibers cannot withstand higher temperatures.
Energy saving washing machines (European ones) don't actually go up to the temperatures on the buttons. So it you are running a 60° program, it will not actually heat the water up to 60°, but it will mimic a 60° cycle through longer washing times etc. This is one reason why detergents like wash-nuts often "don't work" if you just add them straight into the machine.
Wash nuts are only effective if the actual water temperature is at least 40°c, moreover they are very acidic so they are not suitable for plant-based fabrics. Chestnut detergent is pretty good, ivy detergent made my skin itch slightly.
Powder detergent has been shown by many tests to be more effective than liquid ones because they contain ingredients that would deteriorate in a liquid product. Also they are much more environmentally friendly -- less packaging, and you aren't transporting water over long distances.
Perfumes and harsh detergents cause a lot of skin issues, from acne to dryness, so I really would advise you to switch to ecological detergents.
I don't use bleach, it's really not healthy for you or the environment.You don't actually need to disinfect anything you have been wearing on sleeping in, it has bacteria that you already have on your skin. For whitening I use oxygen bleach and the sun.
Newly bought fabric items are literally doused in chemicals, wash at least once before wearing.
Wool naturally resists dirt, and can be worn several times without washing. Wearing a tank top below protects it from sweat. Same goes for woollen socks: wear a cotton one below.

Clothing care labels:
These are misleading, for example you can safely machine-wash most hand-wash-only and dry-clean-only items. I do this all the time and have never destroyed an item. The labels list the most conservative washing method, and have more to do with legal regulations that the actual item.

How I launder my stuff:

My goals:
Keep my clothes nice-looking longer
Be kind to the environment
I own a Miele washing machine, very stable but not very modern and not very fast. There is a clothesline outside and one inside in the cellar (it is illegal to dry clothes indoors due to danger of fungus as the apartments are really well isolated). I don't own a dryer. I have kids so I usually do several loads of laundry per week.

Delicates:

Most of my personal clothes get the royal treatment since I buy them with great care and I don't grow out of them. I actually wash most of my personal clothes (except jeans) on a separate load -- on the delicate cycle. The delicate cycle doesn't spin dry, so the stuff takes longer to dry (3-4 days in the winter), but I don't care as long as it looks better longer. 
I use mesh bags to contain anything with lace or anything extra delicate. I also put anything with a zipper or hooks in mesh bags. Bras go into thicker bra bags. 
The detergent I use depends of the fabric. If there is no viscose I'll use the coloureds detergent, otherwise I'll use one meant for delicates and wool.
I always add one of these reusable colour-absorbing towels into the wash, they seem to catch quite a lot of dyes! It's basically a small white terrycloth towel, it's snow white when you buy it and it turns darker with every wash.
I also put a dash of white vinegar into the rinse cycle, I found that it cuts down on the lint!
I hang up most of my clothes in the shade.
If you want your bras to last forever, you should use a detergent-free lingerie wash, here are some recommendations. The only bra I hand-wash is the Parfait Affinitas Charlotte because I love it so I'm terrified that I won't be able to replace it with exactly the same model and colour.

 

Wool and Silk:

These absolutely have to be washed separately from other clothes. Both wool and silk are protein-based, and need a detergent with an acidic pH level. Moreover neither can stand much agitation or higher temperatures -- wool will felt if you are not careful. So you absolutely must use the wool program on the washing machine and a detergent especially for woollens. Add a bit of vinegar to the rinsing cycle to keep the wool soft and to prevent felting. Do not use a drier!
You can also use wash-nuts for wool and silk, as they are acidic. However the temperatures for the wool program are too low to activate the wash-nuts, so you need to first soak them in hot water for 15 minutes.
To soften wool you can try adding hair conditioner to the rinse. To soften really scratchy items, soak them in a mixture of  hair conditioner and glycerin, and don't rinse out.

Whites:

I use a detergent especially for whites for this, as it does not contain ingredients that prevent leaching of dyes. I usually add a bit more sodiumpercarbonate (oxygen bleach) and allow the clothes to soak (soaking program) for a couple of hours (most whites-only detergents contain this already, but I like to add more). The sodiumpercarbonate works instantly in temperatures over 40°, but it will also work in cooler water if you give it a few hours time (you can test this out with stained coffee cups!). I buy mine in the Müller or organic stores, it goes under Sauerstoffbleiche in Germany, you can also buy it dirt cheap online and it has so many household uses. For example I soak the horribly discoloured cooking stove knows in it and they look snow white.
I love to hang up white laundry on the line in the summer, preferably wearing a white dress and singing. The sun bleaches out a lot of the stains, especially baby underwear.

 

Coloureds:

Household linens, and most clothes of my family members come into this category. 
Again I let the clothes soak with sodiumpercarbonate, interestingly it takes out stains but doesn't affect the colour.  And soaking is always good, I think. I use a colour detergent, it contains ingredients that prevents dyes from bleeding. I use the generic 30-40°c wash cycle, with plenty of spinning at the end. I usually hang up the items outside in the shade, unless it's a really nice item that I don't want to fade.

Viscose:

You can't wash viscose with a regular detergents as they contain cellulase. Cellulase is an enzyme that removes the pills from cotton fabrics but will break up the cellulose in the viscose. That's the reason you see the weird pills on viscose if you don't wash it correctly.
Contrary to what people often say, viscose isn't particularly fragile and I find that as long as I wash it on the delicates cycle it doesn't get misshapen or anything. I usually wash viscose together with other delicates.

Here are two more slightly different methods of cleaning that I thought I'd include because they are really useful:

Sun washing:

The properties of the UV rays of the sun are so underestimated. You know how bedding gets all fresh and crisp when you hang it out in the sun?  The UV rays kill of mites, bacteria, fungus, they dry up moisture and leave everything smelling good. I put all my bedding (pillows, blankets etc) in the sun once a week, once a month I sun my cushions, small floor mattresses, carpets and the removable parts of the sofa. I find that doing this gets rid of the vague unfresh smell that often lingers in homes.
I usually use the weather forecast to play this ahead of time, I don't want to deal with wet stuff if the rain comes.

Snow washing:

If you have a carpet, the snow can be a great (and free) way to clean it. It really works as long as you make sure that temperatures are actually below freezing, and that you let the carpet cool down first. Here is a good tutorial.


   Does this sound like a lot of work? It is and yet it isn't. I make my kids bring up and Konmari-fold and put away their own laundry, so at least that's something I don't have to do myself. I don't wash most of the stuff after just one wear, apart from underwear, socks and things work on very sweaty days. Bedding gets washed only once a week, and again I get the kids to help.
   Finally I wanted to say that I'm sick all week and when writing this I realised that being sick makes me forget how to grammar. So I'm sorry of the English in this post is weirder than usual.

Photo credit: Gratisography

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