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Tackling Laundry
by Kate Forrest

Doing laundry can be a very tricky thing. Choosing your preferred brand and knowing when to use laundry detergent, fabric softener, bleach, dryer sheets or eco rubber dryer balls can be quite a bit to sort out.  To assist the laundry newbies, here is the step-by-step how-to guide for a basic load of laundry. No need to fret. You will be an expert in no time.

Ahead of time:
  • Check out the wash instructions on your clothes and follow them. They're on there for a reason most of the time. As you become more experienced, you will learn what can and cannot be washed by fabric, texture, color, etc. For now, just read the tags.
  • Buying detergent: There are nearly 50 options at every store, and until you know what you like, try out some smaller sizes. If you have sensitive skin, you may have to purchase one of the natural varieties which tend to be more expensive, but worthwhile to avoid rashes and itching.  Some are very heavily scented and selection is all according to preference. If you aren't washing on hot or warm, powder detergent may not dissolve as well.
  • Buying other stuff: Dryer sheets-pick the scent you like and/or the best price. Fabric softener-I don't really find it necessary and I don't really use it. Dryer sheets and rubber balls do just fine.  Bleach-can be highly useful with whites, BUT please read the instructions before using it. You can ruin clothes so easily!  Stain Removers and Pretreaters - I've had good luck with these.  Two I can recommend are Shout and Zout. Follow instructions and use these before washing.

Basic Wash Instructions:
1.  Sort your clothes by color. You should ALWAYS complete this step unless you do not care about the color of your clothing.  Have you ever seen that episode of Friends where Rachel does laundry for the first time and turns her whites load pink? That is why, and messing this up is incredibly easy to do. Not sorting is the biggest newbie mistake.

You don't need to get terribly specific here on exact color. The rule of thumb is: Darks, Lights, and similar Brights. If it's somewhere in the middle, consider whether or not it's been washed before. If not, put it in with the darker clothes, or keep it out completely (hand wash). If there are too many darks, I always sort blues, blacks, and then I put my reds in with the blacks. This is not an exact science. Just remember Darks, Lights, and Brights and you will do just fine.

2.  Detergent- more is NOT better and USE LAUNDRY DETERGENT.  Drop the marked amount of detergent according to your chosen brand in the bottom of the wash before you load your clothes.  Usually the only exception to this rule is for coin washers that sometimes have a slot on top for detergent. It's best to put the detergent in before the clothes to insure it all dissolves properly, but if you forget, it is ok to pour it on top of the clothes- just not the ideal.  Just remember, more is not better. The clothes rinse much cleaner if they aren't saturated with soap. Use only as much as you need.

The reason I underlined "Use Laundry Detergent" is that you absolutely cannot substitute other soap... especially not dish soap.  If you do, you'll get an overflowing, sudsy mess!  I've seen it happen before- no it was not me.  NOT ALL SOAP IS THE SAME!

3.  Load the washer- but don't overload.  If you're shoving the clothes to get them to fit, you're probably overloading.  This can sometimes stop the washer mid-cycle, and you don't want that.  Load just enough clothes.  If you don't have enough clothes to fill the washer, set the water level as "medium" or "small" load, but keep in mind, you need the water to cover your clothes, so it's better to think bigger rather than not having enough water.

4.  Set the Temperature.  Another very important aspect to using your washing machine is temperature selection.  Some things to remember- if you have stains on your clothes, hot water may set the stain.  I find warm does the job quite well, but cold water is okay too.  Like I mentioned before, cold water may not dissolve powder detergents completely.

5.  Close the top of the washer and set the dial.  There are usually several options available on your washer dial.  Every washer is different, but most likely you want to select the "Normal" or "Regular" wash option (or some variation of that).

6.  Push Start.  you're done for now.  Let it run.

Basic Dry Instructions:

1.  Put your wet clothes in the dryer.  Here's a tip about wool and cotton- it shrinks.  So if you have an item of clothing that has never been washed and it's mostly wool or cotton, it will shrink.  This is not reversible in wool, and though cotton stretches, your garment will never be the same.

Rule:  When it doubt, leave it out!  Air dry, dry flat, hang dry, etc.  Never heat dry wet wool!

2.  Toss in a dryer sheet and/or rubber drying balls.  Is this a necessary step?  No, but in the winter your clothes will be a big ball of static if you don't.  Dryer balls don't always help with the static, but if you don't like the heavy smell of sheets, they're a good option for making your things soft and fluffy.  I personally like to use both for the scent, fluffiness, and static reduction.

3.  Empty the lint trap.  This can be sort of gross if you're using a public dryer (clean hair, but still someone else's hair), but it's important never the less.  A full lint trap can start a fire, and your clothes won't dry as fast.

4.  Select the timed dryer option and push start.  Dryers tend to have several options.  Permanent press usually means high heat and then cool finish.  No heat (sometimes called the Fluff option) will take hours and hours to dry your clothes.  The delicate option may be useful if you're only drying delicate things, but usually it's better to hang dry the delicates and time dry everything else.  Select time/heated dryer option- it usually takes almost the full amount of time offered on the dial.  One hour is usually good depending on the dryer.

There you have it.  It is undoubtedly a process, but necessary to learn while living on your own.  After all, there is something a little bit sad about relying on a laundry service just because you don't know how to do your own (though not a bad fall-back option).  If you have any questions or need any extra tips, check out our forum.  Good luck!

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