5 Simple Tips on How to Do Your Laundry

From the first moment it was ever mentioned, it seems as if laundry has been one of the most dreaded tasks for the homemaker. But if you want your clothes clean and smelling fresh, you really don’t have any other choice – you have to do your laundry!

green plastic basket tipped on its side spilling out dirty laundry

In the 1800s, it took two days to do your laundry. Day one consisted of gathering it up and boiling it overnight. On Day Two you would have thought the clothes were headed to a torture chamber, as they were soaped, boiled again, scalded, wrung, and wrangled. This often took place up to three times.

From there they were finally starched, and then ironed with a flat iron that had been heated up on a woodstove. It’s no wonder women dreaded this weekly household chore!

We have come a long way from the laundry torture chamber and the long, back-breaking days of getting our clothes clean. Instead, we have machines that do your laundry for you. So why do we still dread it so much?

Maybe because it piles up faster than our list of other things we need to be doing. And there is a possibility we put it off until it becomes overwhelming. But there is another thought to laundry procrastination. If you don’t really know how to do your laundry, it can be intimidating!

Tips to Do Your Laundry

wicker basket filled with clean and folded towels and sheets

The one good thing about laundry is you can do it in short segments. From gathering it up to putting it away, you can get most, if not all, of your laundry done in a day.

There are only two of us here, so we do laundry at least twice a week, three times if I am washing curtains, bedding, and towels. Each load takes approximately 10 minutes or less – from gathering it up to turning on the washing machine.

Gathering Your Clothes

The first thing you need to consider when you do your laundry is have a designated place to put the dirty clothes. If you have a separate laundry room, have a hamper or basket that works as a collection station.

wicker basket filled with dirty laundry

If you don’t,  most bathrooms have a storage area. Place a basket in the closet. If there isn’t a place in the bathroom, then place a basket in the closet of each bedroom.

A note on separate hampers: If you have a laundry room, it is best to have just a single collection hamper in there. This prevents you from having to go from room to room to collect dirty clothes. Have each person in the household place their dirty clothing in the laundry room hamper on a daily basis.

This allows you to do your laundry each day (one load a day if you have a large family), or once or twice a week (for singles, couples, or small families).

If you do your laundry on a more frequent basis, it prevents you from having to spend a full day or all weekend trying to get it finished.

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Sorting

If you wash primarily in cold water, sorting isn’t as big of an issue. However, there is still some separation to be done. You don’t want to wash delicate items with heavy blue jeans or items with metal zippers and buttons. This can cause snagging.

Most washing machines have different cycles. Each cycle is designed to best clean different articles of clothing.

CycleHow It WorksItem
Normal / Regular / CottonFast Agitation/ Fast Rinse CycleDenim, Cotton, Bed Linens, Towels, Blankets, Tee-shirts, Men’s Underwear
Delicate / Gentle / HandwashLess agitation to gently clean delicate itemsBras, Womens’ Underwear, Silk, any item that has a “Gentle Wash’ tag
PermaPress / ColorFast Agitation / Slow Rinse CyclePolyester, Rayon, and other non-cotton items

a stack of folded clothes sitting next to bottles of cleaning supplies

If you use bleach or a whitening agent, such as Aunt Martha’s Bluing, when you do your laundry, these items will need to be washed separately to prevent removing colors from other items. You also want to wash heavily soiled items separately to prevent dirt and stains from getting on other clothing.

Some clothing isn’t colorfast and will ‘bleed’ the first few times you wash them. Never wash new, colored clothing with white items. The most famous color to bleed is red. When washed with white items, they will turn pink!

Check for Damage

a man's hands holding a plaid shirt with a tear in it

Before you wash an item, check for any damage. A torn seam can unravel further, and in some cases the material will fray. This can prevent the garment from being repaired at all. Look to see if all the buttons are tightly sewn.

A loose button can come off in the wash, or easily get lost. Most new garments usually have one or two extra buttons. These may be in a small plastic bag or sewn into the bottom portion of the placket on a shirt. The placket is the strip that has the buttonholes.

Also check to make sure the hem is secure. If the hem is not repaired before washing, it could cause the fabric to become misshapen and prevent an even hemline.

a heart shape darn on jeans with a white outline and red inner line

When you have an unwanted hole in a pair of jeans, consider using a patch or cover the hole using the darning method. This manner of patching a hole uses thread sewn with a warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) pattern. You can use threads of the same color, a different color warp and weft, or try using a variegated thread for a more colorful affect.

Some damage just can’t be repaired. If this is the case, go ahead and launder the garment. Once it is dry, set it aside to use for craft projects. Old clothes can be used in many types of projects. If cut into strips, they can be used to weave rugs or fabric baskets. You can also use pieces of several different pieces of clothing to make a memory quilt.

Stain Removal

woman's hands holding red garment and dipping it into soapy water

The best way to prevent stains from setting is to treat them as soon as the stain occurs. But we all know that isn’t always possible. Still, there are ways to help remove them.

If you prefer to purchase a stain removal product, Oxi Clean works better than most. But I try homemade versions first. It helps to soak the garment first. Cool or cold water usually works best, as it doesn’t set the stain.

While it is still damp, try your preferred stain removal method. Whatever you do, do NOT put the item in the dryer before the stain is gone. The heat from the dryer will set the stain. With ALL stain removers, be sure to test a small unnoticeable area first. Some stain removers will also remove the color from the fabric or cause a bigger stain!

These are a few home stain removers:

green spray bottle of vinegar, glass jar of baking soda to help you do your laundry

Vinegar & Water

In a small bowl or spray bottle, mix an equal amount of vinegar and water. Spray a liberal amount on the stain. Before you wash the garment, mix laundry detergent and water and apply to the stain. Wash as usual. Once washed, check to see if the stain is removed. If not, repeat the process.

Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer suggests using 6 Tablespoons of Baking Soda with 1/3 cup of water. Make a paste and apply to the stain. Let it dry, then wash as usual.

woman cleaning a purple stain on a green and white striped towel using a lemon

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

Some oil-based stains, such as salad dressings, can be removed. When you drip on your clothes, quickly cover the spot with salt. Allow it to absorb the oil as much as possible, then brush the salt away. When you get home, check the stain before washing.

Table Salt

I collect vintage linens, and a few of the white fabrics have old stains. When this happens, I use a paste made of Lemon Juice and Baking Soda. Cover the stain and allow to set. Handwash the item or put it in the washer on the gentle cycle. Hang it out on the line to dry. Never dry vintage linens or items in the dryer!

Drying Your Clothes

vintage tablecloths in white, aqua and green hanging on a clothesline

Most of us have a clothes dryer. But one of the best ways to dry your clothing is on a clothesline. But did you know that drying your clothes on a line has a few benefits?

  • Eco-friendly (doesn’t use gas or electricity)
  • Fresh Smell (eliminates lingering odors)
  • Gentler on Clothes
  • Ultraviolet Light of the Sun helps to disinfect and bleach (for darker clothing, hang in the shade to prevent fading!)

The Pros & Cons of Dryers vs Clothesline

With the invention of the dryer, most of us are able to remove our clothes when the dryer stops, hang them up, and not have to worry about wrinkles. It’s a fast effective way to dry your clothes. However, for the most part, I prefer to hang my clothes out on the line.

But there is a bit of a learning curve to using a clothesline. One thing you need to know is you do need to use a fabric softener in the rinse cycle. Clothes that are hanging on the line aren’t as soft as those that come out of the dryer. Once you take the clothes to the line, give them a hard snap or two before hanging them up.

blue and white pillow cases hanging on a clothesline

This helps to reduce wrinkles and soften them up a bit more. To prevent misshaping from the clothespins, drape your clothes over the line, then clip with the pins. Vinegar, when added to the wash cycle, helps to not only get clothes cleaner, but also acts as a natural fabric softener.

If you use a clothes dryer, it helps to prevent wrinkles if you work quickly as soon as the dryer stops. Remove clothes and hang or fold as necessary. The same goes for clothes hung on the line. As I remove an item, I fold it while I am still outside.

Here are a few more pros and cons of using a dryer vs a clothesline:

Dryer

ProsCons
Clothes dry within 1 to 2 hoursCan cause shrinking
Fewer wrinkles if clothes are removed immediatelySets stains
Can be used in all weather conditionsUses electricity or gas (costs extra)
May need fabric softener sheets
Laundry scent only – no fresh smell

Clothesline

ProsCons
Clothes dry within 30 minutes to an hourIf in full sun can cause fading
Free to use (no gas or electricity)Some items will require ironing
Fresh smellCannot be used in rain or freezing temperatures
Offers some degree of exercise (carrying, lifting, etc.)
Sun’s Ultraviolet rays disinfects clothing
Reduces Shrinking

For clothes that need to be ironed or hung up, I loosely fold them and set them to one side of the basket. In order to prevent taking an extra basket or causing confusion, I usually wash and dry items to be hung up or ironed first, and then have folded items in the next load. That way, while my folded items are drying, I can hang or iron the first load.

If you do want to start hanging clothes on a line, one tip is to situate your line in an area that is in partial to full shade. This will help somewhat to ease the pain of fading. If you collect vintage linens, hanging your items on the line is the best practice. They are usually delicate in nature and cannot withstand the tumbling action – or the heat – of a dryer.

man's hand holding a damp white cloth wiping down a clothesline

When you head out to hang your clothes on the line, be sure to take a damp cloth with you on the first trip. Take a moment to wipe down the cables. This removes any dust and dirt that have settled on them and will help to keep your clothing clean and prevent any stains.

If you use rope instead of wire or cable, consider draping a sheet over the line first. To do this, cut a sheet into strips approximately 12 inches wide and the full length of the sheet. Drape this strip over the lines, and then attach your clothing and pins over the strip. It may take a few extra minutes to get the pinned portion of your clothing dry, but they will stay clean!

Ironing

light green iron pressing a white shirt

There is an art to ironing, which is an entire post all in itself. Now that you know how to do your laundry, you may find there are a few items that can use the touch of an iron. To find out how to give your clothes that crisp clean look, check on the post HERE!

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Do Your Laundry

I know laundry may not be your favorite chore, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it was in the 1800s. And to keep it from piling up, remember to do at least a load or two during the week!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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