All the laundry comments remind me that there are different situations out there. I'm conscious of the difficulty of handing out advice. But if I think you and me sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of tea, talking about what highly intelligent folks talk about -- ("The problem with you women is that you just want to talk about the price of potatoes!" a guy friend once scolded. Hey, I can talk about the stimulus package or the One and the Many if you want to, but I am interested in the price of potatoes :) -- I know that if I tell you how I do it, you will say to yourself, "I can do that, and I can do better than that." Yes, it's as I've been telling you -- If I can do it, so can you!
So here are some notes on simplifying the laundry. This post is blah-blah-blah-blah...it just goes on and on. Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry.
Those of you with high-tech nuclear-powered washing machines and dryers are on your own. Read your manual and figure it out. Actually, everyone should read the instructions that come with household appliances. These machines are expensive to replace, and they are not magic!
It's easier to explain to a child how to use an appliance if we really understand it ourselves. Have you completely internalized the fact that if you consistently overload your washer it will fail you long before its time? This knowledge will help you explain to your minions how to choose a water level.
Much more on all that and exactly how to get a kid to do laundry in Worksheet III in the sidebar.
As to products, I am not going to be seduced by most of those things out there. If you can show me it really works better than what I've got, okay...so far this is what I always have on hand.Laundry detergent.
I'm going to challenge you to choose a detergent that doesn't have a scent. Personally, the smell of regular Tide makes me feel sick. It took me a long time to like real honest to goodness lavender because of this overused product. I buy Mountain Fresh or whatever it's called Tide (see the little green corner up there that I practically cut off?) because it's got little scent of its own (sometimes I can find unscented, but not always). I haven't found generic kinds that aren't practically chemical weapons on the nose.
I want to point out to you that really clean laundry has a clean smell of its own. Lately I've been noticing that some people's laundry smells clean from far away, but if you get into it and really smell it, it's not clean deep down. So your scented detergent might be masking this sad truth from you.
To provide deep-down cleanliness, you need a couple of other products and the occasional run through with warm or hot water (outdoor line-drying in the sun is a distant memory at this point for those of us who are hibernating). I realize that we are all trying to be frugal and washing in cold water, but permit me to say that refraining from warm or hot water when you need it is causing you to wash certain things more often than they need to be washed, which is costing you in electricity, water, and wear-and-tear on your machines.What makes things smell, for the most part, is molds. Towels need bleach and at least warm water. In the summer they need hot water or line drying. Last summer we stayed at a beach house that supplied towels and sheets.
I ended up washing all the "clean" linens before we could use them... I had to go buy bleach and proper detergent to do it. They were so musty I couldn't bear to even be in the house with them.
Mustiness is that "whiff" of something that's not dirt that you get from damp towels, sponges, washcloths, rain gear, old shoes, or anything that has been sitting around in moisture. That "whiff" makes me crazy! The only cure is bleach or a good airing in the direct sun. Please don't send me comments about your baking soda. You must not live in a damp place like I do.
If you find that laundry in drawers after a few days no longer seems clean, try doing your wash in warm water for a while.
Here is a real secret (really, no one else will tell you about this! I learned it from my BFF Sue):
Lestoil will remove those grease spots on knits and chino pants. You know how you always seem to get salad on your favorite polo shirt? Or how your husband seems to drop pizza on his new khakis? How about that ring around the collar of winter jackets? Rub Lestoil into the grease spot, let it sit for a few minutes, and launder in warm water. I've never used a more effective grease spot remover, so I don't buy the others any more. You can see that I got one of those ketchup bottles for it, because it's hard to be accurate with the big bottle! I cleaned it off just for you!
For articles that seem yellowed and for sheets and other vaguely greasy objects, try ammonia according to the directions. Your pillowcases won't get really clean with bleach. You need ammonia! (And remember, never mix the two. A toxic gas will result.)I do like oxygen-type bleaches for some things. I don't have a picture here, but that Carbona stain devils is oxygen-based. I don't know what that Grandma's stuff is. For that matter, you could use straight hydrogen peroxide.
For whites that have yellowed, try Mrs. Stewart's. It works! You can tell that all you have to do around here is put a picture of an old lady on a product and we will buy it! (By the way, I get nothing for telling you any of this.)
I used that Clorox II on my sofa cushion covers (gasp! I was very brave indeed -- I waited for a hot dry July spell and just about got an ulcer doing it) and it worked very well.
As to the dryer, I use one quarter to one third of a dryer sheet in my regular loads to prevent static (not with the towels). The cheapest, most generic dryer sheets are just fine.
A few years ago the Chief made me this drying rack. I (or whoever is doing the laundry) put lingerie and whatever else really shouldn't go in the dryer on it, and very handy it is.It deploys right there in the mudroom.
And, ta-da! My old dryer was so pitifully scratched and rusty, because people will put things on there. When I got my new one (don't scorn it just because it doesn't look like it's from outer space, it works great), I put this rubber matting on it to protect it. Every once in a while I rinse it off, let it dry, and put it on again. I cut a new one just for you. No rusty scratches!