Monday, December 15, 2008

introducing vinegar

this weekend when my sister came to visit she also brought her laundry to wash in our washer instead of paying to take it to the laundromat. brian grumbled a little when i first told him this would happen, but i reminded him of all the times his mother had let us bring laundry over, and all the times we had been sure to do laundry before leaving my mom's house, so we wouldn't have to pay for it at the laundromat. i figured letting my sister do laundry at our house was like good karma. good laundry karma.

i also introduced her to vinegar in her wash. to be fair, i only discovered this trick about two months ago but i am already in love with it. conveniently, i found out about it approximately six days after i bought the costco-sized pack of dryer sheets. so if anyone needs or wants dryer sheets i will gladly pass them on to you. otherwise i have dryer sheets to last the rest of my life and then some. vinegar cuts the detergent residue from your clothes and leaves them very fresh-smelling (but not vinegar-smelling). distilled white vinegar is the only kind you should use, which is nice because it is also the cheapest kind. i got two gallons at costco last week for $3.57. you just do your wash like usual and the vinegar goes in the fabric softener dispenser in the washing machine. if you don't have a dispenser, i have read that a downy ball works great also. it only takes about ¼ - ½ cup; i just pour it in to the line in the dispenser.

that little conversation with my sister got me to thinking about how i do my laundry and care for my clothes. (also a conversation with her boyfriend in which we educated him on the properties of lint.) i would like to think i do a pretty good job on my clothes, since they look nice and wear well for a long time. many of my clothes i have had for years but they don't look it. a girl i used to work with would often comment on what a cute new sweater i was wearing, when in fact the sweater was years old and i just hadn't worn it lately. so, here is how i do laundry:

1. i very rarely hand-wash anything. sacrilege, my sister says! (she hand-washes a lot of her stuff, even her cashmere.) i have nothing against hand-washing, in fact i admire people who make that effort. i just am not one of those people. 99% of my stuff is washable in the washing machine.

2. i very rarely dry clean my clothes either. dry cleaning is not environmentally friendly and i don't like bringing those chemicals into my car and my home. (the rare occasions i have to go to the cleaners, i always air my clothes for 24-48 hours afterwards.) again, 99% of my stuff is washable so it is usually not an issue. when i do have to dry clean my clothes, i usually use dryel. it's cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and more people-friendly. i will usually "clean" clothes with dryel 3-4 times and then they go to the dry cleaners.

3. on the subject of dry cleaning: almost every fabric can be washed - 99% of the clothes you buy that say "dry clean only" don't desperately need to be dry cleaned. granted, some things are insanely easier to clean that way (brian's suits all go to the cleaners). wool can be washed and dried - just carefully, because it shrinks. silk can also be washed, gently; silk charmeuse (the lightweight shiny silk) needs a little extra care so it doesn't get "scuffed." most synthetic fabrics can be washed and often just need a gentle cycle. imho that "dry clean only" label is there to cover the manufacturer in case you royally screw up and destroy your clothes.

4. sort, sort, sort! pretty much everyone knows to sort by color, but less people realize that clothes also need to be sorted by fabric weight. you don't want your jeans bashing up your lightweight tees. we do five loads each week at my house: whites, lightweight darks, heavy darks (jeans, sweats, khakis, etc), light delicates, and dark delicates.

5. as far as delicates go, i throw a lot of stuff in there that my mother and sister don't worry about. all my underwear, even the cotton ones, go in delicates. so do all my socks and brian's dress socks. sweaters, of course. even brian's nylon track shorts go in delicates. the general rule in our house about clothes (excluding undergarments) is that if it is 100% synthetic, it goes in delicates; if it has cotton, it goes in whites or darks.

6. i also don't use a mesh bag for my delicates. some people would faint at this i think but it works fine for me. i hook my bras together at the back strap instead of leaving them unhooked, and they stay like that when washed, so they don't get tangled into an awful knot and the hooks don't catch into anything.

7. smaller loads are better - don't overfill your washer. about 2/3 full is a good rule of thumb for both front- and top-loading washers. your clothes need space to move around in the water in order to get clean. also, if they have space to move around, they aren't forced to be rubbed up against each other for the whole cycle, which breaks down the fibers. fabric fibers are weakest when wet.

8. cooler water is also better. i wash "regular" clothes in warm water and delicates in cold, and my washer (the whirlpool duet sport) does only cold water washes. the only things i wash in hot water are towels and sheets. cooler water is gentler on your clothes.

9. my washer also allows me to choose the spin speed. regular loads get a high spin speed, because cotton is very absorbent and so i feel like that high spin speed is necessary to get the water out. delicates get a medium or low spin speed, because i feel like the synthetics don't hold as much water, and it's gentler on the clothes.

10. i generally line-dry my delicates. most of them are synthetics which dry pretty quickly. i hung a couple lines in our laundry room so i can line-dry even in the winter. i would line dry a lot more of our laundry but brian complains about the "crinkly" stiff feeling in his shirts, and i don't have that much line space anyways.

11. like washing, drying on a slightly lower heat setting is better, i think, even if you have to run the dryer for longer. the only things i do on higher heat are towels and sheets, because those would take forever otherwise. remember, that lint that you clean out of the trap is pieces of your clothes. the goal is to minimize your clothes from falling apart.

12. also, i don't use dryer sheets anymore because of the vinegar. if i have to tumble dry my delicates i will throw in a half a dryer sheet to prevent static cling, and sometimes i will put a half a sheet in with the whites (where most of brian's poly/cotton work shirts get washed, and they can get a little static-y). vinegar is cheaper than dryer sheets and better for our skin and the environment in the long run anyways.

yeah, that was long. sorry. i tend to ramble. how do you do keep your clothes nice?


Kelly said...

Wow, Erin you have an impressive laundry system!

I simply do not have the time(nor do I care to make the time)to sort like that. But I manage to keep our clothes pretty new looking anyway.

I tried that vinegar trick about a year ago and wasn't so impressed(?). But I also use a minimal amount of soap, which I think helps. I use Trader Joe's laundry soap, which I love more than words can describe- it's environmentally friendly and inexpensive. For extra dirty loads I add a cup of baking soda instead of more detergent. I also add a bit of Method brand fabric softener(about half the reccomended amount).

Good to know about Dryel, I was curious. But we have a chemical free dry cleaner less than a mile from us(yay green city of portland) so it's not the hugest of concerns.

And I don't hand wash anything, but I cheat because my washer has an awesome "Hand wash" cycle.

eireann said...

ooooh i did not know about the baking soda trick! i could put baking soda in the towels and sheets, and sometimes the jeans. i wonder if my washer would explode when the vinegar hits the baking soda.

i use plain old costco he detergent. the only thing i don't like about it is that it is kind of perfume-y. it doesn't bother me or b, but i'm trying to get away from all that anyway. i'll have to try the trader joe's soap.

Kelly said...

Martha Stewart has an article about clothes care in this months mag! Weird. It came last night. She would be horrified by my method.

I forgot to mention that I have a woolite bra-wash bag that I think it the best invention ever. It's sort of cylinder shaped and holds two bras, so they don't get mangled.

Lastly- my sister in law uses that costco detergent and it gave me a horrid rash when I stayed with them this summer. But I did like the smell. haha

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