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House & Home

Laundry & Ironing Basics


published by Barnes & Noble

Load up on laundry know-how.


Static cling, bleach spots, shrunken sweaters—the laundry room can seem like a
frightening place. With just a little basic knowlege, though, you can keep your
wardrobe and linens fresh and flawless. Teach yourself how to:

• Care for different fabrics and choose the right laundry supplies

• Get great results from any washer or dryer, at home or at a laundromat

• Iron out wrinkles and keep all your clothes in top shape

Household Laundry Schedule • Do not bleach: Not safe to wash with bleach.
Laundry Basics Your laundry schedule will depend on many factors, includ- • Tumble dry: Safe to dry in a dryer. The label will often
Typical household laundry consists mainly of clothing, ing the number and age of people in your household and the indicate whether to use high, medium, or low heat. If it
towels, and bed linens. Depending on the number of people amount of time you have to devote to the task. The following doesn’t, you can assume that any temperature is safe.
in your household, you may need to wash dirty laundry general guidelines can help you devise a consistent laundry • Iron: Safe to iron. The label will often indicate “hot
anywhere from once to several times a week. Regardless of schedule that suits your lifestyle. iron,” “warm iron,” or “cool iron.” If it doesn’t, use your
the amount of laundry that accumulates in your home, it’s discretion based on the item’s fabric content (see How
important to stick to a regular schedule. If neglected, dirty Item How Often to Launder to Iron for more information on iron settings).
laundry can easily pile up, leaving you with a shortage of
Sheets Once a week
clean clothes and linens—not to mention a job that’s more Garment tags may also feature variations on the typical care
time-consuming than it needs to be. Blankets/quilts Once a month instructions, but the directions are always stated clearly
Bath towels Once a week (twice in humid and concisely. For example, a sweater made of wool, which
How to Sort Laundry weather or larger households) can easily shrink in a tumble dryer or become misshapen if
Sorting laundry is the process of separating dirty clothing and handled while wet, may include the instructions “Lay flat to
linens into separate loads according to their similar washing Kitchen towels Daily or every other day if you dry” or “Do not twist or wring.”
and drying needs. Sorting is an important routine that saves cook a lot; once a week if you
cook less often
water and energy, protects fabrics, and eases the process How to Read Fabric Care Symbols
of everyday laundering. Though it may seem like an arduous General clothing After each wearing In 1997, the American Society for Testing and Materials
task, sorting can save your belongings from irreversible dam- (pants, shirts, etc.) (ASTM) published a series of standardized symbols to take
age, such as fading, shrinking, and tearing. Laundry is usually the place of written instructions on fabric care labels (though
Undergarments, After each wearing (bras can be
sorted according to color and/or fabric content. many labels include both written instructions and symbols).
socks, and gym worn more than once between
Fabric care symbols are illustrated washing, drying, and
clothes washings)
• Whites: Items that are primarily white should be ironing directions that consumers can read and understand,
washed together in hot water, preferably with bleach to regardless of language. The following chart illustrates all of
maintain their brightness. Whites include undershirts, the ASTM’s fabric care symbols and their meanings.
underwear, towels, socks, and most bedsheets. How to Read Fabric Care Labels ASTM Guide to Care Symbols
• Light colors: Pale-colored clothing and linens can be To help consumers care for their fabrics, the Federal Trade Warning
symbols for
washed together in either warm or cold water, depending Commission requires that manufacturers affix permanent Machine
wash
laundering

on their fabric content. You may opt to use colorsafe care labels, or tags, to garments, linens, and towels. These Cycles normal permanent delicate / hand
press gentle wash do not wash
&
bleach to maintain the brightness of light colors. fabric tags must be legible and resistant to fading. On cloth-
Water
• Dark colors: Items that are very bold or bright in color ing, they’re typically found inside collars, waistbands, or Wash temperatures
(60F-
(200F) (160F) (140F) (120F) (105F) 85F) do not bleach

can bleed dye onto other fabrics. To avoid this, group left-hand seams. On linens and towels, they’re usually sewn symbol(s)
dots & ˚C
95 70 60 50 40 30

do not dry
dark-colored fabrics together and wash them in cold or into the hem. In addition to size and fabric content, care (used with
do not wash)
Bleach
warm water, depending on their fabric content. labels include important information about how to wash, when
needed any bleach only non-chlorine/
• Delicates: Items made of fine, fragile materials, such dry, and iron the item. The information is presented in Bleach oxygen bleach do not iron
Additional
as lace or silk, should be washed together, either by written instructions, fabric care symbols, or both. instruction
(in symbols
Tumble dry
hand or on your washer’s delicate cycle (see Washing line dry /
or words)

Instructions on Fabric Care Labels


hang to dry
Machines) in a mesh bag that’s washing machine–safe. Cycles normal permanent delicate /
press gentle do not wring
Unprotected delicates can pull and tear if subjected to Most written instructions found on fabric care labels are Dry &
drip dry
a regular machine washing. general and straightforward. The most common written Heat settings
any high medium low no heat /
do not
tumble dry
air
• Other categories: In addition to the above loads, directions you’ll find on garments and linens include: dry flat
in the shade
be sure to keep lint-producing fabrics, such as (added to line
Iron when dry, drip dry,
terrycloth, separate from lint-attracting fabrics, such • Machine wash: Safe to wash using a standard washing needed or dry flat)
dry or steam
as knits. Wash heavily soiled items separately from machine. The label may indicate whether to use cold, Heat settings high medium low
Iron no steam
lightly soiled items. And though it’s a good idea to warm, or hot water. If it doesn’t, you can assume that (added to iron)
Do not Do not
combine different-sized items within each load (the any temperature is safe. Dryclean dryclean Wetclean wetclean
medium mild cycle normal mild very mild
mix facilitates cleaning action in a washer), it’s best • Hand wash: Not safe to wash in a machine; wash
P F P F W W W
to avoid pairing very bulky items, such as duvets, with only by hand. The label will sometimes recommend a Professional
tetrachloroethylene petroleum
Textile Care or petroleum solvent solvent only
much smaller items, such as socks. general water temperature.
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• Pre-laundry stain remover: • Free: Indicates that the detergent lacks dyes, perfumes,
Laundry Supplies This concentrated gel, liquid, and fragrances that tend to cause allergic reactions.
For everyday laundering, stock up on the following supplies or solid detergent, sometimes • Color-safe bleach: Indicates that the detergent is safe
and replenish them as needed: called a stain stick or pen, to use on colored items. Color-safe bleach keeps both
brushes, rolls, or rubs on to colors and whites looking bright.
• Detergent: Laundry detergent comes in two forms: pretreat stains on fabric before
powder (or granular) and liquid. The main difference it’s washed. Stain removers
between the two is texture. An advantage of powder work by “freezing” and Washing Machines
detergent (which predates liquid) is its typically lower breaking down stains before Washing machines wash dirty laundry through mechani-
price. An advantage of liquid detergent is the fact that they have a chance to set. cal energy (supplied by the motion of the washer), thermal
it’s predissolved—powder sometimes does not • Laundry additives: A laundry energy (supplied by water temperature), and chemical action
dissolve fully, especially in hard water. additive is a powder or liquid (supplied by soaps and detergents). Washers typically have
used in addition to detergent a capacity of 1.7–3.1 cubic feet or more and are 24–33" wide.
and sometimes instead of They work by either agitating or tumbling laundry.
bleach. It helps to clean,
freshen, and brighten laundry, • Agitating: This is the process of spinning laundry
and is especially useful when around a central, vertical post, creating a centrifugal
trying to remove tough stains, force that presses out stains, suds, and water. Agitating
odors, and allergens. results in laundry that’s damp-dried, meaning that it’s
powder detergent liquid detergent • Hamper: A hamper is a basket or bin, usually kept in already wrung out and doesn’t drip.
• Bleach: Household bleach comes in liquid or powder a laundry room, bedroom, or closet, that holds dirty • Tumbling: This is the process of tossing laundry
form and is used to whiten or brighten laundry and laundry until it can be washed. around an empty drum (the barrel-like chamber
remove stub­b orn stains (from whites only). There are • Laundry basket: This handheld container, usually inside the washer), sloshing and spraying sudsy
two main types of bleach. Chlorine bleach is a strong, made of plastic, is used to transport laundry from the water throughout the items. Tumbling is a more gentle
pungent chemical that’s highly effective at removing hamper to the washer, the washer to the dryer, and the method of washing than agitating is. Like agitators,
stains, primarily on cotton and synthetic fibers. dryer to the bureau, armoire, or closet. tumblers also move laundry at a speed that presses out
However, it can damage silk, wool, acetate, spandex, • Laundry bag: A laundry bag is often necessary for water, leaving laundry damp-dried.
and any fabrics labeled “flame-resistant” or “dry clean transporting large loads of laundry, especially to and
only.” Oxygen bleach, sometimes called all-fabric from the laundromat. Types of Washing Machines
bleach, is milder than chlorine bleach but less effective • Mesh bags: These bags are used to hold delicates— Washers fall into different categories based on the location
at removing stains and whitening fabrics. Oxygen such as lingerie and baby clothes—that might snag of their door and whether they agitate or tumble laundry.
bleach is safe to use on just about any type of material, or tear in the washer or dryer. They’re also handy for
as long as it’s not labeled “no bleach.” Oxygen bleach keeping socks contained as they’re washed. Look for • Top-loading: The most
doesn’t give off the same harmful fumes that chlorine mesh bags that are labeled specifically for laundry; common type of washer
bleach emits. To brighten colored items, you can use they’re designed to withstand repeated machine- in the United States, a top-
color-safe bleach (see below), which is sold either washing and drying. loading machine has a
alone or as a detergent component. • Drying rack: Items that top-mounted door through
will shrink in a tumble dryer which to load laundry. It
are labeled “hang to dry” or uses a central, vertical
“lay flat to dry,” meaning post and centrifugal force
that they should be hung or to agitate laundry. Its
placed on a clothesline or top-loading design makes
top-loading washer
drying rack, a floor-standing laundry easy to access.
or wall-mounted wooden or • Front-loading: Front-
chlorine bleach oxygen bleach plastic rack with tiers for loading washers, already
• Fabric softener: Fabric softener is used to soften hanging items and level popular throughout Europe
laundry and reduce static cling—some softeners even surfaces for laying items flat. drying rack and on the rise in the
make ironing easier. Fabric softener is available in two United States, have a door
forms. Liquid fabric softener is added to the washing Get to Know Detergent Jargon in front through which
machine (either to its automatic dispenser or directly Not all detergents are created equal—often, you’ll come laundry is loaded. This type
into the wash) during the final rinse cycle. Fabric across words on detergent labels that indicate special fea- of washer, often referred
softener sheets, or dryer sheets, are added to the tures. Some of the most popular terms include: to as a high-efficiency
front-loading washer
dryer at the beginning of its cycle. (HE) washer, tumbles
• Ultra: Indicates that the detergent is concentrated, so laundry in its drum, using less energy and water,
you should use a smaller amount than usual. requiring less detergent, and drying laundry more
• All-purpose (heavy-duty): Implies that the detergent quickly than top-loaders. But front-loading machines
can be used with almost any type of laundry fabric tend to have longer wash cycles than top-loading
(except for the type that requires “mild” or “gentle” machines, and their front-loading design forces you to
detergent), as well as for other household cleaning bend down to reach
jobs, such as washing windows or mopping floors. your laundry.
liquid fabric softener dryer sheets

The information contained in this and every Quamut guide is intended only for the general interest of its readers and
should not be used as a basis for making medical, investment, legal or other important decisions. Though Quamut
makes efforts to create accurate guides, editorial and research mistakes can occur. Quamut cannot, therefore,
guarantee the accuracy of its guides. We disclaim all warranties, including warranties of merchantability or fitness
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for a particular purpose, and must advise you to use our guides at your own risk. Quamut and its employees are not Copyright © 2008 Quamut
liable for loss of any nature resulting from the use of or reliance upon our charts and the information found therein.
All rights reserved.
Quamut is a registered trademark of
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
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Printed in the United States
Photo Credits: Page 1: Digital Vision/Punchstock (photo 1), This figure has been reproduced by SparkNotes Publishing under license from ASTM International. This figure is reprinted from
ASTM Standard D 5489-01a, Standard Guide for Care Symbols for Care Instructions on Textile Products, copyright ASTM International, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, West Conshohocken, PA 19428,
USA (phone: 610-832-9585, fax: 610-832-9555, e-mail: service@astm.org, website: www.astm.org. Copies of the official standard should be obtained directly from ASTM., (image 2); Page 2: Writer: Kristine Solomon
Scott B. Rosen/Bill Smith Studio (photos 1, 3-4, and 8-9), Courtesy of Proctor & Gamble (photos 2, and 5-6), Vincent & Jennifer Keane/Lucence Photographic (photo 7), Courtesy of Whirlpool
Corporation (photos 10-11); Page 3: www.energystar.gov (image 1), Courtesy of LG Electronics (photo 2), Courtesy of Samsung (photo 3); Page 4: Courtesy of Haier America (photos 1-2), Cour-
tesy of LG Electronics (photo 3); Page 5: Scott B. Rosen/Bill Smith Studio; Page 6: Arvind Balaraman/Shutterstock (photo 1), Comstock/Jupiter Images (photo 2).
www.quamut.com Laundry & Ironing Basics

Look for the ENERGY STAR Label More advanced washing machines may have extra cycles, including:
In 1992, the U.S. government’s Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) started the ENERGY STAR program to pro- • Cotton, silk, or wool: These cycles are suited specifically to these fabrics.
mote energy savings in consumer appliances and electron- • Extra long: This lengthy wash is useful for heavily soiled items.
ics. When shopping for washers and dryers, look for models • Extra rinse: The extra rinse in this cycle helps remove any leftover stains or detergent.
that bear the ENERGY STAR logo—it means that they meet • Extra spin: The extra spin time in this cycle helps press more water out of absorbent
the EPA’s strict energy-efficiency guidelines. An ENERGY articles, such as towels and blankets.
STAR washing machine uses 40% less energy and water than ENERGY STAR logo • Hand wash: This setting mimics the delicate action of actual handwashing.
standard models. • Quick: This short cycle washes lightly soiled items in less time, using less water and
energy than longer cycles.
Steam and Silver as Laundry Agents • Sanitize: This cycle releases a dose of extra-hot water into the wash mid-cycle to kill
In recent years, some manufacturers have introduced hybrid washing machines that use germs and bacteria.
new technologies, such as steam or silver, not only to clean but also to purify dirty laundry. • Soak: Also called prewash, this quick cycle soaks items for a few minutes before the
main cycle, helping to remove stains.
• Steam: Some washers come with a steam setting that releases steam and humidity
into the washer’s chamber, cleaning lightly soiled laundry while conserving energy and Washing Machine Maintenance
water. The most notable example of a steam washer is LG’s TROMM SteamWasher™. Washing machines and their various parts need regular maintenance and cleaning to stay in
Washing machines that use steam are more expensive than traditional models. good working order. Consult the user manual that came with your machine, and also follow
• Silver: Silver has odor-, stain-, and bacteria-fighting properties that make it a powerful these guidelines:
purifying agent. Up-and-coming washing machines deposit silver ions into the load
during the wash cycle. The most popular model, Samsung’s SilverCare™, claims to kill Washer Part Problem Solution Frequency
99.99% of bacteria and odors in laundry. Because this technology is new, the SilverCare Main tub Repeated washings To sanitize the machine, Every 3 months
washer is more expensive than traditional washers. or drum leave behind dirt, fill it with hot water (no if you have very
detergent residue, laundry or detergent), hard water;
and limescale de- add 1 quart chlorine every 6 months
posits, especially bleach directly into if you have
if you have hard the tub (not the bleach moderately hard
water, which is high dispenser), and run a water; once a
in minerals, such as hot-water wash on the year if you have
calcium and magne- longest cycle. To remove soft water
sium. (If your laundry mineral deposits, follow
tends to be dull, din- this cycle immediately
gy, and stiff after you by adding 1 quart white
wash it, you probably vinegar to the machine
have hard water.) and running it again on
LG’s TROMM SteamWasher™ Samsung’s SilverCare™ the same long, hot-
water cycle.
Washing Machine Water Temperatures Lint trap When too much Consult the user manual Once a month
Different types of fabrics require different water temperatures, so you’ll need to set your lint clogs the lint to locate your washer’s
washing machine accordingly. Washers can be set to the following water temperatures: trap, it can interfere lint trap (it’s usually near
with the machine’s the top), then remove
• Hot: A hot-water wash has a temperature of 112°F or above. Hot water is very performance. built-up lint.
effective at removing stains, odors, and germs, and detergents tend to dissolve best
Fabric Residue from liquid Warm a cup of white Once a month
at high temperatures. But hot water can also damage certain articles of laundry over softener fabric softener can vinegar in the microwave or bimonthly
time. Whites and colorfast items, for instance, are sturdy enough to benefit from hot- dispenser leave bluish stains or on the stove, pour it
water washing, whereas brightly colored fabric can fade, and delicate fabric (such as on laundry. into the dispen­ser, and
wool and silk) can shrink or warp in hot water. Another major downside of hot-water run the empty machine
washing is that it uses up a lot of energy, so it’s best to reserve this setting only for through a short, hot-water
heavily soiled items. cycle. If the dispenser is
• Warm: A warm-water wash has a temperature of about 105°F. Blends, synthetics, and removable, soak it in a
light- to medium-colored items (particularly noncolorfast fabrics) benefit most from this hot-water-and-vinegar
type of wash. But warm water isn’t as effective as hot water at removing stains, so it’s solution.
best to pretreat stains before tossing articles into a warm-water wash.
Bleach Residue from bleach If the dispenser is Once a month
• Cold: A cold-water wash has a temperature of 86°F or below. Brightly colored, non­
dispenser can leave faded removable, rinse it in or bimonthly
colorfast, and delicate fabrics are best suited to cold-water washing, as lower tem­
spots on laundry. the sink with dishwash-
peratures are gentler on laundry than higher ones are. But cold water is also least ing detergent. If it’s
effective at removing stains, so it’s necessary to pretreat stains before tossing items stationary, use a pipe
into a cold-water wash. Cold-water washing is also kind to the environment, as it cleaner or rag to clean
uses relatively little energy. For this reason, companies now manufacture detergents off residue.
designed specifically to dissolve in cold water.

Washing Machine Cycles Dryers


A cycle is a washing machine setting that determines wash time, spin or tumble speed, and A dryer is a front-loading appliance that dries laundry automatically. Like washers, dry-
water temperature. Virtually all washing machines have three standard cycles: ers have cycle settings that determine the drying temperatures that they use. But unlike
washers, dryers have programmable timers that allow you to specify the exact duration
• Regular: Also called normal, this cycle uses hot or warm water to wash sturdy fabrics, of the cycle—some dryers even feature a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the
such as cotton, vigorously. machine when the laundry is dry, to avoid overdrying. Full-size dryers typically have a
• Permanent press: Also called the wrinkle-free or easy-care cycle, this type of wash capacity of 4–7 cubic feet or more and are about 27–33" wide.
is meant for wrinkle-treated fabrics, synthetics, and manmade fibers. It uses a cold-
water rinse (most synthetics can’t tolerate heat) and a slower spin cycle. Types of Dryers
• Delicate: Also called gentle, this setting is meant for delicate fabrics, such as acrylic, Though some dryers dry laundry through alternate means, such as heat pumps and cen-
silk, wool, acetate, and any articles composed of a delicate weave, which may tear, trifugal force, the most common type of automatic dryer in the United States is a tumble
stretch, or pull in a more aggressive wash cycle. The delicate cycle uses cool to warm dryer, which tumbles damp laundry in a barrel, dispersing hot air and blowing out moisture
water and a slow washing action. through an exhaust pipe that leads outdoors. There are two types of tumble dryers: electric
and gas.
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• Electric dryer: This is the oldest and most common type of tumble dryer. It runs on How to Pretreat Laundry
a 240-volt electric current and therefore requires a 240-volt outlet that can accom­ Pretreating is the process of presoaking items and pretreating stains before laundering the
modate either a three- or four-pronged plug. (Like washers, dryers are available in items. Pretreating can help to remove odors but is particularly important when dealing with
ENERGY STAR models.) Electric dryers are cheaper than gas dryers but are more stains—washing and drying a fabric without first pretreating it can cause some stains to set,
expensive to operate, costing you more in the long run. making them virtually impossible to remove.
• Gas dryer: This type of dryer runs on natural gas, so the area where you plan to place
your gas dryer should have a gas line. Though gas dryers are a bit more expensive to How to Presoak Laundry
buy, they’re less expensive to operate because they don’t run on electricity, so they Heavily soiled items, such as gym clothes, should be presoaked to remove tough stains and
end up saving you money in the long run. odors before the items go through the main wash. Presoaking also helps oxygen bleach to
work better. You can presoak laundry whether you’re washing it in a machine or by hand.
Space-Saving Units
Standard washers and dryers are large units that take up a lot of space, so many manufac- • Machine presoaking: Most washing machines have optional presoak settings that
turers now offer space-saving alternatives: soak clothes in a water-and-detergent mixture for 15–60 minutes before launching into
the wash cycle. Newer washers presoak laundry automatically when certain heavy-
• Compact dryers: These svelte dryers are about 24" wide and have a capacity of 2­– 4 duty cycles are selected.
cubic feet. Compact dryers are ideal for homes where space is at a premium. • Hand-wash presoaking: Pretreat hand-washable items by mixing mild detergent into
• Stackable dryers: These dryers are designed to sit on top of matching front-load a sinkful of water and letting the items sit in this solution for 15–60 minutes.
washers, saving floor space.
• Combination washer/dryers: Also called laundry centers, these hybrids provide a How to Pretreat Stains
washer and dryer in one unit. If any of your items have visible stains or perspiration marks, set them aside for pretreat-
ing. Dampen the stained area and rub a stain stick (see Laundry Supplies) or a dab of liquid
detergent directly onto the spot. Then toss the item into the wash.

How to Machine-Wash Laundry


Once laundry has been sorted and pretreated, it’s ready to be washed. Follow these steps:

1. Select the appropriate cycle and press start. If you’re washing everyday clothing and
linens that are only lightly soiled and have no stains, it’s okay to select a gentler, cold-
water cycle. A cold-water cycle is safe for any material, and using it saves energy.
2. Add detergent as the machine is filling with water—if you add detergent only after
the laundry is already loaded, it can get concentrated in the fabric and not rinse out
compact dryer stackable dryer combination washer/dryer
fully, causing faded or greasy spots. If the load is small, it’s okay to use less than the
Dryer Cycles recommended amount of detergent and select the short cycle to save time, money,
Dryers come with three standard settings: regular, permanent press, and low/delicate. energy, and water. In modern machines, you may also add liquid fabric softener at this
stage (see step 4).
• Regular: This is the highest setting on a dryer. It uses hot air to dry sturdy items, such 3. Load the laundry and let it wash. A standard wash cycle is about 20–40 minutes long—
as jeans, underwear, and towels, that are not prone to shrinkage. if you’re using a front-loading washer, expect the cycle to last a little longer.
• Permanent press: This medium setting uses warm air to dry synthetics, blends, 4. During the final rinse (depending on your machine), add liquid fabric softener either
and anything labeled “tumble dry medium.” It usually includes a cooldown period. To into the softener dispenser or into the wash itself. The package will suggest an
prevent wrinkles, remove items from the dryer immediately after this cycle ends. appropriate amount. If in doubt, use less—fabric softener tends to be greasy and can
• Low/delicate: This is the lowest cycle on a dryer. It uses relatively cool air to dry build up on clothing.
delicate items, such as lingerie, woolens, hand-washables, and anything prone to 5. Take laundry out of the machine as soon as possible after the cycle ends and transfer
shrinkage or labeled “tumble dry low.” it to the dryer, drying rack, or clothesline. Damp clothes that sit in the washer too long
can develop a musty, mildew-like smell.
Dryer Maintenance
A dryer needs regular maintenance to function properly. Follow these guidelines: Should You Wash New Items Before Wearing?
If you or someone in your household has sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to wash new items
• After each load, clean out the lint filter and the space in which it sits. It’s a good before wearing or using them. Manufacturers often treat fabrics with special finishes that
idea to vacuum this area now and then as well. A clogged lint filter slows down the resist wrinkles, dirt, and oils so that the items will look their best in stores. These finishes
performance of the dryer and presents a fire hazard. tend to be hard on sensitive skin. One wash in the appropriate cycle should do the trick.
• Once every couple of months, clean the inner walls of the dryer with a damp cloth.
• Once a year, remove the vent pipe or exhaust hose and clean the lint out of it, then Laundry Troubleshooting for the Washer
reattach it, resealing the joints with duct tape if needed. Occasionally, laundry will come out of the machine in worse condition than when it went in.
• Make sure the vent pipe is free of kinks, which can block the flow of air. Below are the most common laundry pitfalls and how to remedy them.

Problem Likely Cause(s) Solution(s)


How to Wash Laundry
Dingy/gray • Load not properly • Rewash load, using presoak,
Most fabrics can be laundered in a washing machine—labels will indicate clearly when discoloration washed (due to low strong detergent, hot water,
items should be hand washed or dry cleaned instead. Cleaning laundry in the washing water temperature, poor bleach (if applicable), and laundry
machine saves time and yields the best results. sorting, too little deter- additive.
gent, or too much
Prepare Clothing for Laundering fabric softener)
Before tossing your sorted laundry into the wash:
Color • One or more articles in • Remove noncolorfast item(s) and
bleeding wash are not colorfast rewash load with strong detergent,
• Turn items inside out: This slows the fading of fabric on its visible side.
hot water, and bleach (if safe
• Empty pockets: Tissues, lip balm, chewing gum, and other foreign objects left in
for items).
pockets can stain or damage your laundry.
• Check for tears and runs: Rigorous washing action can worsen existing damage. Tears • Excessive use or misuse • Use amount of bleach appropriate
• Zip up zippers: An open zipper can snag fabrics. of bleach to size of load, or dilute bleach
• Do a colorfastness test: Some boldly colored fabric dyes may bleed in water or fade • Open zipper or hook with water.
dramatically in colorsafe bleach. Most items that are not colorfast are labeled “wash in wash • Close all zippers and hooks prior
separately.” But if you’re wary of a brightly colored item that’s never been washed • Overloaded or improp- to washing.
before, test it first. Put a drop of water onto a hidden spot—such as the inside of a hem erly loaded washer • Don’t overfill washer.
or seam—then blot it with a cotton ball. If the cotton stays clean, it’s safe to wash the • Isolate delicates in mesh bag.
garment with other fabrics. If it picks up some of the dye, wash the item separately.
You can perform the same test to determine whether it’s okay to use colorsafe bleach.
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Brown or • Iron or manganese in • Have local water utility company 1. Treat stains with the provided stain-removal liquid.
rust-colored water supply test water for rust. 2. Put a pretreated cloth and the laundry items in the dryer-safe bag.
stains • To remove rust stains, fill washer 3. Toss the bag in the dryer and select the cycle indicated in the kit’s instructions.
with water, select appropriate 4. When the cycle is over, remove the bag immediately so that no wrinkles can set.
cycle, add 1/3 cup rust remover to
water, and let dissolve. Then add
laundry. Follow with rinse cycle or How to Dry Laundry
regular cycle with detergent. (To Though most of your clean laundry should be dryer-safe, always remember to check care
test for colorfastness, add one labels before tossing items into an automatic dryer. Dryer-related damage is often irrevers-
teaspoon rust remover to one cup ible. When in doubt, hang or lay items flat to dry.
water, then place one drop of that
solution on inconspicuous spot on How to Machine-Dry Laundry
item. Let spot dry and see whether Using the tumble dryer is the quickest and easiest way to dry your laundry. To machine dry
color changes.)
successfully, remember the following guidelines:
Excessive lint • Low water pressure • If water pressure seems low when
• Improper draining water is filling, look for kinks in • Don’t overfill the dryer. Fabric expands as it dries, and an oversize load can reduce the
• Improper sorting hoses and check screens in hoses machine’s efficiency, hampering its ability to tumble the items. Plus, the laundry will
• Overloading for buildup of sediment. take much longer to dry.
• Once water has filled to maximum • Don’t underfill the dryer. Clothes in an undersize load will clump together, and you’ll
level, advance dial manually to waste energy to boot. If you have a small load that needs to be tumble dried, toss in a
final spin cycle. Start timer at be- few dry, non–lint-producing items to facilitate the tumbling action.
ginning of spin cycle, wait 90 sec- • Take advantage of leftover heat by drying multiple loads back-to-back.
onds, then open lid. If all water has • Remove items immediately after the drying cycle ends. When laundry is left sitting in
not drained, check drain hose for the machine for too long, it can shrink or develop wrinkles.
kinks or call a professional. • To prevent overdrying—which can cause yellowing, wrinkles, shrinking, loss of
elasticity, and textural damage—set the timer conservatively. You can always check
How to Hand-Wash Laundry the laundry at the end of the cycle to see whether it needs more drying time.
Any item that’s lacy, embroidered, noncolorfast, vintage (made before washing machines • Remove items with thick seams, such as jeans, when the flat parts are dry but the
were used), or otherwise delicate or valuable should be hand washed in a sink or basin. In seams are still slightly damp. Doing so will help prevent overdrying.
particular, very delicate lingerie and items labeled “hand wash only” must be hand washed.
Though time-consuming, handwashing will protect your delicates from damage, fading, and Laundry Troubleshooting for the Dryer
shrinkage, prolonging the life of the fabric. To hand-wash laundry:
Problem Likely Cause(s) Solution
1. Make sure that your fingernails have no ragged edges. Wearing waterproof gloves is a
Shrinking • Dryer temperature was • Check care labels when items
good idea, but it’s not necessary. set too high, or item come out of wash—especially
2. Fill the sink or basin with cool water, then add a capful of mild detergent. wasn’t meant to be if you’re washing items for the
3. Wash items one or two at a time (wash noncolorfast items separately). Swish the tumble dried first time.
item(s) through the sudsy water, then let them soak for a few minutes. Squeeze the
sudsy water gently out of the fabric. Don’t twist or wring the item. Static cling • Laundry was overdried • Put dryer sheet in dryer and
4. Drain the basin or sink and rinse the item with cool water until the water runs clear. • Item is simply susceptible redry load.
to static
5. Roll the item in a dry towel to absorb excess water. If the item is noncolorfast, use an
old towel that you don’t mind ruining. Laundry takes • Lint trap is clogged • Clean lint trap and fill dryer only
6. Depending on the item’s care label, hang it or lay it flat to dry—never tumble dry a too long to dry • Load was too big one-third full—remember that
hand-washable item. If you don’t have a drying rack, hang the item on a plastic or fabric expands as it dries.
wooden hanger or lay it flat on a clean, dry towel. Remember to reshape knits or other
Wrinkles • Laundry was left sitting in • Put damp towel in dryer and
stretchy garments to preserve their shape when you lay them out to dry.
dryer for too long redry load.

How to Dry-Clean Laundry How to Line-Dry Laundry


Dry cleaning is the process of laundering items—mainly clothing and certain types of Before automatic dryers were invented, people had no choice but to hang their laundry or
bedding—with chemicals instead of water or standard detergent. Though there are at-home lay it flat to dry. Even when you have a dryer, you may sometimes choose to take advantage
kits that simulate the action of dry cleaning (see below), real dry cleaning can only be done of your clothesline in mild weather to save energy or just let laundry absorb the smell of
by professionals, as it requires bulky machinery and special training. Dry cleaning is more fresh air. If you do, remember the following guidelines:
expensive than machine washing, and it takes longer—usually a few days to a week—for
your laundry to be ready. You should take your garments and bedding to be dry cleaned if: • Always make sure the clothespins and clothesline are clean before hanging laundry. If
your clothesline is made of rope, you can wash it with a simple household cleaner or a
• Their care labels indicate to do so solution of water and detergent whenever it looks dirty.
• They’re filled with down or feathers (for example, coats, duvets, and pillows) • Keep a liberal supply of clothespins on hand so that you won’t run out halfway through.
• They have tough stains that you can’t remove on your own Wooden clothespins are common, but plastic ones are less likely to leave marks on
• They have an odor that won’t come out in the washer fabric.
• Extend standard fabrics about 4" over the line, then pin. To secure heavier fabrics,
Because professional dry cleaners are trained to remove different types of stains, you extend them halfway or a third of the way over the line, then pin.
should point out and identify specific stains whenever possible so that the dry cleaner knows • Don’t let items drag on the ground.
which types of chemicals to use. Never take an item of laundry to the dry cleaner unless • When hanging flat articles, such as sheets and towels, hang them widthwise with their
its label recommends this type of laundering specifically. Some fabrics can’t withstand the hems parallel to the line. This takes up less space and puts less stress on the line.
chemicals used in professional dry cleaning. • Hang pillowcases with their open end facing up and pinned at either corner. This way,
they’ll catch wind and billow in the breeze.
At-Home Dry-Cleaning Kits • To make sure towels are fluffy when dry, shake them vigorously (make them snap)
At-home dry-cleaning kits include cloths treated with dry- before hanging them—doing so loosens the pile (fluffy texture) of the fabric. Do the
cleaning chemicals, stain removal liquid, and reusable, dryer- same when you take them down.
safe bags to contain laundry. These kits are great occasional • To prevent fading on very sunny days, hang colored laundry inside out on a shady spot
substitutes for dry cleaning, especially for removing odors on the line—or don’t hang it outside at all. Similarly, whites can yellow from prolonged
(some, but not all, kits can get rid of stains too). To save time, exposure to sunlight, so limit their exposure time whenever possible.
you may also opt to launder lightly soiled delicates with an • If you want to line dry your laundry year round, buy an indoor clothesline (try
at-home dry-cleaning kit instead of by hand. Dryel® is a popular www.stacksandstacks.com) and hang it in your basement or laundry room.
at-home dry-cleaning kit. To use an at-home dry-cleaning kit:
www.quamut.com Laundry & Ironing Basics

• Starch: This spray-on solution is similar to sizing but


How to Use a Laundromat Ironing Basics more concentrated, leaving fabrics a bit stiffer.
If you don’t have the space or means to own a washer and When you take your
steam soleplate
dryer, your alternative is to do your laundry at a nearby clothes out of the dryer, Ironing Techniques
button
laundromat. Laundromats may offer do-it-yourself facilities, some of them will be Before ironing, close any zippers and fasten any buttons,
drop-off/pick-up service, delivery service, or a combination wrinkled. An electric hooks, and clasps on your items. Set up the ironing board in
water
of the above. Having the employees at the laundromat wash, iron is the easiest reservoir a well-lit spot, at waist height and with its wide end facing to
dry, and fold your laundry for you is always more expensive way to press these your right (if you’re right-handed). Fill the iron’s reservoir with
than doing the laundry yourself. (For more on folding items, wrinkles out of fabrics. water, then plug it in and choose the appropriate setting.
see the Quamut guide to How to Fold Everything.) Most irons use both When ironing, use one hand to guide the iron and the
heat and steam and other to smooth the fabric and pull it taut as you work. Iron
• Cost of doing laundry yourself: Each washer in a are called steam irons. A steam iron has several parts: as large an area as possible, then stand the iron on its heel
laundromat generally takes $1–5 in quarters, depending while you rearrange the garment. Spray sizing or starch—
on its size, and each dryer typically takes one quarter • Soleplate: This nonstick iron plate heats up quickly and particularly on stubborn spots, such as collars and cuffs—
per 6–8 minutes. Some laundromats now have washers evenly. The soleplates of steam irons feature a series of while holding the can about 6–10" from the fabric. Then run
and dryers that accept prepaid laundry cards instead of holes through which steam is released. the iron over the area.
quarters. If you wash one load of laundry and dry it for • Water reservoir: This is a space in the iron that
one hour, it can cost anywhere from $3.50 to $7.50. holds water. When an iron is plugged in, the water in Ironing vs. Pressing
• Cost of drop-off laundry service: Usually, laun­ the reservoir heats up and is released through the There are two general techniques that are used to get fabric
dromats charge by the pound—$0.75 to $1.00 per soleplate as steam, which works in tandem with heat smooth with a steam iron:
pound is pretty standard. A typical load of laundry and pressure to help remove wrinkles. Some steam
weighs 10–25 pounds, costing anywhere from $7.50 irons can operate with tap water; others call for • Ironing: This is the process of sliding the steam iron
to $25.00. distilled water. If your locality has hard water, it’s best back and forth over the fabric while applying light
to use distilled water in your iron. pressure. Ironing is the more common technique.
Laundromat Supplies • Steam button: This button lets you control when • Pressing: This entails placing the iron in one spot,
Take the following items with you to the laundromat: steam is released from the iron. Some steam irons also then lifting it. You may choose to place a protective
have a button that lets you spray water onto the fabric. cloth, called a pressing cloth, over the item that you’re
• Your laundry in a basket or laundry bag pressing. Pressing is recommended on more heat-
• Detergent Iron Settings sensitive items, such as men’s suits, wool, net, pile
• Fabric softener Not all fabrics require or can tolerate the same level of heat, fabrics, and some silks and rayons.
• A roll of quarters so steam irons feature various settings for different types of
material. Choose these settings carefully to prevent perma- Ironing Tips
How to Use Laundromat Washers and Dryers nent damage to your clothing and linens. There are universal Get the best ironing results by using the following tips:
The washers and dryers at laundromats are similar to symbols in the form of dots that represent the three most
machines designed for homes in some ways, including: common settings on steam irons. They are: • To prevent shine—a common result when ironing
certain fabrics—iron the garment inside out or use a
• Settings • One dot: The iron’s cool setting—248°F. Use this pressing cloth.
• Water temperatures setting for synthetic materials. • Iron sleeves and pockets more easily by first stuffing
• Cycle durations • Two dots: The iron’s warm setting—320°F. Use this them with tissue paper, a washcloth, or a sleeve board.
setting for silk and wool. • To iron pleats, pin them in place, then pull them taut and
But laundromat facilities are also different in several ways. • Three dots: The iron’s hot setting—370°F. Use this iron from the waist to the hem.
In a laundromat: setting for cotton and linen. • If a fabric is stretchy or cut on the bias (cut diagonally),
iron it in the direction of the weave.
• Washers and dryers require quarters (or prepaid cards) Though the above system is still in use, many modern irons • If a fabric is piled (such as velvet), hold the iron’s sole­
to operate. have more than three settings. On these irons, each setting plate above the garment—don’t let it touch—and shoot
• Many washers and dryers have larger capacities than should indicate the type of fabric for which it’s intended. it with steam only.
at-home machines. • Iron around buttons, not on them. Buttons may crack or
• Machines may not be as well-maintained or cleaned as melt under heat or scratch the iron’s soleplate.
you’d like. How to Iron
• Compartments for detergents and fabric softeners are Ironing isn’t essential, but it helps your clothes look their Iron Safety, Maintenance, and Troubleshooting
located atop the washer. best—some fabrics, such as cotton and linen, wrinkle very To stay safe and make sure your iron stays in good working
• Washers typically tumble rather than agitate. easily. Depending on your time and devotion to the task, you order, do the following:
may even want to iron other household fabrics, such as bed
Here are a few tips for using laundromat facilities the right— sheets and hand towels. • Test the soleplate first: To avoid burning a fabric,
and polite—way: always test the soleplate’s heat before using the iron.
Ironing Supplies Iron either an inconspicuous portion of the garment or a
• If compartments for detergent are not located on top of In addition to a steam iron, you’ll need the following supplies rag made of the same or similar material.
the machine, put the detergent right into the machine to iron your laundry: • Unplug it: Keep the iron plugged in only when you’re
as it starts filling with water, before loading laundry. actually using it.
• Laundromat washers usually have just the basic • Ironing board: Whether it’s a floorstanding or table • Clean the iron after each use: When the iron is cool,
cycles—regular, delicate, and permanent press. Washing model, the ironing board should be padded and have a wipe the soleplate with a damp cloth. Never use an
times don’t vary as widely—25–40 minutes is typical. smooth, heat-resistant cover. abrasive cleaner or steel wool on the soleplate.
• Remember that you’re sharing washers and dryers— • If starch or other residue builds up: Buy a specially
leaving your laundry in the machine too long is not only designed iron cleaner, available at most home centers,
harmful to your clothes but also inconsiderate to others. or use an old toothbrush to scrub on a paste made of
• Never leave laundry unattended. baking soda and water (the soleplate can withstand a
• Because most laundromat washers are front-load low level of abrasion).
models, remember that they don’t require as much • If the iron becomes clogged: First, make sure that
detergent as a top loader. A half cupful is fine. you’re using the right type of water (tap vs. distilled) —
doing so will help prevent clogs. If your iron does clog,
pour white vinegar into the water reservoir and turn on
the iron, letting the heated vinegar sit in the reservoir
• Sizing: This spray-on solution helps remove wrinkles, until it’s all released as steam. Iron a clean rag to make
restores body to the fabric, and forms a protective sure all of the vinegar is released. Then unplug the iron,
layer that repels dirt. Cotton and linen benefit most let it cool, and rinse out the reservoir with cool water.
from sizing.