Your Most Pressing Laundry Questions Answered

One thing I know drives folks crazy is how much laundry needs to be done. It’s true; laundry has to get done every week, or else…naked. Generally, there are 6 “types” of loads I do around the house. Don’t let this overwhelm you though; it makes sense and I’ve refined laundry into these 6 categories after years of experimentation. It actually makes doing laundry easier.

My six laundry loads consist of light garments, colored garments, dark garments, linens, towels, and cleaning cloths. If you don’t launder this way, I highly recommend making the switch to trying these 6 categories out. Grouping like garments and materials together means you can launder for optimum results using the appropriate load size, water and air temperature, detergent and other additives. You’ll always get the best results in the least amount of time with the least damage to your garments when you launder this way.

With all of this laundry to do, I know many of you, like me, find new (and unexciting!) laundry challenges. Like you needed that?! This month, I am going to answer some of your laundry questions and help make your laundry life a little easier.

Ray asks:

I iron shirts before work each morning, but I think I’m spending too much time on the task. Any ideas for reducing ironing time?

Ray, I am glad you reached out because you’re not alone! Most of us don’t even have the patience to iron, so clearly you’ve already attained sainthood, but I can still help you. I have found that with the right tools the job is a lot quicker to do. I’d recommend looking for a steam iron; these incorporate heat as well as steam to speed the job up. Not all irons are created equal, though. Some offer steam technology, but end up sputtering warm water all over the garment, which is frustrating, and a time-waster. Firstly, ensure you are using the right heat setting. Typically, cotton requires the hottest setting and if the iron isn’t hot enough, it will take longer to do the work. Check your fabric care label and order your clothing from the garments which require the coolest setting to the warmest, that way you can crank up the heat on the iron as you go.

The iron I’ve had success with is the Reliable Velocity 200IR. Its steam function goes the distance; and it doesn’t sputter, like other ones I’ve tried. Another great way to reduce ironing time is to line the flat surface of your ironing board with tinfoil, then place your ironing board cover on top. The tinfoil helps reflect heat, making each iron stroke more effective and thus reducing ironing time. Good luck!

Lisa asks:

With two pre-teenaged boys who are quite active, laundry is nuts at my house. Do you have any suggestions on how to create and streamline a laundry system?

Lisa, every parent is giving you a heartfelt amen right now. A laundry system is a genius way an almost unruly situation. Start with getting a laundry tri-sorter for the boys, like the Honey-Can-Do Heavy Duty Triple Laundry Sorter and showing them where to put their stuff — lights, colors and darks. Keep it in a central location, perhaps their bathroom or a space in the hallway between their bedrooms, so that they know where to dump clothing. How you choose to enforce the rule is up to you — for example, some parents have a rule where anything that is left on their bedroom floor at the end of the night gets collected by and is not given back for a month. That’ll get the favorite pair of track pants in the wash quickly! The next thing I’d suggest is to teach the boys how to do their own laundry. They are of age where they can do it and I am sure you can use the help with the task.

Laundry is a life skill that everyone needs to know about — boy or girl, rich or poor. Help them get started by creating a schedule – three loads are to be done a week — each week, one boy launders and one boy folds and delivers garments. They’ll need a sturdy laundry basket to trek loads to and from the laundry room and to each other’s rooms, too. I’d recommend teaching them how to empty pockets before placing items in the machine and how to pre-treat a stain. They may not do it for every garment, but, it’s something that over time they’ll learn. If you remind them enough about it, they’ll get it. It may not be perfect at first, but compliment them and build their confidence up as they go. The resistance to the task, eventually, will fade. And when they’re in their 20’s and living on their own, they’ll have you to thank for being able to properly clean their clothes.

Diana asks:

Melissa, how do you know what gets hung to dry and how do you do it? What do you recommend as my rule of thumb for this?

I am a big fan of hanging clothing to dry; yes it takes more time, but I trust the system. Plus, who wants to fall victim to the curse of the shrunken pants – which of course can only be broken by performing the shrunken pants dance (a dance I’ve danced many times)? Here’s what I do and here’s a rule of thumb you can go by. Socks, sweats, pajamas, towels, linens and cleaning cloths get machine dried. Everything else, including underwear, bras, workout gear, tops, jeans, wool items (that’s a whole other situation we can discuss at another time) and machine washable garments like dresses and skirts will get hung to dry. If I am in a jam, I can dry those items in the machine with the permanent press or delicates cycle. I like this method because I can rest assured nothing is going to get shrunk and it is gentler on clothing meaning garments will last longer.

I hang garments by giving them a couple of good snaps to get the wrinkles out when I pull them out of the wash, then laying them on a drying rack like the Neatfreak Bi-Wing Drying Rack. I have also installed a hanging bar in my laundry room, so items like dresses or large dress shirts can be hung with ease. Plus, when hanging from a bar on a large shouldered plastic hanger (which helps retain shoulder shape), the weight of the garment is pulled downward by gravity, which helps reduce wrinkles and allows the garment to fall naturally. I hope that helps!

Laundry is an ongoing challenge in many homes and is a life skill that kids will keep with them for the rest of their lives. Use laundry as a teaching opportunity. I was taught to do laundry (begrudgingly) at age 12, and a girlfriend of mine just taught her 8-year-old son how to do it. Streamlining the process, getting the best tools and products to make your work easier, and understanding your equipment will help make laundry easy and effective. I always love getting your questions, and in October’s column, we’ll be talking about clean, fresh indoor air. If you are an allergy or asthma sufferer, a pet owner, or care about the odor inside your home, please send me your questions by adding a comment in this post or using #AskMelissa on social media.

Have a great September!