By Sheryl Smolkin
Piles of laundry loom ever larger and more ominous if you don’t stay on top of this tedious task. Who hasn’t discovered when dressing for an important meeting that their favourite white shirt has a big stain or needs ironing?
And when it comes to laundry, the larger your family, the bigger the problem is. In the interests of saving you both time and money, here are 10 tips on how to do laundry more efficiently culled from internet sources and my own experience.
- Outsource: My dirty little secret is that I rarely do our laundry. One of the luxuries working after retirement buys is a weekly housekeeper who does it for us. But if you have a partner or children, teach them how to do laundry early and make it part of their weekly “To Do” list.
- Make it easy: We have our own washer and dryer. However, because they are located in the basement, once a load goes in its easy to forget it still has to be dried and folded. If you are looking for a rental apartment or a new home, having laundry machines on the first floor or even the second floor where the bedrooms are will make the whole laundry cycle less onerous.
- Use cold water: There are many commercial laundry detergents available for cold water washing. Your clothes will come out just as clean, and you will use much less energy heating hot water. Your clothes may actually last longer.
- Minimize dryer use: Few of us use a clothesline anymore, but those who do say you can’t beat the fresh smell of sheets dried outside. Even if you don’t have a suitable location for a clothesline, you can use a free standing clothes rack for drying more delicate items like lingerie and sweaters in your bath tub.
- Maintain your dryer: Be diligent about emptying the dryer lint after every load. Also look for the external vent and make sure it’s not obstructed. Lift up the vent and make sure there’s no lint or anything else that has built up. The external vent blows out very moist air removed from the clothes. If it can’t get out, it stays in your clothes, increasing drying time and increasing your expenses.
- Double up: Ideally you should wait to do laundry until you have full loads. But sometimes that’s impossible if you only have a few coloured or white items that need washing but they are needed immediately. However you can save money on electricity if you wait to dry several small loads together.
- Read the tags: Are you sending clothes to the dry cleaners that you could wash at home? Most people know enough not to try and launder a good wool suit, but cleaning and washing silk is apparently easy if you follow some precautions. Mountain Equipment Co-op gives instruction for washing down coats and sleeping bags. While they suggest only doing so if you have a front loading washer, I’ve never had a problem with my top loader.
- Read the detergent label: Most of us grew up using up to a cup of washing detergent for each load. Now most kinds including liquids are much more concentrated. Read the label on the box to ensure you are using the quantity that is right for your machine. Using less detergent will save you money and your clothes won’t wear out as fast.
- Compare detergent costs: It used to be that detergent came only in powder form in boxes of various sizes. Now you can also buy liquid detergent for your clothes and even detergent pods. Figure out on a per load basis what is the least costly and works best for your family. It is not the cheapest but we prefer liquid detergent because it doesn’t leave a soap residue on our clothes.
- Wear things more than once: Some kids have their favourite clothing items they would never put in the wash unless you peel it off them. Others throw things in the laundry even if they were just trying them on to see if they are part of a suitable outfit for school the next day. There is a happy medium that will mean fewer loads and less wear and tear on your clothes.