8 laundry solutions for dealing with common wash-day problems

Helen Harrison
Photo credit: Tim McGuire / Getty

From House Beautiful UK

Keep your washing looking good and feeling fantastic with these laundry solutions for dealing with common wash-day problems.

1. Colour fading

This is usually caused by washing at a temperature above that recommended by the care label. Use special colour-protecting detergents which don't contain bleach, making them less harsh on the dyes in clothes.

2. Excessive creasing

Try not to overload the machine, use the correct wash programme for the fabric (for example, synthetics require reduced drum agitation and shorter, lower-speed spin cycles), remove clothes from the machine as soon as the cycle has finished and hang them up immediately. If using a tumble dryer, remove clothes while still slightly damp – over-drying causes fibres to become more brittle and difficult to iron.

3. Greying of white cottons

Not enough detergent has been used to suspend dirt in the wash-water and the dirt is re-deposited as a thin layer, making clothes look grey. Wash the items again on the highest temperature permitted by the fabric and with the maximum recommended dose of detergent. In future, follow the correct dosing instructions and wash programme and don't overload the machine.

4.Scratchy towels

Usually caused by either too much or too little detergent and inadequate rinsing, which allows mineral build-up on the fabric. Soak items in a solution of 2tbsp Calgon to 4L water (or for a cheaper version, try 500ml white vinegar to 4L water), then wash again in as hot a cycle as possible without any detergent. Add 200ml of white vinegar to the detergent dispenser drawer instead.

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5. Pillows

Wash them twice a year to freshen and remove dust mite residue. They must be thoroughly dried afterwards or the filling will start to smell. Never dry-clean pillows because it's difficult to remove all the toxic chemicals and you don't want to be breathing those in during the night.

6. Quilts

Valuable antique and heirloom quilts should always be taken to a specialist company for cleaning. If you're confident the quilt is safe to wash, fill a clean bathtub with cold water and add a little gentle, unperfumed, undyed liquid detergent and 1⁄2 cup of white vinegar. Put the quilt in the tub and gently move it around. Leave for about 10 minutes, then drain and refill with fresh water. Repeat until the water comes up clean and suds-free. Allow as much water as possible to drain, then roll up the quilt and squeeze very delicately – too much pulling can damage the seams. Take the quilt outside and lay it out on a clean white sheet. Cover with another sheet and leave until completely dry.

Never hang a quilt from a washing line; it places too much stress on the seams and can displace the filling.

7. Washing machines

Our increasing use of lower-temperature washing programmes saves energy and is kinder to the environment, but it also means that mould and bacteria that would normally be killed by high temperatures are more able to build up inside the machine and cause a bad smell.

To combat this problem, do a monthly maintenance wash by running the machine empty on as high a wash temperature as possible, using powder detergent rather than liquid. This is because liquid detergents generally don't contain bleach, which makes them less effective for sterilisation. After every wash, wipe rubber door seals dry and leave the door slightly ajar so that air can circulate in the drum. Clean the detergent dispenser drawer regularly because this is another area that can harbour bacteria, and leave it slightly open between washes.

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8. Dry cleaning

Always dry clean items if this is specified on the care label, or if no instructions are available. Anything old, valuable or particularly delicate, such as lace, should also always be dry cleaned. Dry cleaners have an advantage when it comes to stain removal because they're legally allowed to use a range of solvents not available to the domestic market.

For the best outcomes, try these tips:

1. Choose a dry cleaner that's a member of the Textile Services Association – look for a blue-and-white logo with the current year's date on it.

2. Draw their attention to any specific stains or unusual fabrics.

3. If you've already tried to remove a stain, tell them what you've used on it.

4. Point out any dry cleaning symbol on the garment's care label that's underlined. This will usually mean that a special treatment is required.

5. Always hang dry cleaned items out to air thoroughly before wearing to allow any toxic fumes to disperse.

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