Ever wonder what a good wash routine looks like? How do you maintain the value of your clothing after you’ve worn it, washed it, and loved it? After nearly 30 years in the business, our family has learned a thing or two about proper laundering techniques. Still, it is a never-ending learning experience adapting to new washing machine technologies, new fabric materials, and new garment constructions. Check out our tried-and-true methods to get you on your way to a good wash routine and make your clothes last another lifetime!
1. Use the right detergent, and the right amount. Finding the right detergent for your washing machine, your water hardness, your budget, and the environment involves lots of research, trial, and error. People often think the more detergent they use, the cleaner their clothes will be. Not true! All extra detergent does is expel excess chemicals to your water waste, build up detergent residue in your machine, and settle into fabrics. Use the recommended amount of detergent, if not less, for each wash. High efficiency (HE) machines require even less detergent than older machines used to need. We’ve noticed some particular detergent brands, though tough on stains, end up breaking down fabric fibers so much that they wear out clothing over time. We recommend detergents that are gentle on clothing and the environment, but also tough enough to really get through stains. Some brands we like are Oxiclean, Country Save, and Kirkland Signature’s Environmentally Responsible detergent. We know there are plenty of others out there. If you have a favorite detergent, let us know in the comments below!
2. Spot clean the right way. Ever spill coffee, bits of blueberry, pinot noir…you know, all the fun stuff on your expensive white blouse? Yah, we have, too. Shout and Oxiclean have been our go-to for stain removal. Make sure you agitate the spot after treating with spot remover, but not too roughly, depending on the fabric (some, like silk, are too delicate to agitate). Let sit or soak for an adequate amount of time before washing or rinsing. For Shout, the stain is lifted in about 5 minutes. Don’t leave on any longer or the stain will resettle!
3. Avoid nonessentials. Fabric softeners and bleach, in our experience, are not necessary and actually break down fabrics more quickly. If you must use fabric softeners, don’t use a dryer sheet when drying.
4. Friends don’t let friends dry clean. Even though a garment tag may say “dry clean only,” most things do not need it! Dry cleaning uses harsh chemicals that wear your clothes out. Certain things, like wool coats with lining, need to be dry cleaned. If you’re unsure of your washing skills and are super nervous about ruining your brand-new cashmere sweater, go to the cleaners. You can even use at-home cleaning bags, typically available at your local drug store.
5. Don’t throw everything in the dryer. And for the most part, don’t throw anything in the dryer that you actually care about. Yes, towels and bedding need to go in the dryer. But to prevent pilling and fabric breakdown, we recommend hang drying most clothes. If space is an issue, in the winter, you can hang your clothes near heat vents (never put them directly on a heater!) to speed up the drying process. In the summer, hang your clothes outside and let nature do your dryer’s work. The sun is a natural bleach/brightener, too! If you must use your dryer, low-heat drying cycles can be less harsh on your clothes.
6. Don’t wash as often. This is kind of an obvious one, but something you may not think twice about when throwing things in the laundry basket. Unless you really see a need to wash something, why not fold it up and put it back in your dresser or hang it in your closet until next time? But be careful with cashmere and wool items—if they have some kind of oil, fat, or food residue on them, that can attract moths. You can spot clean those for safe measure. And remember to wash everything before consigning!
7. Save delicates with mesh bags. For delicate delicates that you’re worried about snagging or catching on other things in the wash, use mesh bags like these.
8. Always zip, button, tie…etcetera, before washing!
9. Denim: Everybody’s favorite pain. For brand-new jeans, turn them inside out, warm wash (to shrink and rinse any dye residues), and throw them in the dryer just ONCE before wearing the first time. For used jeans, no need to dry. They’ve most likely already been broken in. For every wash thereafter, turn inside out, cold wash, and hang dry.
10. Turn down the heat. Lower your wash and dry temperatures! Higher temperatures are guilty of stretching, shrinking, permanently staining, and damaging fabrics.
You may have noticed most of our laundry tips are what not to do. Simplifying your wash routine is really the best way to ensure your clothes last. While we have years of experience washing and drying clothes, we’ve also made many mistakes throughout. If you’re ever unsure or uncomfortable with washing anything, follow each garment’s wash instructions.
Of course, the most underlying thing to mention is that we encourage people to buy into brands that use hardy, quality fabrics that are known to last longer than just one season. Some of the newer fabrics are made out of synthetic materials that are just not meant to last, and therefore no perfect wash routine will save them! So buy smart, wash smart, and then consign!
We have not been paid by or given any free products from any of the brands or products mentioned in this post. This is 100% genuine, free, kick-ass advice.