Well-planned laundry methods can make cleaning clothes more efficient and better for the environment. A main factor in making choices is the household size.
A small capacity washer and dryer, possibly a stackable unit, is all that is needed for one or two people. Larger households need a laundry area with a large capacity washer and dryer. Those with children or outdoor workers would especially benefit from a laundry room that also serves as a mud room for outside entrance to the home.
Dirty clothes can be stripped and left in the laundry room to be cleaned before they enter the house proper. Good lighting in the area is important to be able to see stains and pretreat them. Venting to the outdoors is necessary to reduce humidity and prevent mold and mildew.
Flooring should be spill-tolerant tiles or stone, not wood. Countertops should be ceramic tile or a laminate that handles moisture well. A shower stall is perfect for rinsing off muddy boots, feet and pets and hanging wet things to drip dry.
Three types of energy are used to clean laundry: mechanical, thermal and chemical. If one is decreased, another must be increased. The agitator supplies mechanical energy in a top-loader washing machine along with the spin cycle. In a front-loader, the clothes tumble in shallow water.
Thermal energy is the warm or hot water which should be between 120 and 140°F as it comes from the hot water heater. Chemical energy is from the detergents, bleach, borax, washing soda and other additives. Powdered detergents require at least 65°F water or they may not entirely dissolve.
Hot water should only be used for whites and very dirty colored items. Warm water is safe for most fabrics. Cold is best for barely dirty clothes or to maintain bright colors and uses less energy.
Washers are unique in their laundry settings, so read the manual. Standard is regular for cottons and linens; permanent press for polyester, acrylic, nylon, or permanent-press finished items; and delicate for fragile sheer lingerie, lace trimmed, swimsuits, washable woolens and sweaters, and anything labeled “hand washable.”
Load the washing machine with different sized items. Split sheets into different loads, mixing them with smaller items. Unfold everything and load it loosely, not wrapping things around an agitator where they will tangle. Do not load a top-loading washer higher than the top row of holes inside the washtub. Use a mesh bag for more delicate items or those with straps so they do not tangle.
Wash white cotton, bed linens, and underwear in a hot water regular cycle. Wash dark heavier fabrics in cool water with a short cycle to prevent shrinking and fading. Wash permanent press and delicates in smaller loads for less wrinkling. Pretreat stains, empty pockets, close zippers and anything that may catch, and tie drawstrings on things like hoodies.
Use detergents that are free of dyes and fragrances and are allergy-sensitive. Add the detergent to the washer so it dissolves better before adding the laundry. Granular detergent is best for hard water areas and for clothes soiled with mud and clay. Use a test kit from the hardware store to determine how hard the water is. Zero to 3 grains per gallon (gpg) is soft, 4 to 9 gpg is average, and 10 gpg and above is hard. Add more detergent when water is hard, less when soft.
Liquid detergent dissolves better in cold water washes, saving energy, and is best on oil and grease stains. The manufacturer’s scoop is based on average loads. The amount of detergent needed depends on how large and how dirty the load is and the hardness of the water. In cold weather in areas where the water in pipes will be colder than normal, either use the warm setting or run some hot water in first before selecting the cold setting.
Read the article below on making inexpensive efficient detergent at home. Watch the video for hints from What’s Up Moms and to see the LG SideKick™ washer that washes a second load simultaneously.