Sunday, December 12, 2010

Laundry - Strategies, Stain Removers and More

One of the most annoying side effects of having a herd of children is the laundry. 

It.Never.Ends.

Inevitably the second I put the last item in the washer, fill the container with detergent and push the button, someone spills something.    I gave up hoping to ever be done with this chore a long time ago.  A very long time ago. 

I can't ever declare victory.

I've tried all kinds of strategies with the laundry to see what works the best.  I just about have it down to a science now.

Don't attempt to wait for your husband/boyfriend/significant other to do the laundry.  They won't.  I've performed this experiment a few times, each an abysmal failure. 

Don't rely on your children to tell you that they need this shirt or these pants for school tomorrow.   Or that their soccer uniform is dirty.   Or that the only tights that match that dress are rolled up in a ball under their bed.  Or that they threw something into the hamper sopping wet, leaving it to mildew and stink.  Even if you are not doing laundry every day, you should inspect for these things. 

I generally do laundry twice a week, otherwise I end up doing laundry every single day.  Even splitting the chore up into two portions leaves me with about 8-10 loads at a time, not including the days when sheets are changed.    Six people generate 2-3 loads a day.

Sometimes you have to do a load or two even if you weren't planning.  We all know that there are things that can't sit and wait a few days.  Most of them involve stains.  Wash them now.   I will put a stain remover guide at the bottom of this entry for you all.  I've learned through years of stain removal to always have a small arsenal at my disposal.

I sort the clothes, but not in an obsessive way.  I do lights and darks.  New denim and anything red tend to go with into a load of their own with other very dark clothes just in case they bleed a little.  Color catchers are lifesavers when you have to mix colors that have no business in a washing machine together.  You know, the white shirt with red trim, the sweater with multi colored stripes, those things.  Get a box of color catchers and save yourself the headache later on trying to fix the clothes.

I avoid dry clean and hand wash only clothing like the plague.  I adore wrinkle free clothes, and will totally justify the extra few bucks they cost to avoid the extra work.  Tom's entire work wardrobe is wrinkle free for that reason.  I don't iron.  Like ever.   I go to great lengths to avoid it.  Clothing that has a tendency towards wrinkling or having hems roll gets hung to dry out of the washer and smoothed out.  This works especially well with all the girls pleated skirts and crisp cotton dresses.  For items that are dry already and have a few wrinkles, there are spray wrinkle releasers that work great.  Spray, stretch out the item and smooth it down.  A quick toss in the dryer for a few minutes will usually do it too.

Anything with screen printed images, glued on sparkles or glitter needs to be washed inside out, which is almost never a problem.  You see, everyone I live with seems to have this habit of taking their clothes off so they are turned inside out.   Even the socks and underwear.   As much as it drives me crazy, it is better for the clothes in the long run.  Washing and drying wears them out faster than actually wearing them does. 

In my house, the laundry room is downstairs but all the bedrooms are upstairs.  Makes no sense to me either.  Because of that, and the constant nature of laundry here, I fold laundry straight out of the dryer and put it directly into baskets for each person.  I hang all hanging clothes and put them on the closet bar we installed in there.  About once a week, it all goes upstairs. 

I don't use fabric softener very often, dryer sheets are cheaper and work as well.   I never use regular bleach, only the color safe stuff.  Get yourself a decent laundry detergent, and no it doesn't have to be the expensive name brand stuff.   Right now I am using the eco friendly high efficiency liquid sold at Costco. 

I don't fold socks.  It's time consuming and my least favorite chore.  They get put in a sock bucket that gets sorted and folded when people start to run out.  And that part, everyone helps. 

Here is a list of stains I have conquered and how to get rid of them.  Most important tip with stains is not to put anything stained into the dryer until you are sure it is out.  Heat will set many stains.

- Small, but noticeable stains on white clothing - bleach pen.
- Grass - liquid detergent straight on stain, rub in until stain lifts, repeat if needed.
- Fruit juice - soak immediately in cold water, pretreat with liquid detergent.
- Tomato based stains - soak in cold water, pretreat with liquid detergent.  If colorfast, pour white vinegar over stain and let sit a while, then wash.
- Milk based stains - soak in cold water, rub with Dawn liquid soap and let sit, then rinse with cold water to remove grease.  May need enzyme stain remover.
- Blood - enzyme stain remover all the way.  Love that stuff.  Works wonders.
- Tape and sticker residue - wash in warm water, pick off the residue by hand.  Use goo gone if persistent.   Do not dry until all removed.
- Gum - goo gone or nail polish remover. 
- Ink - nail polish remover.
- Red wine - pour salt over the spot and let sit to soak up the wine.  Rinse in cold water and repeat until clean.
- Grease spots on dark clothes - liquid Dawn soap right on the spot, let it sit and wash like normal. 

If you have another stain you need help on that isn't listed here, ask me...chances are I've battled it before.

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