Myth-Busting Laundry Tips and Tricks

Debunk those myths about your washer and dryer.

Everything you thought you knew about tough stains, dry cleaning and dryer sheets was wrong. We air out laundry’s dirtiest secrets.

Do moms know best when it comes to laundry? In a survey by Clorox, 52% of women said they always do the laundry for themselves and their significant other. Only 18% said they’d be comfortable having their dad do their laundry. Just pass this blog post on, and you’ll know your laundry is in good hands.

We checked in with Mary Marlowe Leverette, the laundry expert at About.com, to come clean on some popular laundry legends and gather some helpful tips and tricks. Take a look at our laundry myths below and learn how to properly wash your clothes.

“It’s amazing how little people know about doing laundry,” she says.

Laundry Myth #1: The more detergent I use, the better.

“If you think using more detergent will get your clothes cleaner, you’re just flushing away your money,” Leverette says. “Detergent only has X amount of cleaning power, and if you put in too much, it will be left in your clothes and not rinsed away completely.”

If you have a High-Efficiency (HE) machine, always use detergent labeled HE, she adds. One or 2 teaspoons should do the trick. HE detergent also works in standard machines.

“For front-loading washers you absolutely must use HE detergent because regular contains sudsing agents that may potentially destroy your washer,” Leverette says.

Laundry Myth #2: It’s all about the bubbles.

When we were taught how to do laundry, we were told that lots of bubbles meant our clothes were getting cleaner. For many years, manufacturers added sudsing agents to detergent. But bubbles don’t magically lift stains away, Leverette says. And with high-efficiency machines that don’t use much water, if you go overboard with detergent, it won’t all get rinsed out. So save the bubbles for the bathtub.

Laundry Myth #3: Stains that don’t come out in the wash will be there forever.

Once a stain has gone through the washer and dryer, it’s permanently set, right? Not necessarily, Leverette says. Yes, the high heat of the dryer may actually cook the stains into the fibers of the fabric — but that doesn’t mean it’s ruined for life.

The key to saving the garment is to use the recommended stain removal technique, just as if you hadn’t put it in the dryer.

“You may have to repeat it several times or allow the stain remover longer to get rid of the stain,” Leverette says.

There’s a good chance that even grease will come out if you use a grease-cutting stain remover and a lot of patience. For better grease stain removal, let the stain remover soak on the treated garment for 15 minutes or so, and use the hottest water possible to help lift the stain out of the fibers, she suggests.

Alas, there are some things that may never bounce back once the stain is set, such as clothing marred by permanent ink, Leverette says. The good news? Your kids probably use computers more than they use pens these days.

Laundry Myth #4: Dry clean only.

If you’re a laundry novice, follow the label. But if you know your fabrics, you might be able to get away with washing the garment on a gentle cycle, according to Leverette.

Don’t attempt this, though, if it’s a structured garment like a blazer, for instance. “The inner workings, inner facings and structure may not be machine-washable, and you’ll ruin it,” she warns.

Anything with crisp pleats is better off dry-cleaned, Leverette adds. But a soft sweater or unstructured dress can be hand-washed or put in a delicate cycle with gentle detergent.

Laundry Myth #5: Only hot water really cleans clothes.

“The only time you must use hot water is when there’s heavy body soil on garments that come in close contact with the body like underwear or diapers or sick-bed linens — anything that might contain bacteria,” Leverette says.

For outer garments, use cool water to help prevent shrinkage and keep colors bright. Fabric finishes don’t wear as quickly when washed in cool water.

Laundry Myth #6: You always have to use a dryer sheet.

Dryer sheets are coated with a silicone-like substance that’s released onto your clothes to make them feel softer and reduce static cling. Residue from the sheets can build up on the sensors that tell your dryer when your clothes are dry.

To prevent this, clean your sensors periodically, Leverette says. If you aren’t sure where the sensor is, look it up in your manual. Use a cotton swab and some rubbing alcohol to clean it once a month or so.

And that’s the dirt on some long-perpetuated clothes-cleaning myths.

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