how do you wash your clothes?

Let’s talk about laundry! I know it’s not the most exciting of topics, but when you sew you inevitably start to learn more about textiles, and the more you know the more you’ll want to care for those textiles appropriately. When you’re spending time and money on clothing and sewing you’ll probably want to take care of your investment to help it last so you can enjoy it longer.

how do you wash your clothes?

So first, how often do you wash your clothes? Chances are, you’re washing more frequently than you need to, and washing is hard on textiles. Machine drying is even worse. Most laundry needs to be washed primarily to eliminate smelliness and stains, so if your clothing doesn’t have either of those issues you may not need to wash it. For example, jackets, skirts, and trousers generally need to be washed very infrequently. T-shirts and underwear need the most frequent washing. Be sure your clothes really need to be washed before you clean them.

Since stains can be a real concern, it’s helpful to know how to treat different types of stains. Here’s a great stain treatment guide that can help! Save this someplace where you can find it when you need it. It’s a great guide to treating almost any possible stain.

Other washing tips:

  • When possible, turn clothing inside-out to prevent additional wear to the outside of the garment. This will keep textiles looking new for longer, especially printed cotton and denim.
  • Dry cleaning chemicals can be quite harsh on clothing. If possible, hand wash delicate clothing instead of dry cleaning. (Sweaters are so much nicer to wear if you hand wash them in Soak or Eucalan. Just be sure to use cool or lukewarm water, and roll them in a towel to extract water before laying them flat to dry.) You might also want to use soap specifically designed for delicates. Sometimes you can also toss delicates into the washing machine on a gentle cycle, especially if you use a mesh bag to help protect them.
  • Air out clothing after wearing it. This will allow any moisture in the fabric to evaporate and will help any smells to disappear.
  • Cool water is often gentler on textiles and better for the environment. Most environmentally-friendly washing machines have an eco setting that uses cooler water and still gets your clothing clean.
  • Line dry whenever possible. If you give your clothing a good shake-out before hanging you may not need to iron it when dry, or at least you’ll need to iron less than if you used the dryer.
  • Store away any clothing that won’t be worn for a while. This will protect it from dust, light, and insects. I’ve been storing my out-of-season clothing with a bar of lavender soap wrapped in a little tissue paper. The lavender in the soap repel insects and gives the clothing a nice scent, too!
  • Use a lint brush to refresh clothing that gets a bit dusty or covered with pet hair. A pill comb can be used to remove pills from sweaters and keep them looking new longer.
  • If you wear microfiber workout clothing, wash it with other clothes to help reduce the number of microscopic plastic bits that find their way into the water stream.
  • Microfiber usually contains a lot of polyester, which tends to capture sweaty smells and makes it harder to get rid of them in the laundry. To eliminate smells in microfiber clothes, add a little baking soda to the pre-wash cycle. (Here are a few more tips for washing your workout clothes.)
  • Instead of bleach, try OxiClean or similar products to brighten whites. (It can also be added to the cycle for other colors if needed.)
  • There’s been quite a controversy over washing bluejeans. I wash mine infrequently (only when truly necessary) and here’s why.

What’s the best way to care for specific types of fibers? And what about prewashing your fabric? We’ll cover those topics in a separate post soon.

But until then, do you have any other laundry or textile care tips to share?

13 Comments

  1. Cathy Wooten

    Great tips! In addition to washing tee shirts (and other things) inside out, I usually put them in a mesh lingerie bag because I think it may reduce friction induced wear. I can’t, however, control what my daughter-in-law does!! I always line dry but sometimes de-wrinkle or fluff by putting in the dryer for a short time.

    1. I use a mesh bag for some things too! It’s convenient and faster than hand washing, for sure.

  2. I use concentrated laundry soap allowing me to use as little soap as possible and I always put 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse which pulls out the soap and is a natural antibacterial agent. I started doing this when I discovered many years ago that my husband has all sorts of skin sensitivities to many products. While trying to figure out which laundry soap was going to work for him and not cause all kinds of nasty rashes someone told me about vinegar in the rinse and it worked like a charm. I’ve been using it ever since.

    1. I love vinegar! Would you believe we can’t find distilled white vinegar in Spain? I used to use it for all sorts of things, and I feel stranded without it. It’s a great way to remove soap residue and make your towels feel softer, too.

      1. Paola Patiño

        I had difficulties trying to find white vinegar in Madrid too, that was until I found it in Mercadona, but as a cleaning product, vinagre para limpieza. I use it to rinse my clothes

      2. Paola, that is such helpful information! I will look for it there! Muchisimas gracias!

  3. Janelle

    Ooooh, yay me, I do the same with my laundry! I rarely wash jeans, pants/sweaters/jackets more often but certainly not every time, and then only the tops & underwear every time. I never use fabric softener, and almost always use cold water. I only put sheets & towels in the dryer. I have a huge drying rack as well as a clothesline strung up in the furnace room in the basement. The one thing I’m terrible for is I don’t handwash my bras–I stick 2 in each lingerie bag (they’re quite large bags) and wash in the washer on cold as part of a full load with things like underwear & tops. I know I should handwash, but I never do!

    1. I think as long as you use a gentle soap you’ll be ok washing bras in the washer. They may not last quite as long, but I’ve been told it’s not too bad. Last year I decided to treat myself to really good lingerie, and now part of my weekly ritual is hand washing all of it. Bras generally every other week (I have quite a few now, so I rotate washing darks and lights), and underpants every week. But in Madrid everything dries almost instantly, so no one has a drier. That’s why our towels are crunchy!

  4. I love to take care of my clothes – its so rewarding! I machine wash as I need and line dry as we never had a tumble dryer and the only time this is a pain is the time between seasons when the heating is not on, as Ireland is a damp country. Years ago I bought a whirlpool steamer (its a kinda pull up cabinet) and its proved rather useful for dry clean items or handwash ones. I will handwash silk and often steam it after to plump up the fibres. or I will spot clean items and steam them (ie wool trousers). I have never had issues with wool sweaters – I even hang my cashmere sweaters on wooden hangers (I know most say you should fold) but I think a wooden wardrobe and wood hangers do help with moths (never had them so maybe I also got lucky).
    Its rather amazing the amount of people who no longer seem to know how to care for their clothes – I am only guaging this from talking to my contemporaries – to the point of storing leather bags in plastic…. flinging anything into the machine and wondering why it shrinks or dye runs….which in turn becomes more textile land fill

    1. Wow, a steamer sounds wonderful! Is it the same kind you use to steam iron clothing? I just gave mine way (wrong electrical current for Europe), but it had never occurred to me to use it that way!

  5. this are great tips, i am using some of the tricks but not aware about other tricks such as OxiClean trick & lint brush trick

    1. Oh yes, an actual brush is so much better than a lint roller! It will also last you forever. It can even remove dried stains from clothing. A great investment.

  6. Leslie

    Turning the clothes inside is a must when washing. Specially colored jean, so easy to get discolored… I also like to hand wash my favorite jeans, it lasts longer! Awesome blog you have, I’m loving it thus far! Will definitely try out the OxiClean on my whites, I stopped using bleach because of the harsh chemicals.

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