Funny enough, the need for this post came about as a result of receiving so many messages asking if specific clothing items I had purchased “held up in the wash” ?
(My horrified response: What!? Why are you washing that in the washing machine!?)
This lead me discover that I actually approach laundry VERY differently than most people–I’m sure this is due to being a product of the one and only Lynn Keys–also known as the world’s greatest laundry wizard. She taught me how the right approach to washing my clothes at a young age and as a result it has allowed me to preserve my wardrobe staples for, well, as long as I want them around!
I completely took for granted how important these laundry skills were until I started living with roommates–as all young girls do, we basically treated one anothers closets as our own–but when I would receive my favorite items back, my friends, being considerate, had washed them before returning, of course, thinking they had done me a favor, but instead, they completely ruined them ? Shirts were shrunk, dresses had lost their shape, seams were unraveled, and so on. I then added a stipulation–“you can borrow anything you want, but PLEASE DON’T WASH IT.”
If you’ve been living life thinking nothing in your closet has held up, it’s probably because you’re washing it incorrectly! Read on to learn the mistakes you might be making, how to properly clean your clothes, get stains out in a pinch, and a lot more!
5 BIG mistakes you’re making that are ruining your clothes:
First, let’s go through what common mistakes you might be making. Then, we’ll go into how to fix them!
1 – Mistake: You’re over-washing your clothes
2 – Mistake: You’re using your dryer way too much
3 – Mistake: You aren’t reading the tags (or you’re simply ignoring them)
4 – Mistake: You’re washing all clothes using the same method (this explains why your sweaters are unraveling, your workout clothes are pilling, and why you can never seem to make your clothes look “new” after a few washes.)
5 – Mistake: You’re treating all stains the same way
Do any of these sound familiar? That’s okay! These mistakes are easily fixable. Do they take a little bit more work? Yes, but a little extra time put in with laundry saves your wardrobe AND your wallet in the long-run.
A quick note on washing your clothes in general:
This is something I learned from my mom at a very young age–DO NOT WASH YOUR CLOTHES UNLESS THEY ARE DIRTY. Just because you’ve worn something once does not mean that it’s dirty. Unless you spill something on it, or sweat in it, it doesn’t get washed. (Note: this does obviously not apply to underwear and socks ?)
I understand that this works better for some clothing than it does for others–for example, you will need to wash your t-shirts a lot more often in the summer because it’s hot and you sweat. Your sweaters in the winter? I can go a whole season washing a sweater once.
I often get asked “does it hold up well in the wash” about certain items of clothing. The answer is no–nothing holds up well in the wash if you’re washing and drying it after every wear, no matter how high quality it is.
With that being said–here is how to right those wrongs and save your wardrobe.
Learn your machine washer settings:
So many people wash everything on one setting–which is a huge mistake! Here are the main settings I use and what they’re for.
Pre-wash setting: This is essential when washing anything with stains. I run this setting with a scoop of oxyclean, or for whites that need a boost, I’ll add some non chlorine bleach.
Temperature setting: I avoid washing most things on hot, because it fades colors and wears down fabrics! Use this setting, it’s very useful!
Size setting: This will definitely affect how clean your clothes get–if you don’t have enough water, they won’t be washed properly, and if you have too much, well, that’s just wasteful! Small settings should fill 1/3 or your machine or smaller, medium sized should fill 1/2 of the machine, and large should fill 3/4 of your machine. Don’t over-stuff more than this, or your clothes won’t get clean!
Delicates setting: There is a delicates setting that I use specifically for fabrics that are, well, delicate, like slinky tops and blouses, sweaters, or bras and nice underwear/lingerie–you’ll be able to tell because they will say “hand wash or wash on delicate cycle”–you don’t want to wash delicates on the regular setting because they’ll get beat up–stitching will unravel, lace may tear, etc.
The dryer is your enemy!
The dryer is single handedly ruining your entire closet. Towels and sheets should be dried in the dryer, but the only clothing I ever dry in the dryer are t-shirts, pajamas, and on-occasion, socks, underwear and light-wash jeans that I purposely want to shrink. I’m not kidding. Everything else is hung dry.
On that note, for the things I do dry in the dryer, I use light to medium heat–not high heat! (That is, unless you prefer your clothing to have that shrunken/faded look ?)
My essentials for doing laundry:
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to laundry essentials, but here are mine!
I really love Mrs. Meyers detergent because it’s clear, non-toxic, free of dyes, and is concentrated, so you get a lot more loads out of a smaller bottle, and it smells AMAZING. I also like Seventh Generation for the same reasons and they make an unscented version too if you’re sensitive to scented products. For delicate fabrics, I use Woolite, which is pretty much the gold standard for delicate detergent! To be totally honest, I’m pretty sure that Mrs. Meyer’s is safe enough to use on any fabric, but I feel better not taking any chances! I’ve also heard excellent things about The Laundress brand, which is available on Shobop!
A warning on blue detergent: Have you ever noticed mystery blue stains on your white clothes after coming out of the washer? It’s from your detergent! I have absolutely NO idea why any company feels the need to put hot blue dye into their soap but it’s not only toxic, but it’s really obnoxious, unnecessary, and can totally stain your clothes. Always buy detergent that is free of dyes.
Favorite stain remover:
I get more into this in a later section of this post, but the short answer is that Oxyclean wins everytime! I also like Shout, but not as much as Oxyclean–though, it is known to be safer for super delicate fabrics.
Favorite fabric softener:
I stopped using fabric softener sheets because they contain harsh chemicals (I wholeheartedly admit that my biggest concern hear was a vain one–they can leave residue on your pillows and sheets that makes you break out!) But really, the less amount of chemicals we expose our skin to, the better. Instead, I use these wool dryer balls which naturally soften fabric!
Favorite on-the-go laundry essentials:
How to do laundry properly:
Hand wash vs Machine wash:
I cannot stress the importance of reading your clothing labels–laundry is not one size fits all and different materials have different washing instructions for reasons. Washing something on hot when it needs to be washed on cold could very well ruin it completely, and if not, it will significantly reduce its lifespan.
When something is marked as “delicate” I always hand-wash it. This might sound like a pain, but it’s really not. Throw them in the sink with some Woolite and let them soak, and if you have more than a few items, use the bathtub!
How to Wash Whites:
Whites are technically the only category that can be washed and dried on “hot”–but I rarely ever wash or dry any clothes on hot. It causes them to shrink, wear out more quickly, and can set certain types of stains. I opt for warm water and medium dry cycle instead. If your whites need a boost, try Oxyclean first before resulting to bleach, as it’s pretty harsh on fabrics. (I totally ruined a bunch of white towels by continuously bleaching the hell out of them ?). If you find that you’re constantly trying to bleach out makeup stains, stop using your white towels for your face, and get dark hand towels that you use for your face instead!
How to wash colors and dark clothes:
Group like colors together and wash on cold. Hot water will fade colors and cause them to bleed on one another! If you want to wash different colors together (I get it, I’m lazy too) these Shout color catcher sheets work really well!
How to wash delicates:
Per my note above, certain delicates can be washed in the machine on gentle cycle (you can also get a delicates bag–which might be great depending on how delicate your items are–this set is great!) but never dry delicates in the dryer. Hang them on a hanger to hang dry. Always remember to check the label, and when in doubt, hand-washing is always the safest option. I usually hand-wash items in the sink with some Woolite and let them soak for a few hours.
Lot’s of delicates to hand wash? Use the bathtub!
If you have more than a few things to hand wash at a time, use the bathtub!
How to wash new clothing:
It’s important to know that often times, new clothes will BLEED. This means you don’t want to wash any new colored items with older items, because you don’t want the color to seep and stain your other clothes! Wash new clothes alone first–either by hand or in the washing machine, depending on the type of fabric.
How to wash workout clothes and avoid pilling
To avoid pilling, wash your nice workout clothes only with each other, not with other clothing such as t-shirts, etc. Never dry your yoga pants in the dryer, either. Remove them from the wash and hang them to dry. I learned this from a saleswoman at Lululemon and I’ve followed this rule ever since, and it’s never failed me!
How to make your sweaters last:
First, you MUST read the label. Sweaters can vary greatly and some require dry cleaning, some hand-washing, and some are fine on gentle cycle with warm or cold water. When hand-washing, squeeze (don’t wring) them gently to get the excess water out, and either lay them flat or hang them to dry. Technically you are always supposed to lay them flat, but I have no room to do this, so I hang them using a velvet hanger and they keep their shape just fine.
How to wash your jeans:
Well, A. Never wash them. Seriously. The fastest way to ruin your favorite jeans is to wash them more than necessary. Washing fades dark jeans and breaks down the fabric in every pair regardless of color. Wash your jeans when they are dirty, smelly, (sometimes you just can’t air-out the smell of a gross dive bar ?) or when they’re stretched out. B. When you have to wash them, turn them inside out (this help keep dark jeans from fading) and wash them on COLD. Hang to dry.
How to wash blouses and dresses:
Again, you’ll always need to read the label carefully to make sure it doesn’t say dry clean only, but if not, you’ll always want to wash on the delicate cycle or hand-wash, depending on how delicate the fabric is–use your best judgement. Like most delicates, I usually wash them with lukewarm water and some Woolite and let them soak for a couple of hours in the sink.
A note on silk blouses: These are always going to be dry clean only, but again, you don’t need to be dry cleaning them after every wear–I can easily go 5+ wears in mine without having to dry-clean it. I have spot treated my Everlane silk blouse before with a Tide to Go pen and it worked great.
How to not lose pairs of socks:
This is something I’ve struggled with FOR YEARSSSS, and of course, I took to Instagram stories to ask you if you have any solutions for the always disappearing sock matches, and so many people suggested lingerie bags for your socks! So smart! You can hang one off your hamper and put your socks in there as you remove them, and wash them in the mesh lingerie bag so none of them get lost!
How to care for bras and lingerie:
Because washing can result in bras losing their shape, I always opt to hand-wash mine in Woolite. You can also opt for a lingerie bag, but I still think hand-washing is better!
How to keep sheets and towels soft:
You know after awhile your sheets and towels start to feel really stiff and scratchy? That’s likely because you’re drying them on high heat (or you’re bleaching your whites too much!)–high heat is rarely a good idea for anything! Choose the medium heat setting instead, add in the dryer balls I mentioned above and you’ll be good to go!
How to remove wrinkles easily:
Ironing is not my thing, and I have ruined WAY too many articles of clothing due to bad ironing skills. That is SO not necessary. The iron hasn’t been used in our house in years because I am 100% on TEAM STEAMER. Everyone needs to own one (I have this one and I even travel with it!) I am a crazy steamer lady–I cannot STAND wrinkles. In a pinch, like mentioned above, Downy Wrinkle Release spray works WONDERS!
Where to find a cute laundry basket:
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the annoying issue of ugly laundry baskets ruining your perfectly stylish home. I might be overly sensitive to this because someone who lives in my house refuses to get rid of his plastic laundry hamper from college. ? However, I DID recently come up with a great solution when I found this split rattan laundry hamper from Wayfair! Huzzah! They have SO many cute woven baskets to choose from at really reasonable prices!
How to treat stains and best stain removers:
I’ve used a lot of stain removers over the years (as has my mom!) and it’s important to understand that there are different stain removers out there designed to work on different types of stains–here’s a quick run-down.
Best overall stain remover for all kinds of stains:
Oxyclean wins over and over again. I actually soaked the bottom of my wedding dress in Oxyclean (it was CAKED in mud and chocolate brown–it came COMPLETELY out and looks almost new!) It tackles all types of stains! It’s the only thing I’ve found that works on pretty much any stain and can be used for spot-treating, soaking, and boosting stain removal of a whole load of laundry.
Beyond that though, here’s how I treat stains based on their category, and the best stain removers for each (these can be used in addition to, or in place of oxyclean if you’re in a pinch) I always wash the item immediately following these steps, or if needed, I’ll soak it in the sink or in the pre-wash cycle on my washing machine with some additional oxyclean until the stain is gone. After you wash it, it’s important to air dry the item to ensure the stain is completely gone. If you dry a stain with heat when it’s not totally gone, you’ll set in the stain!
These are just what they sound like–wine, primarily, but also coffee, tea, berries.
How to treat: Let’s say you spill a glass of wine on your shirt, for example. What do you do?
First, blot to remove any excess wine to prevent it from further sinking into the fabric, then put something in between layers (if it’s a shirt, for example) so the stain doesn’t bleed through the other side.
Pour something powdery on the stain, if you have powdered Oxyclean, do that here–if not, you can use salt or baking soda, which will pull the red wine out of the stain. Let it sit for a bit, and brush/scrape the salt off, and rinse thoroughly with hot water. If the stain is still there, you can follow with hydrogen peroxide, which is very effective, or club soda will also work in a pinch. Launder immediately and air-dry.
You can also use Wine Away, a product that so many readers have recommended to me–I haven’t actually used it but if you’re accident prone and drink a lot of wine it would be good to have on-hand. (I actually plan to order some when our white couch arrives, haha!)
Important: Whatever you do, don’t let the stain dry–keep it wet!
These are often some of the toughest–grease, butter, olive oil, oil-based makeup, and basically any other type of oil qualifies here.
Similar to a wine stain, a powder substance can be very beneficial here. To treat a grease stain, remove any excess grease by blotting (NOT rubbing!) and sprinkle on a substance like powdered oxyclean or table salt. Let sit for 30 minutes, and rinse with hot water mixed with dish soap. Rinse with the hottest water that the garment will allow, mixed with dish soap. Launder immediately and air-dry.
Also known as “organic” stains–you can think of these type of stains coming from anything living–from plants to animals (i.e. blood, urine, grass, milk, etc).
Protein based stains are best tackled with a cleaner that contains enzymes, which essentially eat the proteins in the stain. Oxyclean is an enzyme cleaner, and it’s particularly effective in the organic stain category. With protein stains, I apply hydrogen peroxide immediately. It’s like magic, you’ll watch it bubble up and the stain just disappears. After that, I apply Oxyclean and wash immediately. (Sometimes though, the peroxide is so effective that I can still wear the garment that day!)
Ink, paint, etc. Dye based stains are the worst and hardest to get out. I apply Oxyclean directly to the stain, let it sit for about 30 minutes, then add it to the sink with more Oxyclean, and let the item soak for the day.
WHEW! If you made it to the bottom I am seriously impressed ? I hope this was helpful and it helps you preserve your favorite wardrobe staples for years to come! If you have more questions, leave them below!