LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash Down Coats and Bedding

Whether you have down-filled comforters, sleeping bags, winter jackets, pillows, or all of these, the right cleaning steps will ensure they stay silky soft and freshly scented.

1. Check labels to be sure your down goods can be machine-washed. Check pillow and bedding seams for durability, and mend any shaky seams. For puffy coats, fasten all zippers and empty pockets.

2. Choose a normal wash and spin cycle (unless otherwise noted by the care label), and add detergent.

3. Submerge items when washer is half full and balance the load by adding a few same-colored towels. Stop the washer occasionally to press air from items.

4. Tumble dry on low with dryer sheet that provides softness and a light airy-fresh scent, plus static protection. (Always check care label for drying instructions before you start, to be sure that your fabrics can be machine dried and at what temperature.) Tip: Include a few clean, dry towels to help speed drying, and toss in some new tennis balls or clean tennis shoes as well to plump the down.

Declutter Your Life: Laundry Room Edition

There is a lot of unavoidable stress in your life so why not declutter and organize where you can? The laundry room is a good place to start. After all, it is mission control center for tidy and clean homes. Here are a few useful tips that will keep your laundry room orderly—and your mind clutter-free.

1. Clearly label a bin for darks and a bin for lights.
Separating laundry into dark and light loads can be a hassle, so make your life easier and have family members sort it themselves! Two clearly marked bins in the laundry room will do the trick.

2. Pin up a “lost sock board.”
There’s nothing more annoying than losing a sock, throwing out its mate and then finding the original sock months later. Be organized and preemptively handle the age-old lost sock conundrum by putting up a lost sock corkboard. Fair warning: This may turn into more of a memorial wall… but it will still look cute.

3. Start a laundry room piggy bank.
When you turn pockets inside out and find lose change and bills, drop the bounty in your laundry room piggy bank. Aside from looking adorable, a piggy bank may prompt family members to check pockets before putting dirty clothes in the hamper.

4. Designate a basket, bin or shelf to each family member.
Having a designated area for each family member makes sorting laundry after washday a breeze. Then they can be in charge of picking up and folding their own clean items to help ease your load.

5. Hang up a stain chart.
Knowledge is power. A stain chart will ensure that you are always prepared.

Spring Clean Your Laundry Room

Clean, well-maintained appliances make for cleaner clothes.  These five steps will boost your appliances’ health so they get your laundry cleaner and fresh smelling every time.

Give your washer the rub.
Soak a cleaning cloth in liquid dish soap and water, and wipe the washer’s drum to remove any residue or sticky who-knows-what (your kid’s red crayon, a stray piece of gum?). If you’ve got a front loader, clean the rubber door gasket. Its nooks and crannies can trap moisture.

Tidy the surface (and take a mental vacation while you’re at it).
Revive your machines’ surface luster with—wait for it—a dryer sheet. Tiny particles like dust, lint, and pet hair will cling to it like gangbusters.

Schedule a deep-cleaning cycle.
The inner workings of the washer can get sluggish too. Options: You can run a cup of white vinegar or bleach through an empty cycle (use the hottest setting), or purchase a product specifically designed to zap residue and odors from washing machines. Consult your owner’s manual for manufacturer recommendations.

De-lint your dryer.
No matter how diligent you are with the lint trap, the fuzzy stuff still works its way inside the vent, where it collects and makes the dryer less efficient. (Buildup creates a fire hazard too.) A dryer duct cleaner has a long, skinny brush that’s perfect for the task. Stick it in, twirl it around, and you’re done! For safety, unplug the unit first.

New season, new laundry supplies! As you stock up on detergent, fabric softener, and scent boosters, remember this: There’s clean—and there’s clean smelling. Choose products with scents you enjoy!

College Laundry 101: Understanding the Basics


College can be full of challenges, but locating a pair of clean jeans in time for your 8 a.m. chemistry class shouldn’t be one of them. All it takes is a few tricks and some planning for any busy co-ed to become a laundry pro in no time.

Add laundry to your routine.  Put laundry on your weekly to-do list and the chore will seem like less of an insurmountable task. Aim to hit the laundry room once a week, and try to go during off-peak hours (Wednesday nights are traditionally the slowest time), when you are less likely to have to jockey for a machine. Also check to see if your school is one of the many colleges that can now send online alerts to your smartphone or computer when washers and dryers are available.

Sort baby, sort. To make sure laundry comes out clean and bright, always separate darks and whites. Spot-treat stains, especially if you’re not able to do laundry for a few days. And remember to stock up on a great smelling liquid laundry detergent.

Create a “wash it” schedule. Socks, underwear, sportswear, T-shirts, and lightweight cotton garments should be washed after each use. Heavy-duty items like jeans, hoodies, sweatshirts, and corduroys can withstand several wears without washing, but don’t go longer than three to four weeks. Worried about fading your favorite dark jeans? If you turn them inside out, wash in cold water, and take them out of the dryer while they’re slightly damp, your denim should come out looking like new.

Get towels and sheets under control. Don’t be fooled by sheets and pillowcases that “look clean”: Linens accumulate dirt, sweat, dust, and more as you snooze, so toss ’em in the washer every two weeks with a liquid laundry detergent (for best results, use the hottest water recommended for the fabric based on the garment care label). To prevent any musty odors, make sure towels dry completely before folding. And always air-dry damp ones on a hook after showering.

And don’t forget. Items like comforters, blankets, and bedspreads—all magnets for dust, dirt, and grime—should be washed at least once a semester. Machine-washable jackets and down puffers need laundering, too (every 12 weeks is fine if the garments aren’t soiled). Wash them in cold water and dry on low heat. To keep that clean-laundry smell around for longer, use an in-wash scent booster.

Organize Your Laundry Room, Organize Your Life

The average American household goes through nearly 400 loads of laundry a year, which means your laundry room sees a lot of action. Since the most highly trafficked areas of our homes naturally become the most disorganized, it’s not surprising if the laundry space is looking less than its best. It is, however, fixable with these easy-to-follow tips.

Line up, and liven up, the supplies. Luscious-scented products will take you to your happy place as soon as you uncap the bottle. Keep them—along with your other laundry necessities—lined up on an easy-to-reach shelf, and let your family know exactly where the supplies are, so they can pitch in.

Color-code the hampers. Keep more than one basket in the laundry room and color-code them for darks, whites, colors, and delicates. Having your family sort their dirty clothes from the get-go will make it easier to push laundry through.

Leave room for an ironing station. Wrinkle emergencies happen and when they do, you’ll want everything to be handy. If your room has a door, hang your iron and board from the back of it. Otherwise mount it on the wall and add a small shelf to house a spray bottle or starch.

Get ahead of the mess. It’s easy for the laundry room to become a catchall for shoes and winter accessories like hats, gloves, and scarves. Make sure that these items already have a place in your home so family members aren’t tempted to toss their stuff there and run.

Laundry Tips for College Students

Pass these tips along to your college-bound teens.  They’ll boost your child’s confidence and help him or her manage the care and upkeep of their clothes like a pro. And believe us: Independence never looked so good!

Sort your colors. Separate darks from lights and delicate fabrics from more durable garments. When in doubt use cold water, especially for dark clothes to avoid shrinking, fading, and bleeding of dyes. Using cold water saves energy and resources too. For heavily soiled whites or light colors, however, warm or hot water may be the best bet.

Pretreat stains. The sooner you address splotches and spills, the more successful you’ll be getting them out. Keep a stain remover with your laundry supplies to dab dirt, grease and other spills away before they set. Just make sure stains are gone (rewashing may be necessary) before putting clothing in the dryer, as the heat will set the stain and make it harder to remove.

Get ready to rumble. Close zippers, hooks and snaps, and fasten any Velcro closures. Unbutton all buttons (button holes can tear in the washer). Empty pockets and turn them inside out. Make sure socks aren’t bunched up, and unroll cuffs on pants and shorts. Tie any sashes or bows to prevent tangling. Put delicate items, such as lingerie and fine knitwear, in a zippered mesh bag.

Pop in a Pod. Premeasured, all-in-one detergents save time and are super easy to use (no spillage, no schlepping). All you have to do is toss one in with the load, and voilà! You can even buy one with liquid laundry detergent, stain remover, and brightener in one convenient package.

Establish a laundry routine. Washing clothes doesn’t have to be a monumental task. If you add laundry to your weekly to-do list, it’ll be much easier to keep the chore manageable. Try do your wash during off-peak hours (generally early in the morning and late at night) so you can get in and out quicker. Plus you might get some studying done while you wait—and then have more time to play later.

6 Simple Ways to De-Stress Your Laundry Room Today

Whether your washer and dryer are housed in the basement or in a bathroom closet, chances are you’re spending a lot of time looking at them. The average American family pops in anywhere from 300 to 400 loads of dirty towels, sheets, clothes, and workout gear a year. So what’s stopping you from making your laundry room as inviting as possible? Here are six easy ways to straighten, brighten, and upgrade your laundry room today.

Unclutter your work area. If space permits, install open shelving or hanging cabinets above your washer and dryer so that supplies are within arm’s reach. And include a small table or countertop that’s at a comfortable height (34 inches is standard) for folding. Corral detergent, brightener, fabric softener, and dryer sheets in pretty fabric bins, wire boxes, or wicker baskets. Also install a small wastebasket, and use glass or plastic jars to store clothespins, lint brushes, and stain sticks.

Go green. Potted plants are an easy, inexpensive way to spruce up any laundry room—whether it’s got greenhouse-quality natural light or nary a window in sight. Plus, given that you’re doing wash at least once a week, you have no excuse not to water them. Consider philodendrons, African violets, and ferns, none of which require a lot of upkeep.

Skip the white walls. If your space is small, experiment with color and graphics. Paint thick stripes on the wall, hang brightly patterned wallpaper, or use letter decals or stencils to spell out witty sayings like “It all comes out in the wash.” You won’t tire of it, the way you might, say, a lime-green living room—and it’ll brighten your mood every time you throw in a load.

Scent the air. A great-smelling laundry room can make washing dirty laundry less of a chore. To avoid sensory overload, choose fragrances that you enjoy and that complement one another.

Surround yourself with sound. Even the most arduous task is tolerable when you have good tunes or an audio book to listen to. Install a digital music player or portable radio near your folding station so that you can sing while you sort.

Show your personality. Don’t give your laundry room short shrift when it comes to design. For an unexpected dose of luxury, suspend a sparkly chandelier or a vintage pendant lamp overhead. And add more fun to your fluff and fold by hanging art you love—whether it’s a paint-by-number canvas, black-and-white photographs, or your child’s latest masterpiece.

LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash Woolens and Sweaters

As long as the manufacturers’ labels don’t forbid it, there’s no reason not to wash sweaters at home. Keep these tips in mind for best results.

Machine washing: Many knits made of synthetics, cotton, or blends are fine for your washer. Use cold water on a gentle cycle and a detergent that’s safe for machine-washable delicates. Wool, delicate knits, or embellished items should be washed in a zip-up mesh laundry bag—the item should fit loosely in the bag for best cleaning. To dry, lay flat on a mesh sweater rack or a towel.

Hand washing: Start with cold water and a tiny splash of delicates-friendly liquid detergent. Squeeze the sudsy water through the fabric. Never rub or twist, doing so can stretch the shape. To rinse, drain the sink then gently squeeze water from the sweater. Refill the sink with clean water and gently swish the sweater to rinse away the detergent; repeat until water runs clear and then gently squeeze excess water from garment. Lay the sweater flat on a clean towel and roll it up to press out excess moisture. Then lay the sweater flat on a fresh towel until dry, away from sunlight and heat.

LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash Cashmere

1. To get started, fill a clean sink with lukewarm water and a quarter-size dollop of a gentle laundry detergent, mixing it into the water with your hands.

2. Put the garment in the basin, and gently work the soapy water through the fabric. Avoid rubbing or twisting the delicate fibers. Don’t worry if you see dye seep into the water, especially if this is one of the first times you’ve washed the garment.

3. Allow the item to soak for 30 minutes or so. Drain the sink, then rinse the garment until the water runs clean and the clothing is free of detergent.

4. Gently squeeze excess water out, making sure not to wring the delicate fabric. Lay the garment flat on a big, absorbent bath towel. Roll the garment in the towel, and press to absorb excess water. On another clean, dry towel, lay out the garment. Reshape if necessary, and leave it to dry. Depending on the humidity, drying can sometimes take a few days. If the underside remains damp, turn it over.

5. If you’ll be storing your cashmere until next winter, tuck a scented dryer sheet into the drawer or storage container.

Tough-but-True Laundry Tactics

It doesn’t matter where you live on the planet, chances are you do laundry. And most of the world’s population tackles the chore by hand. If you’re among the fortunate few who can simply toss a load into a washer, count yourself lucky. For a lot of people, wearing a clean T-shirt takes a bit more work.

For backpackers who hit the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Coast Trail, or more exotic peaks like Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro, popping a load into a washing machine isn’t an option. When possible, they usually just give their clothes a quick rinse in a cold stream and then hang them in the sun to dry; other times, they just keep on trekking.

Hotel- or hostel-hoppers have it a little easier, since most rooms have a sink and running water. The washing is easy enough (especially if you brought along travel detergent), but drying can get tricky. Many hotels discourage guests from doing laundry in their rooms, so hanging a clothesline can draw unwanted attention from the staff. Instead, savvy travelers will wring out wet garments, then press them between layers of a microfiber towel to absorb extra water and speed drying.

In other parts of the world, laundry day takes many guises. In Varanasi, India, it’s common to see men and women beating their clothes clean on rocks along the Ganges, and in Africa, where water is scarce, dirty gear gets scrubbed clean in plastic bowls. In Brazil, most people either hand wash their entire wardrobe or use a tanquinho, a semi-automatic washer that whips clothes around as if in a blender, working up a thick lather. Unlike machines we use in the U.S., though, the tanquinho has no rinse cycle. Once sudsy, clothing must be removed from the drum and rinsed by hand.

And sailors on long journeys usually wait until they hit port before tending to smelly garments. They all know washing clothes in saltwater results in stiff-as-cardboard shirts and pants that can be rough and itchy when worn.

As for those astronauts aboard the International Space Station? They take the same approach as many college freshmen: They wear their clothing as long as they can bear it, then pack up their dirty laundry and bring it home with them. (Hopefully, they don’t make their moms do the washing!)

If you’ll be traveling to a locale where you suspect that washing machines are in short supply, do yourself a favor: Pack a to-go stain remover. That way you can tackle any noticeable spills and smudges—and mask the fact that you’re wearing not-so-fresh clothes.