Meet Your Washing Machine

You fill your washing machine with clothes, push a button, and the contents come out clean. Now, learn about what happens behind the magic. Check out these tips for best practices and maintenance to ensure a healthy life for your washing machine and everything you put in it.

Basic Operations. Once the washer has been turned on, the drum fills with water and the clothes are agitated back and forth. In this initial wash cycle, detergent foams up to remove dirt and stains. A pump drains the dirty water out of the drum, which then spins ultrafast to remove excess moisture from the clothes. Clean water fills the drum again and light agitation occurs to rinse the clothes. A final spin removes the remaining water.

Proper Loading. It may seem tempting to squeeze those last few pieces into an already full washing machine, but resist the urge. Tightly packed clothes don’t get as clean—or as fully rinsed—as they should. The right way: In top-loading machines, don’t go above the central agitator; in front loaders, leave one quarter of the drum empty at the top.

Cycle. Sure there’s a warm-cycle button and a cold one, and you love them. Don’t ignore the rest—used correctly, they can make clothes cleaner and cut down on wear and tear. “Heavy-duty” cycles agitate the water at a faster rate to achieve a deeper clean for items like filthy sports gear. “Express-wash” settings use a high-speed spin to dry lightly soiled items you need fast. “Delicate” and “permanent press” cycles use a slower speed for agitation and spinning, for gentler handling.

Rinse Options. Use the “second rinse” button if anyone in your family has skin that is sensitive to soaps and detergents. And finally, take advantage of that “rinse and spin” option to rinse chlorine from bathing suits.

Maintenance. Wash your appliance regularly to remove residue left behind from soiled clothes or detergent, and to kick out any odor-causing water that may collect in the machine.

Meet Your Clothes Dryer

It goes without saying that clothes dryers make doing the laundry a much quicker and simpler proposition. Understanding how your dryer works will help you learn to maximize its features and your clothes most efficiently. Follow these tips to make sure you are using your dryer to its fullest potential.

Basic Operation. Clothes dryers work by blowing warm air through clothes as they tumble around. Water exits the dryer in the form of steam through an exhaust vent that leads it out of the house. The lint trap—that removable screen—catches tiny fibers and other particles like pet hair that stay on clothes after washing.

Proper Loading. A maximum of three-quarters full is a good choice for normal loads, while only half full is best for permanent press garments. Without ample space to tumble, clothes will be more prone to wrinkles and take longer to dry, and the machine will use more energy to get the job done. Tumbling is where static comes into play—the friction of clothes rubbing together causes it. The fix: Use a dryer sheet in every load. It’ll help prevent static from building up in the first place and your clothes will feel softer too.

Useful Settings. Most loads can be dried on the all-purpose dryer setting. If you have enough jeans, towels and other sturdy items to justify it, run that batch using the Heavy Duty setting. It offers high heat and a longer dry time. By separating these things from other clothing, your regular load will dry faster, on lower heat. Wrinkle-free garments do well in a Permanent Press setting, which uses lower heat and often incorporates a cool-down period at the end of the cycle. Delicates, too, benefit from lower heat. Non-clothing items like rubber-backed bathroom rugs do best with an Air Dry setting.

Maintenance. To keep your clothes dryer working at peak performance, clean out the lint screen after every load. Because it doesn’t trap everything, you’ll also need to vacuum the vent space behind the screen every month for best results.

Swimwear Care 101

Finding a great-fitting swimsuit is no small feat (hello dressing-room lighting!), so once you’ve found one you love, you’d like it to last longer than a single season. And it will, provided you choose a durable fabric and show it a little TLC. Follow these swimsuit care tips to keep your bathing suit looking as fresh as it did the day you bought it!

Read the label. High spandex and polyester blends are ideal swimwear options because they hold their shape and can withstand warm temperatures. If you spend more time in the pool than out, look for a chlorine-resistant fabric, which can help prevent fading.

Limit sun exposure. It’s better for your skin and your suit. If you do plan on sunbathing, do so before you go swimming, as wet bathing suits often suffer more sun damage than dry ones.

Minimize wear and tear. Sitting on the side of a pool or leaning up against a wood fence is a surefire way to rough up the fabric on your swimsuit. Instead, place a towel where you want to sit. When you’re done swimming and need to change clothes, avoid the urge to wrap your wet suit in a towel, which can lead to musty, hard-to-eliminate odors. Simply rinse it in cold water and store it in a shady place until you can launder it properly.

Wash swimsuits by hand. While it’s convenient to just throw your clothes into the washing machine after a day at the beach or pool, hand washing your bathing suit will extend its life—while removing chlorine, salt, sunscreen, and any natural oils on the fabric. (First check care labels to be sure it isn’t dry clean only.) Wash the suit in a gentle laundry detergent, then let it air-dry on an indoor rack for a full 24 hours to give the suit adequate time to regain its shape. And don’t be tempted to toss it in the dryer to speed things up. The heat could damage the suit’s elasticity.

How to Wash Your Favorite Things the Right Way

Most people are guilty of playing favorites with their garments, so when it comes to keeping them clean, there’s a lot at stake. Laundry tips and secrets can be super helpful, but also dangerous if they don’t provide the desired result. Read on as we debunk several popular myths—and show you how to wash your clothes the right way.

 

Myth: You can refresh unwashed jeans by freezing them.

Truth: The act of freezing a garment simply makes the bacteria on it lie dormant. So beware, once your jeans thaw out, they’ll be just as dirty (and smelly) as they were before.

The right way: To reduce fading and shrinking, wash jeans inside out in cold water with a detergent made for that a cold cycle, then line dry naturally. (Always check care labels first to confirm that a garment is machine washable.)

 

Myth: You can’t put bras or lacy lingerie in the washer.

Truth: If you throw underthings into the washing machine, they’re likely to get tangled and stretched out, and lace detail can fray from rubbing against other clothes. But hand washing isn’t the only solution...

The right way: Use a mesh laundry bag to protect bras and delicate lingerie in the wash cycle, and hang dry after. Yes, it’s that easy.

 

Myth: Silk blouses are dry clean only.

Truth: As long as the label doesn’t say “dry clean only,” hand washing is safe for silks.

The right way: Fill a clean sink with lukewarm or cold water and a small amount of delicates-friendly liquid detergent. Lightly agitate for three to five minutes, rinse well, and dry flat.

 

Myth: Sheepskin boots can go in the washing machine.

Truth: This will make them shrink, lose their soft texture, and look misshapen.  

The right way: Spot clean as needed. With a lightly wet sponge, dampen the surface of the boots, apply a sheepskin cleaner with the same sponge, and gently scrub. Rinse lightly with cold water (don’t allow the fabric to get soaking wet), then stuff paper inside the boots so that they hold their shape while drying. Once they’re dry, lightly brush the surface with a suede brush to soften the texture.

Tackle Kids' Sports Stains

 

Got Mud?

 

On rainy days, get ready for dirt on top of dirt! To get it out: Brush excess mud off fabric and rinse in cold water. In a plastic bucket, create a soak solution using about 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent per gallon of cold water. Allow the garment to soak for up to 30 minutes, then wash in warm water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.

 

 

Hey Grassy Pants!

 

Nothing says spring sports like green knees and butts. To get grass stains out: Brush any excess grass off the fabric. Pour liquid laundry detergent on the stain and let it sit for 20 minutes, then wash in warm water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.

 

 

 

Sideline Sweat and Dirt

 

Want bright uniforms like these? To get sweat and dirt out: 1. Using a plastic bucket, create a soak solution with approximately 2 tablespoons of  liquid laundry detergent per gallon of warm water. Soak garment for up to 30 minutes, then wash on warm with a bleach alternative. If stain remains, pour liquid laundry detergent directly on the stain and let sit for 20 minutes, then rewash.

 

 

Blood Marks the Spot!

 

Scrapes happen, and whether they’re from turf burn or sliding into home plate, these messy badges of honor make for some really tough stains. To get 'em out: Wet a cloth with cold water and blot the mark, then rinse in cold water to dilute the stain. Create a soak solution in a plastic bucket with about 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent per gallon of cold water and submerge the garment for about 30 minutes. Wash with a detergent designed for cold water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.

 

 

Sports Drink Cleanup

 

Kids + fast hydration breaks = major splashes and spills. To get it out: Blot any excess stain off the surface of the fabric, then rinse in water to dilute the stain. Pour liquid laundry detergent directly on the stain and let sit for 20 minutes. Wash on warm water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.

 

 

Before You Start

 

Always refer to the instructions on the garment’s care label. And test the solution on a hidden area first. If treating washable silk or wool, follow basic instructions, but hand wash whenever you aren't sure.