Tuesday, March 9, 2010

laundry tips

Today, I'm at friend's house babysitting. Haven't been around a toddler for awhile...what a joy to be with one so full of laughter!

Some of you have asked about laundry ideas, so this one's for you!

My mom had one of those old wringer washers. A huge heavy old thing. I remember the wringing process...the clothes dropping into a galvanized washtub and then being put into a wooden laundry basket (that I still own) and hauled out to the clothesline...either outside or on the covered porch. My mom was 46 when I was born and she's hung a lot of clothes in her day. When I was in high school, she got her first "automatic" washer and dryer. I don't know that she's hung a stitch of clothing on the line since! I think she earned that right:)!  In fact, when she came to visit me in NC a few years back, I believe she was somewhat annoyed that I didn't use my dryer and chose to hang my clothes on the line. C'est la vie.

There are seven people in our home-including 4 teenagers-and I still average about 4 loads of laundry a week. Occasionally it will be 3, or rarely 6. I have never understood how or why people wash 2-4 loads of clothes a day for a family of 4. Are they just bored? Do they have to feel busy? I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy the process, so I try to make it as quick and easy as possible.

The biggest laundry rule at our house is that mama don't wash what isn't dirty. If you don't work in a coal mine, then your clothes can be worn more than one day. I'll wear the same jeans all week. That's probably the biggest factor in keeping the loads to a minimum. I also will only wash full loads, saving time, money, detergent, energy and water, and I typically wash clothes on Friday only. I still hang my sheets and towels on the line (well, actually my neighbor's line-thanks, Debbie) and I also hang out heavy stuff, like jeans and sweatshirts. If the electric bill started getting to be too much, I would revert back to hanging everything. For me, the smell of towels dried in the sun is a "comfort smell" that revokes wonderful memories.

And speaking of towels and sheets...I wash them weekly and bi-weekly, respectively. We all have one towel that is hung between uses. With sheets, I rotate through the house. I started having a problem with towels smelling musty as soon as they would get damp after the first use. This was just a year or so ago, and I really hadn't changed anything. I tried all kinds of home remedies...borax, bleach, line drying, over drying in the dryer...nothing seemed to help. Then I read somewhere that is was the liquid detergent. I switched to powder for my towels and sheets and BINGO! No more musty smell.

Dryer sheets can be used more than once, or cut in half. I've also read that a tablespoon of liquid fabric softener on a washcloth works well also, but I've not tried that.

As you would guess, I'm not brand loyal on detergents. If I can't find a good sale and I'm desperate, I'll buy the cheapest off-brand. I found this "recipe," which is supposedly all natural and costs only 3 cents a load, but it uses a ground up bar soap, which doesn't seem any more natural to me than laundry soap. And my on-sale detergent is usually that cheap anyway.

I have a Consumer Reports cleaning guide (free of course) that I use for stain issues; but of course, now you can google any remedy. I had taken a skirt with a blueberry stain on it to the dry cleaner and it was still there. I googled "blueberry stain" and used vinigar-if I recall correctly- and it was gone. Tomato based stains, which are frequent in our house, almost always fade away if dried in the sun. Lestoil, which is increasingly harder to find, works great on heavy grease/oil stains.

Chores are rotated among kids at our house. My goal is that each child will know how to do laundry before they leave home. Abby had the whole washing chore for awhile, but it is just easier for me to get it done while they are at school. One kid helps me fold every week. I quit battling them to turn their socks the right way...now they get them back inside out and have to turn them the right way to wear them.

That's about all I can think of...questions? Comments?


  1. I've been having that musty smell problem after one use lately with my towels. I am definitely going to get some powder detergent and try it! Thanks.

  2. Just went to the dryer and pulled out jeans and sweatshirts!

  3. On laundry detergent it is not the cost per pound of detergent that is important but the cost per load. Stephanie and I switched to Charlie's Soap. http://www.charliesoap.com

    I buy in bulk and the cost is $0.12 per load. It helps that this is the best detergent we have ever used and love the smell. Of interest is the fact that they suggest that you run your first load with their soap with no clothes. This is because their soap will clean the gunk (mainly clay filler) left behind in your washing machine. This should reduce wear on the washing machine. We have used the fabric softener/wash rag trick before but since switching we don't use fabric softener any more.

    Remind me to tell you about kids doing laundry in our house.

  4. I too recall the wringer washer...as a matter of fact that is what i had when we first got married..yes it is true...lol...and I too am a firm believer of "is that really dirty"...mean green cleaner works quite well on laundry stains..thank you for the powder detergent tip..will have to def try that...cheaper then buying new towels...lol....

  5. Just wondering if I can post a comment.

  6. What, I wonder, is the issue with liquid laundry detergent that causes towels to get musty like that? Would someone with a chemistry background please enlighten?

    We do 3-4 loads a week (there are 5 of us, including 1 teenager), and we do it on much the same schedule you do. The young girls don't often get to wear stuff more than one day at a time because they get schmutz (or outright grunge) on their stuff pretty quick. I'm blessed to work in a school where I get to wear jeans and whatever most of the time, so the only complicated laundry belongs to my wife.

  7. If you like liquid fabric softener, fill a spray bottle with water and add just a few tbsp of the liquid softener--spray the inside of the drum with just two or three spritzes before you put the clothes in. It takes me well over a year to use up a bottle of liquid.

  8. I use the same towel all week. I hang it to dry as soon as I am finished using it. It never touches the floor and only touches a clean body. My towels always have a good smell to them. One week I hang them to dry and the next week I dryer dry them. My d.i.l. allows the grands to drop their towels in a pile and leaves them there until the next bath/shower. Her towels always smell musty, even just after washing and drying. When I go over to clean, the first thing I do is put on a load of towels. If I am there when the kids bathe, I hang their towels as soon as they are finished. I do one load a week for myself. Wear my jeans at least 7 days, but may switch off with capris one day and then back to jeans. I wear one blouse around the house all week, but always in a fresh blouse when I leave the house. I am basically a very clean person. My clothes last an incredible amount of years. Some blouses I have been wearing since 2000 and are probably good for 2-3 more years. My blouses are never dryer dried, only hang dried, which adds needed moisture to the air in my dinky apartment. I am so loving your blog. Lila

  9. Thanks for all the comments! Great tips!