15 Quick and Dirty Tips for Getting Your Clothes Clean

Our simple guide to the sometimes complex chore of doing laundry.


joss and main laundry

For a chore that pops up on your to-do list at least once a week, if not once a day, how much do you really think about doing your laundry?

If you’ve got wash, dry, fold, repeat on auto-pilot, take note: just a little extra TLC (thoughtful laundry concentration, naturally) can actually make a big difference in the life and wear of your clothes. And we don’t know about you, but if it helps preserve our favorite jeans, we’re all for it.

So hot water or cold? Permanent press or delicate? We put together a list of 15 handy tips for doing the laundry the right way.

(Our first tip: Get organized! Check out our Laundry Room event, launching Wednesday, January 22, at 11:00 a.m., for everything you’ll need to create a functional–and dare we say stylish?–utility space.)

Photo: styleathome.com

Photo: styleathome.com


For easy sorting: If you have space in your laundry room, make this task easier by using a designated hamper or basket for each shade, and throwing dirty clothes in accordingly.

For brighter whites: Wash them in hot water. It provides better stain removal and bacteria elimination.

For brighter brights: Choose a cool setting, since cool water helps keep color from bleeding. Bonus: Since front-loading washing machines heat water themselves, a cool setting will save energy, too.

For longer life: Turn clothes inside out. This will preserve the color, and prevent pilling that can occur from clothes rubbing against each other in the wash. This is an especially good tip for denim.

For an alternative to fabric softener: Add a cup of white vinegar (yep, vinegar!) to the water. It acts as a natural fabric softener, and helps to keep colored clothes vibrant, too. And don’t worry about the smell: It will evaporate with a spin in the dryer.

For your “good” clothes: Use the permanent press setting. It’s gentler than the “regular” or “normal” setting, and the cool rinse cycle at the end helps prevent wrinkles.

For stains: Instead of rubbing the fabric together, since this can spread the stain, rub the pre-treater into the stain with your finger, and repeat the spray-and-rub process on the back of the stain.

For grease-based stains: Pretreat with chalk.

Photo: styleathome.com

Photo: bhg.com


For hang-dry items: Stock padded hangers in your laundry room, to prevent shoulder “dents” from forming.

For items washed in hot water: Use a cooler dryer setting, like permanent press. Washing and drying in high heat can cause clothes to shrink.

For preserving your jeans: The best bet is not to throw them in the dryer. If you need to shrink them a bit,  take them out of the dryer just before they cycle is done (a good indicator: when the legs are dry, but seams and waistband are still damp). And skip the fabric softener, which can break down denim fibers.

For clothes with elastic: Lay them flat to dry, since the heat of the dryer can break down elastic. The same goes for swimsuits, too.

For wrinkle-prone clothes: Here’s how to cut down on ironing time: After washing on permanent press, dry clothes on the same setting, and remove them immediately when done.

For a soft feel: To restore softness to pieces that have been hung or laid flat to dry, throw them in the dryer on the “fluff” setting.

Any tips we missed? Share your favorites in the comments section.