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Extension Agent: Managing the load of laundry

By By Erika Bochat
Feb. 4, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 3, 2014 at 8:04 p.m.


I'm going to say that I've had a bit of an opportunity to hone my clothing care skills over the years managing a household of six. The ins and outs of averaging 13 loads of laundry every two weeks should tell you that it is almost a science at the Bochat house.

Sometimes, there's much more to "doing the laundry" than just loading a washer and pushing the "on" button. To get laundry down to a science at your house, there are two main areas on which to concentrate: sorting and spot or stain care.

The sorting game is more than just keeping dark garments away from the gleaming whites. The secret is mixing and matching items into loads that need similar soaps or detergents, wash cycles and water temperatures.

It's the time to check those garment care labels for special cleaning instructions. Without a doubt, smart sorting is the way of ensuring clean results - wash after wash after wash.

First, sort by color

Wash all whites separately, pastels and medium colors together and brights and darks by themselves.

Pay special attention to white and lightly colored synthetics; they can pick up dark dyes from other fabrics during washing. Check trimmings and decorations for colorfastness, too.

Second, sort for soil

Sort out those heavily soiled items away from the lightly soiled ones since lightly soiled items can pick up the extra soil from the wash water. Whites will slowly get grayer or yellower, and colors will become duller and duller.

Third, consider specialty sorts

The unmatched set: Mix small and large items together in each load. This lets clothes move more freely, resulting in better washing.

The fabric types: Consider the fabrics and how they are constructed. Separate loosely knitted garments and delicates from regular wash loads, then wash on the gentle cycle.

The lint losers: Fuzzy sweatshirts, chenille robes, flannels and new towels have a tendency to share their lint with other garments during washing. Wash them in a load by themselves - away from corduroys and permanent press garments, which attract lint easily.

The fluorescents: Hot pinks, bright greens and electric blues are often much less colorfast than other fabrics. Wash them separately or test them first before washing with other colors.

For safety's sake, do not pretreat with stain removers unless you have tested them for colorfastness first on an inconspicuous area. Fluorescent colors may fade over time.

Identify the spot

Attack those spots and stains right away to take care of any spots and stains on your washables.

The more you know about what made the spot or stain, the more likely you are to treat it appropriately.

This means you have a better chance to remove it, plus you are less likely to set it further by using the wrong treatment. When in doubt, rinse or soak in cold water before treating or laundering.

Treat the spot immediately. The sooner you attack the spot, the easier it is to remove. Get into the habit of checking freshly washed wet clothes for stains that don't wash away. Instead of drying them, pretreat the stains and wash them again.

Resources: American Cleaning Institute, Washington, D.C., Laundry On Your Own and Quick Stain Removal Guide agrilifebookstore.org, Dr. Pamela Brown, Entrepreneurship (and textiles/clothing) Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, August 2005.

Erika Bochat is a Victoria County extension agent - family and consumer sciences.

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