Freshly washed clothes and linens aren't just some of life's simplest pleasures, they're also a necessary part of maintaining a germ-free household. That said, if you're not paying attention or not so well-versed in the cleaning arts, it's easy to slip up and end up with mishaps that you can't bounce back from (a shrunken sweater, a washer full of previously-white-now-pink socks and underwear, etc.). But it doesn't always have to be so dramatic: When it comes to some of the most common laundry mistakes, you might not even be aware that you could be doing things a whole lot better — and therefore keeping your clothes and textiles in better shape.
It's been reported that coronavirus lives on clothes, so there's no time like the present to sharpen your skills in the laundry room. While you're furiously spring cleaning and disinfecting other areas of your home, give a little TLC to your textiles, something Vanessa Valiente, San-Diego-based personal stylist and blogger — who specializes in closet organization — knows a lot about. And she admits that her clients often have questions about how to care for their newly curated closets. "Sometimes the client beats me to the topic, 'So how do I wash all these clothes?'" she explains. "They ask me anxiously in fear they will destroy their new clothing in the wash."
That said, next time you're headed into the laundry room or laundromat, you'll want to avoid a few basic pitfalls that could be sabotaging your textiles. Ahead, Valiente breaks down some common practices to stop doing now, for the sake of your clothes, sheets, and towels.
Washing In Too-Hot Water
According to Valiente, it's a common misconception that everything has to be washed in scalding hot water to get it clean. "Unless you've really soiled yourself, no clothing needs to be washed in warm or hot water," she explains. "Always use cold water. Warm water damages clothing and elastic over time." What should be reserved for warm water? Towels, clothing you want to shrink, and workout wear that still stinks after a cold-water wash, says the pro.
And when it comes to removing stains (as in pre-wash), cold water is actually preferable. "If you spill red wine on you, don't rush to warm water," says Valiente. "Use cold water on fresh stains. It gets [it] out better." Remove the clothing item and turn it inside out, then let cold water run through the underside of the stain you want removed. In many cases, it will just rinse right out this way.
Overusing The Dryer
"The dryer is great at shrinking your clothes, stretching things out, and shortening the life of your garments," Valiente says. "I hang-dry almost all my clothes." If you must use your dryer, the expert says to save it for pajamas, towels, socks, underwear, and clothes you want to shrink. "I also do an occasional dryer run on any stretched-out jeans or pants," she adds.
Too Much Detergent
Adding a ton of detergent won't necessarily make your clothes extra clean. In fact, it could be harmful to your skin. "Most people don't realize conventional laundry detergent is the reason for their skin irritations," says Valiente. "Switching to a more natural detergent like Seventh Generation or using less of their current detergent will help." Not only that, but scaling back will also save you money and reduce waste.
Pre-Treating Dry Garments
Have something that needs to be pre-treated? Valiente says a common mistake is applying the treatment to a dry garment. "You always want to wet a stain before you pre-treat it," she says. And if you've been spending money on a separate product for this purpose, you might be wasting money. "You can just put laundry detergent right on the stain," she adds. "In this vein, always tend to a stain before throwing it in the wash. Don't just throw it in there and hope for the best."