How to wash your clothes: water temperature for different fabrics, different types of detergents and the methods for treating common problems like stains and odour.
Keeping your clothes clean is important for maintaining personal hygiene. Wearing clean clothes leaves you feeling fresh and ready to take on the day, especially after a shower. This is why it is important to make sure you are doing laundry effectively.
You must consider the total wash time, the type of detergent you use and the efficiency of your machine. Paying attention to the wash care labels is the first step.
These are located on the side seams, back of the neck or the waist of a garment.
You will need to wash different colours and fabrics separately for the best results and to ensure you are taking care of your clothes.
Sorting laundry by colour
Start by sorting out the darks, lights and colours. Darks include any items of clothing that contain deep-coloured dyes like black, blue, navy, dark grey, brown and red. Lights include all white items of clothing, pastels, light greys, creams and prints with white backgrounds. Colours include anything in between, such as pink, lavender, orange, yellow, light blue and light green to avoid dye transfer.
Sorting out by fabric weight/type
Wash heavier items like towels and jeans separately from lighter weight clothes to prevent damage to finer fabrics and to ensure even drying. It is also a good idea to separate items with zippers and buttons from knits and lingerie.
Sorting your laundry by fabric type allows you to use different water temperatures and keeps drying cycles more simple. Also, in order to reduce lint, never wash lint producing fabrics such as towels and rugs and lint attracting fabrics like knits together! If you end up not having enough items for a load, you can wash all the items by colour using a setting that fits the most delicate items in the load.
Sorting out by amount of dirt
Heavily soiled or really dirty items that have stains, sweat or bad odours should always be washed separately from lightly soiled ones and may need to be treated differently in order to remove odours from the clothes depending on the origin of the odour and the fabric content of the clothing.
While doing laundry, visible stains will need to be pre-treated before going in the washing machine. Certain stains will require extra care and attention: it is important to research how to treat stains depending on the type of stain.
Washing machine temperatures
The first step to doing laundry effectively is by washing your clothes at the correct temperature.
There are many reasons to adjust the washing machine temperature. For most clothing, the hotter the water, the cleaner the clothing will be. However, it might be necessary to use other water temperatures in certain cases.
When to use cold water 16 – 27°C
Cold water is the best option for printed clothing that contain bright colours that could potentially run or fade if washed at higher temperatures and also for cashmere, lace, tulle, fleece and bathing suits.
And also cold water works best on blood, milk and dairy products and water-based paints stains. But they may require a longer washing time or a pre-soak before washing in order to properly remove the stains.
It is important to note that washing with cold water is also a more environmentally friendly option. Recently studies found that a short, cold-water wash cycle “significantly reduced microfiber generation by 30%,” noting that temperature was a significant factor in micro-plastic shedding.
By not heating the water in your washing machine, you may reduce your energy costs with every load. Washing at lower temperatures can reduce running costs by an average of 62% because washing machines use less energy to heat water at lower temperatures, so switching to colder water can lower your gas or electric bill.
When to use warm water 30 – 40°C
Warm water is usually the best choice for most clothing items and fabrics as Viscose, Bamboo, Silk and Wool. Washing at temperatures such as 30°C will give them a good clean without causing too much fading, wrinkling and shrinking. It can also help you to save more on your energy bills as opposed to if you were to wash your clothes at 40°C or more.
When to use hot water – 50°C or above
High temperatures are effective in removing dirt, grass and oil stains and any germs the fabric may contain. Hot water not only works to sanitise your clothing but also helps activate and dissolve your powder detergent.
Hot water can be used for base layers and underwear that is worn close to the body. It is also good for washing bed sheets, kitchen linens, bath towels or garments that are heavily soiled or sweaty as it is able to clean dirt more effectively and cleanse clothing infected with bacteria.
Materials such as white Linen and Cotton fabrics can be washed in hot water but it’s not good for all types of clothing; sometimes it can make fabrics shrink, wrinkle or fade. Dyed fabric may also turn out patchy after being washed in hot water.
Therefore it is important to check the labels for wash care instructions before washing any item of clothing.
How to choose the right detergent: powder, liquid, gel or tablet
Detergents are powerful cleaners and are easier to rinse away. All laundry detergents claim to effectively remove stains, keep bright colours bright, whiten white fabric and generally refresh your garments. However there are so many laundry detergents to choose from.
Powder laundry detergents almost always out-perform liquids and gels when it comes to stain removal. Powders are also the least expensive option: they’re cheap, lasts a long time, produces less waste and is great for heavily soiled clothes.
It is a great choice for extra dirty loads and heavily soiled clothing because of its ability to lift stains and dirt. Powder detergents work better to brighten white clothes and linens and keep them white. Some powder detergents have trouble dissolving in cold water.
Powder detergents packaging is normally made of cardboard which can easily decompose, making it eco friendly.
Gel and Liquid detergents
If you wash a lot of clothes in cold water, this would be a good choice for you.
Gel and liquid detergents are already dissolved so you will not have to worry about it struggling to dissolve or leaving residue in cold water like you would with powder detergents. They also can be used as spot treatments for many stains and you will be able to pre-treat your clothing without the need for another product.
Gel and liquid detergents are gentler on clothes and keep colours bright but they are not as good at keeping whites pristine.
The cap that is included for liquid detergents makes it easier to measure. You can also adjust the amount depending on the size of the load you are washing. However, liquid detergents can get very messy and are prone to spilling because they pour quickly. They can also be heavy to handle when measuring and they do create more plastic waste for the environment.
Capsules, tablets and pods
Capsules normally contain liquid detergent inside a dissolvable film. The main advantage of using capsule detergents is that they are quick, convenient and make it easy to use the right amount of detergent every time. Most capsules are sectioned with two or more active ingredients that are released into the washing at specific times. This is something that would be difficult and more time consuming for you to do manually. A capsule that includes multiple technologies in a single pod eliminates the need to buy several different products for your laundry days.
You may be thinking capsules are perfect, but they are much more expensive than liquid and powder detergents. Sometimes you can find yourself spending up to 50% more on capsules than you would with powders.
Capsules are convenient but they may also be limiting because they are designed for full washes. Powders and liquids will give you more control depending on load size. Pods are best for people who typically have the same size loads every time.
Which one to choose
Overall, there are many different factors that can help you decide on which detergents to use. If you live in a household with children or family members who do jobs that get clothes dirtier, you may benefit more from a good powder detergent that will lift stains. If you frequently do more gentle washes at cooler temperatures for delicate fabrics, liquid detergent may be best for you. And if you are looking for a more quick and convenient option, then capsules are the one to go for.
Cleaning your washing machine
Last but not least, cleaning your washer regularly can ensure that your clothes smell fresh and it will give your washing machine a longer life; otherwise the leftover detergent and hard-water deposits will cause accumulation of grime, grease and mould built-up leaving residues on your laundry.
To avoid stinky smells and harmful bacteria is essential cleaning your washing machine’s drum, dispenser and filter once a month, with vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide or Affresh tablets.