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What do baking soda, lemons, vinegar and alluminun foil have in common? These simple ingredients are your godsends when fighting clothing stains and taking care of your laundry.

Sample clothing isn’t required to be labeled with either fabric content or care instructions (because they are samples).  The good news is that most of the clothing manufactured today is made from a “blend” of different fibers and can be washed.

Once you are familiar with the fabric blends, it’s easy to know how to take care of your favorites. Plus, I really don’t like anything about dry cleaning: the chemicals, the expense and the time commitment. The truth is :  WE DON’T send anything to the dry cleaners at NPR.

First: If the garment doesn’t have care instructions, wad it up into a ball. Does it wrinkle? Is it stretchy? Look at the fibers- are they tightly woven? If the garment doesn’t wrinkle, has stretch and is woven tightly, it can be washed.

Second: Does it look to have any nylon or spandex? Those fibers are often combined with cotton, rayon & polyester and make the garment washable. 100% cotton, denim & linen can be washed.

Third: Be wary of 100% rayon (100% rayon will wrinkle when when waded up and looks flimsy) Often the garment will fade, tear or shrink when washed.  Today, most rayon is combined with other fibers and can be safely washed. Modal, Viscose, Lyocell are all “cousins” of rayon and can be safely laundered. Rayon and it’s derivatives are made from wood pulp or wood cellulose and treated with chemicals to become a fiber. Many manufacturers use this form of rayon because the garment wears well, doesn’t wrinkle and holds the dye.

 Fourth: What to do when the garment tag says dry clean, but you are pretty sure it can be washed. Test a small amount of fabric to see how it responds to water and soap. Manufacturers often place the most care restrictive tag on a garment because they don’t want the responsibility of a damaged garment. If the sample test is fine, wash the garment by hand (or gentle cycle) in cold water.

Fifth: Here goes:

  • Take your time.
  • Be frugal with your detergent- too much will leave a residue and attract dirt/stains.
  • Don’t over-wash your clothing. Too much washing (or dry cleaning) can “age” your garments. If there are no stains, try placing the piece in your dryer and tumble dry for five minutes to freshen… sometimes that’s all it takes.
  • Stop using dryer sheets. They will leave a residue. Instead, use a ball of tin foil in the dryer to remove static electricity
  • Focus on small loads and sort by color and fabric.
  • Pre-treat stains. Our go-to recipe is: 1 c. hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 c. Dawn dish soap & 1/2 c. baking soda. Mix really well (stir, don’t shake). Apply to stain, lightly scrub (avoid rubbing too hard- could damage the garment), then let sit 1 hour. I make the formula ahead and store it in my laundry room. Use a toothbrush to rub the solution on the stain. Believe me, this solution removes almost any stain and doesn’t ruin the fabric.
  • Get a spritz bottle filled with solution of vinegar and water. It is a godsend and will remove wine, BBQ sauce and zap oiliness.
  • Use lemon juice and salt on yellow stains. Apply to garment and let it sit in the sun for an hour.
  • I rotate between all of these methods depending on the stain.
  • Wash clothing inside out.
  • Go easy on detergent- use less than the recommended amount. Look for detergents without added “boosters”. I also look for clear detergent. The blue color sometimes stains your clothes if poured directly on the fabric.
  • Use the delicate cycle with cold water- this cycle is great for everything except sheets and towels.
  • After washing, dry the clothes in the dryer for maybe 5 minutes (just enough to get the fibers warm). The heat will relax the wrinkles and soften the fabric. This is when you add the aluminum foil ball.
  • Do not let your clothing dry completely. The garment will last longer if after damp drying, you hang it or block it out to dry.
  • Do not wander off or get distracted during this step- the key is not to dry, but to warm.
  • A drying rack is a great investment and will help you keep your laundry unwrinkled.

Sixth: Ironing or pressing:

When you need to touch up garment made of synthetic fibers (all of the pull on pants) use a pressing cloth. These can be purchased or you can use a thin piece of dampened cotton to do the job. The pressing cloth will prevent melting and scorching. A good steam iron or steamer will help you keep your clothing fresh. Always test the heat of your iron before putting it on the fabric.

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