Laundry is one of those mindless chores we often complete without thinking, but look closer at your washing routine and you'll realise you might not be doing it as efficiently as you think...
From cramming in extra clothes to ironing fabrics at the wrong time, here are 10 of the most common laundry mistakes to avoid.
How many are laundry mistakes are you making?
1. Not putting a (dry) tea towel in the tumble dryer
We always welcome any tips that can speed up the boring process of doing laundry, and now there’s a trick that can really help if you use a tumble dryer.
According to Shannon Lush, an Australian best-selling author who specialises in cleaning and house management, putting a tea towel in the tumble dryer will make your laundry dry a third faster.
Speaking on Australian breakfast TV show Sunrise, she said: ‘Stick a dry tea towel in with your wash and your wash will dry a third faster. It wicks the water away and spreads the surface area for the dryer to do its work.’ We thinks it’s definitely worth a try!
2. Shrinking your clothes
This is the most common of our laundry mistakes… it can happened to all of us. You pull out your favourite top from the washing machine only to find it’s shrunk to fit a four year old. But if all your clothes are getting smaller and smaller, just adding baby shampoo and warm water can help get them back to their original size.
Add a third of a cup of baby shampoo to a bucket of warm water and soak any shrunken clothes for half an hour. Then ring out the clothing, leaving it on a dry towel. Blogger Jill Nystul says this easy trick works as leaving it in the soapy water ‘will relax the fibers in the clothing’. However, the trick will not work on wool clothing, so take extra care before washing that favourite jumper…
3. Using too much washing powder
Yes, you can have too much of a good thing! Research from Glotechrepairs.co.uk has shown that nearly a third of British households don’t know how much detergent to use, and if you overload it makes it hard for the machine to rinse everything properly, leaving your clothes clogged with soap and even potentially causes blockages in the machine itself.
Repairs can cost an estimated £115, but even if you don’t end up with a breakage, you’re pouring money down the drain (quite literally!) by using excess product. The right amount for you depends on factors like how much you’re washing, how dirty the clothes are and how hard the water in your area is, but they give you those measuring caps on the bottle for a reason…
4. Not reading the label
You might think you know your dry clean from your day-to-day wear, but when was the last time you actually read the label on an item of clothing – and if you did, did you really know what all of those symbols meant? We have to confess, we didn’t – which is why we’ll be using this handy guide to the basics.
You can download it as a free printable from A Typical English Home.
5. Overloading the washing machine
A staggering 40% of us admit to doing this – when you’ve got a load and a bit left in the laundry basket, it can be tempting to just shove in those few extra items to get the job done. However, overloading your washing machine is one of the most common laundry mistakes and means not only do your clothes move around in one large mass, not getting as clean as you’d like, but it puts undue pressure on the machine and can even lead to breakages. To avoid overloading, make sure there is always a reasonable gap between the top of the clothes and the drum.
6. Washing at too high a temperature
Not everything needs to be washed at 40 degrees – in fact, according to Persil, bright and dark colours prefer cooler, quicker washes, and jeans and woolen clothes like lower temps too. What’s more, heat can even set the stains that you think you’re eliminating by cranking it up. Washing at 30 degrees is effective for most items and can save around 40% less energy, making it kinder both to your purse and the environment.
7. Not turning jeans inside out
Brace yourselves, clean freaks – leading jean manufacturers say that we should only be washing our jeans once every six months to keep them in tip top condition! However, turning them inside out is another way to help them to retain their colour once they eventually hit the machine. Similarly, you should always zip up zippers before washing your favourite denims – leaving them loose can cause snags on delicate items in the same load.
8. Rubbing stains vigorously
Hands up if your first instinct when seeing a stain is to scrub at it as hard as you can? Us too – but a little bit of research reveals that this is one of the most common laundry mistakes. It’s the total opposite of what we should be doing. Treating the stain quickly is crucial, but rubbing them usually just pushes them further into the fibres. Instead, dab, rather than rub, and use a dedicated stain remover to penetrate the affected area without doing further damage.
9. Ironing fabrics that are too dry
Step away from the tumble drier – getting wrinkles out of garments is actually easier when it’s a little bit damp. If you’ve already air or tumble dried your item, use the mist setting on your iron (or use a light spray bottle, if you prefer) to return a little moisture to the fabric, and you’ll blitz through your ironing pile in far less time.
10. Leaving leftover water in your iron
Once you’ve finished wrinkle-busting, it’s crucial to empty any remaining ironing or tap water before packing up. Leaving the liquid to fester can cause damage to the iron’s inner mechanisms, so try to fill up little and often and use only as much as you need.
11. Not cleaning your machines
Okay, we know they’re meant to be cleaning things for you, but everything from the drum of the washing machine to the soleplate of your iron will need a little TLC after a few uses. Washing machines benefit from a regular cycle of washing machine cleaning to prevent against bad smells and mould, whilst driers need a thorough rinse of all drawers and regular lint trap emptying. And don’t forget to give your iron a weekly wipe over the base to remove residue too!