It’s time for Laundry 101
Laundry is more often than not, a nemesis to almost every person who roams the earth. It’s a chore, it’s repetitive, it’s unrewarding. Or is it? I’m here to dissolve these unproven facts and to try to re-inspire you in the lost art of laundry. Laundry 101 is the name of this article. There are simple basic principles one should follow in order to fall in love with this lost art. Yes, even laundry has a history, and today is still interpreted in many forms around the world. But I hope laundry 101 will provide good insight to the simple basic steps in uniformity taken to make laundry a great experience.
The evolving laundry methods
From rivers, to lakes, to wash basins, to wash boards, to solid bars of soap to the invention of the wash machine. Compared to how laundry WAS done centuries ago, to how we do it today is a stark comparison. But I was fortunate to spend a lot of time around my Italian grandparent’s as a child and in hind sight, I do believe it molded me to be the person I am today. Where it had the most influence on me I believe was absorbing their method of living. Living was special to them. They had a tiny little cottage in Anaheim California. It was a typical little home with one bedroom, a family room, a sun room, kitchen and a bathroom.
The house was complete with a cute front porch, and a garden front and back. My grandparent’s had their meals together, and enjoyed the every day tasks that we very often find mundane today. Their little cottage home was filled with love and the smells of your typical Italian household. My Nonna would keep a clean organized house, and had meals always in motion. In addition, she loved to sew, knit and crochet. My Nonno loved the garden. He would be out in the garden before breakfast, and after, often working until lunch time every day. There was pride in their life from every corner.
My grandparent’s had one of the first modern-style wash machines (from the 50’s) which only washed the clothes. To finish the clothes after the wash, Nonna had to to pass every piece of laundry through a hand-cranked ringer. Once that was all done, the laundry was hung outside in the garden.
Just remembering this brings a smile to my face. It’s the time in our American life where all was good. Life wasn’t filled with needless electronics and convenience. Life was simply perfect, because it was simple, yet most of us had what we needed. I suppose that’s why I have tried to return to that feeling. I love running my home. Me, and me alone, is expected to perform the daily tasks that keep a home in order and in top shape. From the menu planning, to the cleaning and organizing, I find extreme pleasure in almost every aspect of my job. But, laundry is special to me.
If you have to do a task, at least try to make it enjoyable. For the topic of laundry, nothing says “I love You” more than a clean basket of clothes. But first we must understand laundry and how to best organize it before we start in order to get a great result.
Temperatures for washing
First, sort your clothes. In Europe, we are lucky enough to have actual temperature options on our machines. Unlike the U.S., where it’s simply “cold, medium, or hot”, we have temperatures which range from 30 degrees Celsius, to 95 degrees Celsius. 30 degrees is the cold option and is most suitable for the dark, hand wash, wool and delicate items. So, my determination for temperature is based on the material and the use of the item. I wash my ‘whites’, my towels, my linens and my intimates at 95 degrees or the ‘boiling’ temperature. Boiling is essential for items which require a good boil to kill any and all bacteria. Beware of lingering bacteria that tend to live on the surface of clothes and even in the wash machine. It’s always best to wash on boil to keep things sanitary and clean.
I have three varieties of washing detergents. For the whites, I have a detergent (powder) which is good for high-heat washing (as clearly stated on the box). I am sure to select a brand that is ecologically good, low in smell, and one that is good for high heat temperatures. The second powder detergent I have is the one for low-temperature washes and colors. Again, I choose a detergent that is ecological, low in odor and compliant with low-temperature washes. My final option is a natural based detergent which is used solely for my intimates (underwear, socks, etc). This detergent must be suitable for high-heat washing (95 degrees). *Note: I prefer using powder detergent vs liquid. I’ve noticed that using liquid detergents can and does often leave a grayish random stain on towels and t-shirts.
When washing at high heat, you don’t really need to pre-treat any stains, but on your whites, it’s still nice to dab your stain with a drop of dish soap ahead of the wash. High heat boils get the stains out of almost anything. That means, white t-shirts, underwear, towels, all stain free.
For sorting, I go a bit beyond lights and dark’s. I will separate the polyester clothing from the cotton, as they tend to wash better and smell better in the end. When washing polyester sport clothes for example, never use a fabric softener. I opt for this because fabric softeners tend to coat polyester and just trap the bacteria rather than remove it. This is why polyester begins to smell moldy or musty if improperly washed. Instead, pour a tablespoon or two of basic white table vinegar into the softener tray to remove bacteria and musty odors. You might need to repeat this process a few times in the beginning, but it does a sure job in removing both the odor and the unseen bacteria which will otherwise lay trapped and stuck in the fibers.
I then further separate the whites depending on the category. Is it clothing, linen/towel, or intimate? Most, if not all of my white clothing tends to be all cotton materials which can include T-shirts, pants, shorts. This making the easy determination of washing either on a high boiling temperature at 95 degrees or 65 degrees if they are stain free. Be sure to wash like with like. For example, wash the towels with towels and face clothes. Wash intimates with fellow intimates. Polyester p.j.’s are washed together with other polyester on a cold wash. Bed linens are washed together on boiling, but the flat sheets are washed separate due to bounding up during the wash. I tend to wash all the linens, and intimates on high heat to remove any and all bacteria and stains that such items carry.
To end the cycle, I’m always sure to hang all my linens, towels, tablecloth, etc always for drying. The main school of thought is that hanging adds to the longevity of your items. In addition, they tend to be easier to fold and are more sturdy for the ironing process.
Delicates (bras, hand-washed items, or wool blend items) are all washed on the delicate cycle and always washed in cold or 30 degrees.
Hanging however, doesn’t require any sorting. It’s the simple and enjoyable task of hanging laundry outside on the line that gives me the most pleasure. Yes, there is a right and a wrong way to hang your clothes. But always remember, the goal of hanging is to get the items dry by the sun. The best way to achieve this is to hang it as openly and fluidly as you can.
For t-shirts, hang them upside down, always. Clip the clothes pins on the under hem. For pants, always hang upside down unless the pant is a light linen or cotton and will dry rather easily. For button-down shirts, hang them open and un-buttoned. All towels and linens should be properly hung to full capacity and fully exposed to the sunlight and heat. When you’re finished hanging, your work should look like a piece of art. Depending on the daily temperature, the drying process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to dry to a few hours.
Hang-drying for me takes place every day of the year. In Europe, we tend to have our wash rooms in the downstairs cellar area of the home and in the apartment blocks. Every washroom will almost always have either a window or a wall heater which allows you to dry year round. Of course, the onset of spring is the marker for outside drying, but there are many who continue to dry in the cellar year round.
Once the laundry is dry, take the time to pattern fold. Fold your clothes in the same manner to form a nice pattern. Find a pattern that works for you and that you can consistently perform to create uniformity. You’ll find by categorizing your folds based on the item, that it simplifies the task. Soon your work will reflect your method. Socks are folded a certain way, as are your underwear. T-shirts have their method as do tank-tops. Pants and sport clothes also have their method. Duvet covers, flat sheets, towels, and linens also have their particular folds. In essence, by customizing the fold it provides uniformity in the end and they store beautifully. A bit obsessive to some, but a standard requirement for me.
The laundry 101 material list for success is easy, but it begins with organization. The better organized you are, the better your results. Laundry doesn’t require much, but you should work with the following basics: A clean, well situated laundry room is a good start. Label your laundry soaps, have hanging lines to hang during winter, and keep your space well appointed and neat.
You’ll need a laundry basket and clothes line pins for the hanging. I’ve opted for the hand woven willow baskets for my laundry basket. I’ve found that the woven baskets far out-live the plastic option. You can drop the woven basket and it wont crack, or break, or in the end look shady. In addition to a good basket, you’ll need clothes pins. The options range from plastic to wooden. I would highly recommend sticking to wooden. They last, they hold heavy items such as jeans or towels, and they don’t leave a pin mark on the dry clothing items as the plastic pins do.
Pre-separate your laundry before you begin the wash. I have hanging bins on the wall to pre-separate the whites from darks, but I also have floor baskets to further separate with the intimates basket, linen/towel basket, and fine wash basket.
Have both an inside hanging option and an outside hanging option.
Nothing makes you feel more accomplished and satisfied with laundry than tackling the job from an organized perspective. From your kitchen towels, to your table cloths let laundry 101 guide the way.