Most of us just bundle our clothes into the washer, fill the detergent drawer and press the ‘on’ button without giving it much thought. (This is understandable — nobody wants to waste more mental energy than necessary on doing the laundry.) However, there’s a lot of things that you could probably be doing better to make this tedious task easier and more effective. Here are eight common laundry myths covering everything from fabric softness to lint buildup. .
#1 The more expensive the detergent, the better the clean
This is not necessarily true and most detergents available in supermarkets today are capable of washing the majority of your laundry items. The motion of the water in the machine and how it disperses the detergent through the clothes is an equally important factor. There is a very good reason that washing machines move the clothing items around the tub as they are washed. It provides much needed friction, rubbing the clothes together to help break down the dirt particles embedded in the fabric and it also ensures each garment is exposed to the water at every possible angle.
#2 Fabric softener is the only way to keep clothes soft
Fabric softeners are great for adding a fresh scent and soft finish to your laundry. However, fabric softener or not, maintaining the perfect amount of moisture in your towels and clothes is just as important when it comes to keeping your clothes soft — especially when using a clothes dryer. If you use a dryer, you should try to check on the progress of the items at regular intervals because fabrics tend to dry at different rates. Items may feel slightly damp while still in the machine but may be dry enough to put away once they are removed from the humid environment inside the drum.
Taking the items out before they are too dry will prevent the harder, course texture so common in towels and sheets that have been over-dried. If you’re using a clothes horse or a line to dry your clothes, it is still a good idea to check the progress of the items at regular intervals. This is especially important if you are drying your clothes outdoors as exposure to the Australian sun will result in items drying much faster than they typically do indoors.
#3 I have sensitive skin so I need a sensitive detergent
The wash setting that you select has an effect, as does the type of detergent you use. If the temperature of the cycle is not high enough, certain elements of the detergent will not dissolve and remnants of the soap can remain on the items washed. This can be a big cause of irritation for those with sensitive skin. To ensure that the detergent is dissolved properly, washes should be done at 35 degrees or higher and with a steam function if it’s an option.
#4 Washing at 60 degrees will prevent the effects of a dust allergy
Dust mites are a common trigger of conditions such as asthma and it is often recommended that sufferers wash at 60 degrees to remove dust mites from clothes and bedding. However, while washing at a higher temperature might increase chances of killing them, the cycle needs to be at 60 degrees or higher for at least 10 minutes before you can be sure you are completely rid of the bugs.
#5 I should always wash at 30 degrees as it’s better for the environment
Colder washes might use less energy, but it’s really about knowing what clothes should be washed at 30 degrees, and which should be washed at a higher temperature. White items are the least suited to cooler washes. This is because water below 40 degrees is unable to fully break down sweat particles embedded in fabric, also known as ‘protein stains’. Over time, washing your whites at 30 degrees may result in greyed fabric and deterioration of the clothing. Ultimately, a less effective wash may actually mean that you’re having to wash items more frequently, which has the opposite effect on the environment and your energy consumption.
#6 My washing machine washes all the time, why would I need to clean it?
Despite the fact you use your washing machine frequently, it’s still a good idea to wash your drum regularly – especially if you wash your clothes with cool water. This is because remnants of detergent can remain in the drum once the cycle has completed. These remnants are also likely to be a bigger problem if you use fabric softener on a regular basis. Some machines have a ‘Tub Clean’ cycle option, which if used regularly ensures the inner and outer tubs are kept as clean as possible.
#7 There’s nothing you can do to avoid the production of lint
Tired of having to use a lint brush to de-fluff your clothes after they’ve been in the washing machine? Lint is generally a standard by-product of washing that can’t always be avoided, but actually with the correct clothing care, lint does not have to be a problem. Lint is produced from your clothes moving around the tub and is a result of the friction produced when items rub together. You can greatly reduce this issue by placing lint-producing items such as towels or fleecy fabrics on a gentle cycle and by washing at a higher temperature. It is also advisable to separate towels and fleecy clothes from fabrics that attract lint, such as corduroy and synthetics. Agitators or central posts, which feature in some top load machines, are a common cause of lint production because of the forceful contact of the post with the fabric.
#8 I am doing a heavy load, so I should use more detergent
This is not necessarily true. If you use too much detergent you may find that it doesn’t dissolve properly, leaving remnants of soap on clothing which can irritate sensitive skin. This will be most apparent in washing machines that have high efficiency because they use less water during the cycle.
Although the size of the load, how dirty the clothes are and how ‘hard’ the water is (level of mineral content) in your local area may affect the amount of detergent required, you will usually find that you shouldn’t need to defer too much from the ‘standard’ measure recommended by the detergent manufacturer as well as checking the instruction manual of your washing machine. You should also consider the capacity of your drum and whether you’re trying to fit too many items of clothing into your washing machine. A load that is appropriately sized for the drum will result in a much more effective clean.
Steve Abbey is a laundry expert and washing machine representative of LG.