In theory, doing laundry is not all that difficult. By the time most of us go to college, we know the basics of proper clothing maintenance—separate your whites and colors; wash your jeans in cold water; don’t put those wool sweaters in the dryer. Still, even though most of us have mastered the age-old art of dispensing detergent and hitting the “start” button, there is a lot about doing laundry that remains elusive. How do you get your whites to shine bright again? What’s the best way to remove stains? There has to be a better way to iron! To help you get your laundry game on-point, Common Good’s founder Sacha Dunn is sharing her five go-to tips for washing your clothes and linens the easy, effective, eco-friendly way.
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1. Stain removal and general washing
Most laundry is going to come out clean with a regular wash. As long as you don’t use too little or too much detergent, modern washing machines and detergents are great at washing clothes well and gently. You can save yourself some time and trouble by dabbing a little detergent onto a stain when the spill happens but if you can’t get to it, five minutes before you wash should move a lot of stains. The longer a stain sits on the fabric, the harder it is to remove. Make sure you only do this with detergents that do not have optical brighteners as they’ll leave a mark on your clothes. But you want to avoid those anyway because they can irritate skin.
2. Dryer balls
Line drying is my favorite method, but it’s almost impossible in NYC. Cut down drying time and avoid synthetic scents and chemicals by adding some woolen dryer balls to the dryer. These clever little things fluff fabrics so they dry faster, they beat out the static cling, and with a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil, they’re a great way to add scent without the chemicals. The best thing? They last forever.
One great way to feel like you’ve really made progress in a big clean is to soak those household linens that get dirty fast: dish towels, shower curtains, towels and sheets all need a little extra care every few months. Line drying in the sun is one way to naturally whiten and brighten linens but for those of us who have to use the dryer, soak your linens in oxygen bleach for a few hours to overnight, then wash, to give them a new lease on life.
4. Linen Water
Linen water is a great product to aid ironing but it also leaves your clothes and linens smelling fresh and clean. Did you know that you can spray it straight onto garments to release creases? This method works best on silk but you can use it on other fabrics too. That means you can skip a few trips to the dry cleaner, which is important because even “organic” dry cleaning is done with chemicals that travel home with your clothes. It’s also a great trick if you’re running out the door or traveling and don’t have time to iron.
5. Storing clothes and linens
Come fall, we’ll start putting the swimsuits and sundresses away and bring out the woolens again. It pays to store clothes carefully so they come out of storage clean and intact. Wash clothes and linens before storing to make sure they don’t have any food or personal care products on them. Products like sunscreen and food stains can get worse over time so even if you can’t see it when you put it down, it might get worse in storage. Make sure clothes are really dry before storing them to avoid mildew and put them in a zippered case or container to keep the moths at bay. If you have a problem with moths in your area, you can make a little non-toxic moth-ball substitute with a mixture of dried herbs like lavender and rosemary and some dried cloves. Pop them all into an old stocking or tie them up in some cheesecloth and add them to your stored clothes.
Sacha Dunn is the founder of Common Good, a household cleaning company devoted to promoting sustainable, eco-friendly products and packaging. All of their products are made free of synthetic fragrances, dyes, bleach and brighteners. Minimal packaging means that pumps and spray bottles can easily be refilled, reused and recycled. Check out their product line at west elm here.