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Read the Labels
Sick of shrunken, faded, ripped clothing? There's one easy solution: Stop blindly tossing your laundry into the washing machine! Here are 12 simple pre-washing machine must-dos from "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" that will help your clothes last longer.
Make sure your garment is not dry-clean only. Manufacturers often put the dry-clean label on garments made of wool (and related fibers, including cashmere), silk, and rayon But unless it actually says "dry-clean only," you will likely be able to wash them successfully at home.
A garmet suitable for machine- or hand-washing must be: 1) colorfast (test by dampening the fabric in a discreet spot, such as an inside seam, wait a minute or two, and blot with a white cloth to see if color appears); 2) made of a single material (no lining, beading, or trim); and 3) constructed simply, so it won't collapse when wet.
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Sort, Sort, Sort!
Each time you wash your clothing, some dye is released into the water. Dyes such as indigo, for example, which colors your favorite blue jeans, are actually intended to fade and will do so throughout the life of the garment. Unless you take care to wash like colors together, your laundry will become dingy in short order. Besides the obvious -- separating light-colored clothes from dark and brightly colored ones -- you should sort by soil level, fabric type, and lint properties.
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Have the Right Detergent
General Purpose: Liquids and powders are suitable for all washable fabrics. Liquids are better on oils, spots, and stains. Powders are better on clay and ground-in dirt.
Concentrated (Also Known as Ultra): Smaller amount needed for the same cleaning power!
Combination: These usually come with a built-in fabric softener or color-safe bleach.
Light Duty: This detergent is designed to clean delicates, baby clothes, and other washable fabrics that require gentle treatment.
High Efficiency: This soap is designed for front-loading machines, which use less water.
Environmentally Friendly: Their surfactants (the cleaning power) come from vegetable oils, often from coconut. Look for labels that say "coconut-oil-based surfactant" instead of "cleaning agents," and "fragrance derived from lavender oil" rather than "fragrance."
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1) Act quickly.
2) Always blot liquids with a white cloth and work from the outside in so you don't spread the stain.
3) Scoop up solids.
4) Sprinkle an oily stain with cornstarch. Wait 15 minutes, then scrape it off.
5) Dab stains (don't rub or press hard) with cool water, which will lighten most spots and remove others altogether.
6) Follow our stain removal basic checklist.
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Remove Bits and Bops
Remove pins or buckles, zip zippers, close snaps and hooks, and secure Velcro to prevent snags and abrasion. (Do not fasten buttons, however, which can cause stress on the buttons and buttonholes.)
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Empty pockets and turn them inside out, unfurl socks, and unroll cuffs.
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Tie Loose Strings
Tie sashes and strings to prevent tangling.
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Prepare Your Delicates
Place delicate items like bras, stockings, and fine knitwear in zippered mesh bags.
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Turn Clothing Inside Out
Delicates, sweaters, and cotton T-shirts should be turned inside out to prevent pilling. Dark, fade-prone clothes should also be turned inside out as abrasion from rubbing against other clothes can cause fibers to fray, making clothes look faded.
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Open Up Button-Downs
Keep the collars open to reduce wear along folds.
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It is important to fix tears or ripped hems before laundering clothes. The washer's agitating and tumbling action can make them worse. With a few tools and knowledge of basic stitches (along with a little patience), you can tackle a host of repairs.
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Presoak Heavily Soiled Clothing
Water is enough to remove many spots, especially light ones, if you get them when they're fresh. Even stains that have had time to set will loosen somewhat while they soak. Presoak laundry from the "very dirty" basket or clothing with perspiration odor for an hour in an enzyme detergent dissolved in water before running the regular cycle. You can soak laundry in the washer, a large bucket, or a utility sink.
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