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Tackle your toughest loads of laundry with ease

 / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Have you turned more than a fair share of your white socks pink? Do you struggle to keep your couch cushions clean? If either of these statements describes you, then you’re in luck. Katie Brown of PBS's “Keep it Simple” has a rule of thumb for every room of the house and possible laundry mishap.

Kitchen tips
Wash oven mitts and ironing board covers in cold water in your washer and dry on low, as these items can shrink easily. For sponges, wash them in your dishwasher, then while still wet, pop into the microwave on high for 1 minute to kill any lurking germs.

The cloth part of your mop can be washed in the machine if there is no hard metal or plastic attached, but remember to air dry. Plastic dish gloves can be washed in the dishwasher or in the washer on gentle for a short cycle in warm water and then air dried.

Bedroom tips
When it comes to pillows, invest in a pillow protector to go under your regular pillowcase. Down pillows can be machine washed. Fill the washer halfway with water, and then submerge the pillow to get out all the air. Let the water fill the machine and wash for 8-10 minutes, taking care to set the machine on delicate cycle. Open the lid occasionally to press out air and balance the load if necessary.

If you washer is large enough to accommodate your down comforter, use a mild detergent and no fabric softener. If your comforter is too large for the machine, you can hand wash it in the bathtub. Dry it at low setting with a tennis shoe so that your comforter comes out fresh and fluffy. With wool blankets, dry cleaning is the safest bet. If you want to hand wash, use a mild detergent and cold water. To dry, lay flat and dry completely, then fluff up in the machine on the air setting.

Living room tips
Most often, dry-clean your slip covers and cushion covers. If the piece is made of linen, cotton, or a synthetic fabric, and you are certain that it is colorfast and has been preshrunk, wash it separately in cold water with regular detergent. Air dry or tumble dry on low and then reposition the cover when slightly damp, which will help it fit if any shrinking has occurred.

Upholstery requires a seven step process. Begin by loosening the dirt with a brush, vacuuming up the remaining dirt. Mix one-quarter cup laundry detergent with 1 cup of water with a hand mixer. Dry peaks will form and dirt will appear in suds. Use a scraper to remove suds and dirt together and rinse with a wet cloth. Finally, set the object away to dry over night (if possible leave a fan over the area).

Rugs require a gentle cycle along with mild detergent (make sure to pre-treat with stain remover). Hang to dry and fluff up the fabric with a brush or your finger tips.

Wash curtains separately with cool water and mild detergent on gentle cycle. Air dry and iron when slightly damp. To keep laundering easy, go over the curtain with your vacuum’s upholstery tool every couple of months, and wash yearly.

What would mom do?
Everyone knows that mother knows best when it comes to laundry quandaries. To soften blue jeans, wash them several times, or soak for 12 hours in a tub of cold water and fabric softener, then wash as usual. To keep the nap on your corduroy and jeans from streaking, turn the clothing inside out before washing.To wash nylons or tights, place them in a mesh bag and wash with other delicate items that don’t have hooks, eyes, or other metal parts that may snag the stockings. To clean cloth covered buttons, clean with mild soap and a toothbrush before washing. Silk items should be washed by hand in cold water with mild detergent.Bras can become tangled in the wash and their hooks can get caught on your other laundry so wash by hand, or in a mesh bag, and hang to dry. Polished leather can be wiped down with a wet cloth and some mild soap. To wash your sneakers, first remove the laces, and then combine baking soda and detergent. Agitate for several minutes, and set to soak 1 hour.

Stains
To get rid of oil and grease stains, sprinkle some cornstarch or baking soda on the stain, then place the garment, stain side down, on a large rag on top of an ironing board. Run a hot iron over the opposite side of the stain.

Rust stains require a soaking. Soak the stain in a solution of 1 part lemon juice and 1 part water for at least 30 minutes. Sweat stains are much easier to deal with. In this case, you can line-dry the shirts outside. The combination of sunlight’s natural bleaching properties and drying at lower temperatures than in a dryer keeps sweat stains from turning yellow. It is the heat from the dryer that sets the stains and makes them difficult to remove.When it comes to wine, tea, and coffee, run the stained area under cold water and then wash in a regular cycle with the hottest water safe for your fabric. For white loads with mildew stains, apply bleach, and wash in the machine. For color loads, mix 1 teaspoon color-safe bleach with 1 cup hydrogen peroxide, sponge on to the stained areas, rinse well, and wash in machine.

When washing a backpack, place it in a zipper pillowcase so that the straps don’t get tangled in the washer. Wash in warm water on gentle, and then wring out excess water. If made of nylon, air dry, if canvas, go ahead and machine dry. Remember most straps are made with foam and can sometimes take a while to dry. Don’t wash multicolored backpacks because the dyes can bleed.

If you’ve shrunken a sweater, add 2 tablespoons of hair conditioner to a bucket of water and soak the sweater for 5 minutes. Lay the sweater to dry on a towel, and slowly begin to stretch out the fibers. To wipe out wrinkles, place the item in the dryer with a damp towel for a steam effect.  If only a couple of items are wrinkled, use a damp hand towel. Wet laundry that smells of mildew needs to be placed back in the washing machine with some bleach. Use color-safe bleach for colored washes.If you’ve managed to turn an entire load of whites pink, have no fear, use Rit "Color Remover” to remove color that bleeds into your whites. If your kids stuffed a couple of crayons in the dryer, you’re in luck; the Crayola hotline dedicates an entire option to this laundry faux pas. Scrap off all the wax you can, and use a hairdryer to loosen up hardened clumps. For the rest, apply WD-40 and wipe clean. Finish in the washing machine with a mild detergent.

The 101 of understanding tags
Always read care labels before laundering an item. Manufacturers commonly use symbols to let you know how to care for an item. Dots let you know in what temperature an item should be washed or dried. More dots signify hotter temperatures.

A water bucket with one line beneath it means wash on permanent press, while two lines calls for gentle or delicate wash. If there is a bucket crossed out, do not wash that item, not even by hand! 

An empty circle means that you should dry clean that item. A box with three vertical lines inside of it means that your item should be drip dried, and on horizontal line, means dry flat.

Environmentally friendly washing tips
Homemade Dryer sheets are certainly feasible. A dryer sheet is really just a piece of fabric that dried with fabric softener on it. Distilled white vinegar is a great fabric softener, it’s cheap and natural. In a spray bottle, mix together 2 tablespoons of fabric softener and 1 cup of water, shaking well. Cut up a clean old shirt and spray some of the mixture. Toss the sheet into the dryer along with your laundry and you’re ready to go! To fluff up your dryer load pop in two reusable dryer balls.

More detergent than necessary is only going to wear down your machine and our planet. Use your lint trap as a gauge, excessive lint is a sign of excessive soap. Using less detergent can also help to save your clothing. Lint is a sign of deteriorating fabric, so the less lint you have, the longer your clothing will stay intact.

You can’t beat sunshine when it comes to drying clothes. For example, smelly shoes, when washed and placed outside will not only dry quicker, but will have far less smell due to the fact that the hot dryer is not sealing in odors.

Brighten your colors with salt. Add a pinch or two to your wash with ordinary detergent dissolve in the water, and then add your clothes.

To make your whites brighter, soak them in a solution of cold water and one teaspoon cream of tartar before washing with mild soap.

For more great household tips go to katiebrown.com

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