Laundry has come a long way from the days when your great grandmother did her washing in a bucket with a board, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t always on the lookout for new products to make this chore feel, well, like less of a chore. Behold seven surprising items to help get clothes cleaner faster and with less hassle.
1. Use a salad spinner to wring clothes right
Every guide will tell you when washing by hand, there’s one steadfast rule: thou shalt not wring. Sure, wet silks and cashmeres are prone to damage, so the last thing they need is a rough squeeze, but leaving your sweaters sopping wet isn’t exactly ideal either. So we wince, hope for the best, and wring anyway. No more.
Borrow a tool you already have in your kitchen: your salad spinner. Just as the final cycle of your washer uses centrifugal force to wick water from your load of laundry, a salad spinner can do the same with your delicate items, leaving them damp, not drenched, and ready to lay flat to dry with no damage. Remember, for best results, spin one sweater or shirt at a time for about ten seconds. Easy! (We recommend having a spinner specifically for laundry, or just wash this thoroughly before using in the kitchen.)
2. Try a hand-held steamer instead of your clunky iron
This gadget may not be new to the scene, but if you don’t have one yet, you may not realize just how game-changing steam can be for your clothes. Unlike a bulky iron and ironing board (NO one likes lugging that thing out of the closet), portable steamers are lightweight and quick to heat up. Avoid setting up an ironing board — you can steam clothes suspended on a hanger.
Why is this so great? Well, for one: instead of crushing the fibers of your item, steam keeps them plump while releasing the wrinkles. It’s easy to steam around buttons or do a quick touch-up. For extra stubborn wrinkles, tug the hem gently and hold the fabric taut while you run the steam over the creased area.
3. An over-the-door shoe organizer keeps tools handy
Storage an issue in your laundry room? Take a tip from Toni Hammersley, expert behind the blog, “A Bowl Full of Lemons,” and author of the book, “The Complete Book of Home Organization.” She repurposes a common closet helper: the canvas shoe organizer. It hangs over the laundry room door to keep everything conveniently at eye level, and the individual compartments are adequately sized to house all the products and tools she keeps on hand.
“Vertical space is always forgotten when organizing a home,” says Hammersley. “I can fit all of my cleaners on the door and view them all at once, instead of digging in a bin or closet. I’ve organized with shoe hangers for years!”
4. A simple valet hook maximizes vertical space
Julia Marcum, half of the duo behind the popular homekeeping blog “Chris Loves Julia,” clued us in to another vertical storage superstar: the valet hook. This deceptively simple hook, which can be used in place of a standing laundry rack, mounts flush on the wall and can be unfolded to provide a place to hook your hangers.
“Although we have a folding counter in our small laundry room, most of my clothing, as well as Chris’s gets put on hangers,” says Marcum. “We hung a simple, affordable, valet hook on the wall in the laundry space, and it has been so useful to immediately hang up our clothes, air-dry delicates, and it folds away when not in use.”
5. These colorful clips keep socks from going missing
If you have a dryer that feeds on single socks, or you simply dread the task of matching like with like, these clips hold sock pairs together through the washer and dryer. Just attach the clip to a dirty pair of socks as you throw them in the hamper, and they’re stuck together until they’re clean. Tip: Leave the brightly-colored rings attached to your socks in their drawer to make grabbing a pair easier.
6. A brush to take dust and hair off of wool coats
This simple-looking brush actually lets you stretch the number of wears between the washing of garments like winter coats and blazers (you know, the stuff that’s especially expensive and labor-intensive to clean).
There’s no big secret here, just time-tested “technology” at work. The short, stiff, natural bristles are the key to removing dust, hair and debris from woven woolen items. Just like a valet on Downton Abbey, use firm and short strokes to sweep the brush over all surfaces of your coat, working it into the weave. Don’t be afraid — the bristles are actually good for wool, as they distribute its natural oils and keep the fabric in good shape (not unlike brushing your hair). A thorough brushing every week or two during the winter season will keep your coat looking great and away from the dry cleaners.
7. Vinegar isn't just for salad dressing
You already use it liberally in the kitchen and the bath, but this multi-tasking wonder is also helpful in the laundry room. Homekeeping blogger Shatzi Webster of “Love and Laundry” even went so far as to call it life-changing. “I started adding about 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to every load I wash, and it has made a tremendous difference in the cleanliness and softness of all my clothes,” says Webster. “Distilled white vinegar is really inexpensive, which is another plus!” She’s not alone.
Toni Hammersley tells us she couldn’t clean without it. “Vinegar is the most used item in my laundry room. I buy it by the gallon. I clean with it, so you’ll see it in most of my homemade cleaners, and I also wash clothes with it — in place of fabric softener.”