For a chore we do so often, laundry sure does leave a lot of burning questions. Like, how much detergent do I actually need to use? And what’s the deal with jeans? Do I wash them after one wear? Two? Never? Just freeze them?
Back away from the dryer. Put down that fabric softener and relax. We’ve asked the pros to dispel the most common laundry myths.
1. Myth: There's one correct order, so stick to it.
Reality: It's true that order is important when washing clothes, says Jolie Kerr, author of “My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag ... And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha,” but what really matters is that you use the proper order for your particular machine. The old school water, soap, clothes rule once applied to top-loading washers, but is outdated because the detergent we use today isn't as troublesome. The modern order for top-loaders is usually clothes, water, soap. “Front-loaders, including high-efficiency (HE) machines, have a dispenser for laundry detergent. The thing that's important with these machines is to use the right amount and kind of detergent," Kerr says. "In the case of HE machines, make sure the detergent you're using is HE compatible.”
2. Myth: Fill the entire cup with detergent for extra-clean clothes.
Reality: “You should almost never fill the detergent cap,” Kerr says. “Over-detergenting is a thing that almost everyone does — people think that more soap equals more clean, when actually the opposite is true. Using too much detergent means that your clothes won't be fully rinsed of the soap, which can be irritating to skin.” She recommends two tablespoons to a quarter cup of detergent for a normal-sized load of laundry.
Akemi Ooka, green chef and formulator at Method laundry detergent, says there’s no industry standard when it comes to the proper amount of detergent you need. “That said, too much soap can lead to dinginess from residue that doesn’t wash off in the rinse cycle, so it’s best to start out following the product’s usage instructions rather than adding extra detergent,” she says. To get more bang for your buck, try a concentrated detergent that will work just as hard to remove stains with a lot less liquid.
**Note: Be aware that many HE machines are larger and can carry more clothes than standard washers, so the detergent-to-load ratio may vary.
3. Myth: When you spill red wine on your white shirt, race to the sink and start rubbing.
Reality: Rubbing isn’t going to save that blouse. Instead, grab some salt and toss it on the stain as soon as possible. “The salt will pull the wine up out of the fabric,” Kerr says.
"Other great ways to treat red wine stains are to dab at it with club soda (the sodium in club soda will help to remove the stain) or with white wine. Weird but true!”
4. Myth: Bad stain? Throw it straight in that washing machine.
Reality: “For stubborn soil and stains (like food, grass and blood), pre-treating the stain before washing is the key,” says Ooka. Just apply a small amount of detergent directly on the stain and gently rub before washing as usual.
5. The myth: Yellow pit stains are just gonna happen. And it's the detergent's fault!
The reality: Kerr says one way to prevent the ugly underarm stains is to change your deodorant. “Those stains are caused more by the aluminum in commercial antiperspirants than by the actual sweat,” she says. “One way to keep them from happening is to switch to an aluminum-free product. In terms of treating the stains when they happen, OxiClean — or any similarly oxygenated bleach or enzymatic-based stain remover — is great.” Pre-soak serious stains in solution before you wash them to maximize effectiveness.
6. Myth: There is no hope for those stinky gym clothes. Deal.
Reality: "Odor-causing microbes, like bacteria or mildew, build up on damp clothes and feed on soils like oil from sweat,” Ooka says. To try to tamper the bad smell, air-dry the clothes before packing them away if they can't be washed immediately. Otherwise, an odor-sealing plastic bag can be your best friend.
7. Myth: You wear your jeans, you wash your jeans.
Reality: CEO and president of Levi Straus and Co., Chip Bergh, announced last year that he rarely washes his jeans. And if that’s good enough for the head of a denim company, well, that’s good enough for us. “It’s time to rethink autopilot behaviors like washing your jeans after every wear because in many cases, it’s simply not necessary,” Bergh says in a news release announcing that the company’s efforts have saved 1 billion liters of water to date. According to Levi’s release, U.S. consumers typically wear their jeans twice before washing them. In the United Kingdom and France, they wear them 2.5 times, and in China, it takes a typical four wears before washing. So, Americans, it's time to let your denim get a bit dirty.
This story originally appeared on April 22, 2015.