Showing posts with label Clothing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clothing. Show all posts

Apr 25, 2019

Grandma's Tips for Using a Clothesline

How to Use a Laundry Line
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

When I was a kid, every summer my Dad and I went to a magical place called Missouri. Now, maybe you don't think Missouri is magical (though you might understandably think it's beautiful), but as a child, I sure did. It was the place where Grandma lived, and it was a radically different world from the suburban California where I spent my early years. It was a place with summers that lasted forever, sweet tea, a hand pump in the front yard, and Grandma's huge, musty basement with a huge musty bed for my cousins and I to sleep in. Plus cows in the nearby pasture. And a pond to fish in and a "crick" to play in. And my Grandma's clothesline.

It might seem strange that, at a tender age, I was fascinated by Grandma's clothesline. Certainly part of my interest was that I didn't know anyone else who used one. And I loved the way Grandma hummed as she pulled pins from her apron and hung my summer shorts on the line. In other words, clotheslines hold good memories and romantic notions for me.

But there are plenty of down-to-earth reasons to have and use a clothesline on the modern day homestead, whether that's in the city or in the country. I love that my clothesline takes my household chores outside. I also appreciate that it conserves electricity and saves money while eliminating static cling (and the need for fabric softeners or dryer sheets).

Today, the art of hanging clothes isn't known to many people. However, I still remember a few tips from Grandma.

Setting Up the Clothesline

At its simplest, a clothesline is just a rope connected to two poles. Those poles should be sturdy, though, because one load of wash that's been spin-dried in the washer weighs about 15 to18 pounds. There are three basic choices for the rope itself: Plastic, nylon, and cotton. Plastic clothesline  is stretch-resistant and inexpensive, but clothespins and fabric tend to slip from it. Nylon clothesline is mildew-resistant and strong, but again, it's quite slippery, making it harder to securely hang the laundry. Cotton clothesline is traditional, and although it might be counter-intuitive, seems easier to clean than synthetics. It's also not slippery.

How long should your line be? One load of laundry requires approximately 35 feet of clothesline. Don't make the line longer than this (unless you have a double pulley line) because it will sag significantly.

Where you put your clothesline matters, too. Don't place it near trees - because trees can have ticks and ticks can jump onto your laundry and then onto you. Trees may also leave debris (leaves, seeds, and so on) on your freshly washed laundry.

Generally speaking, you don't want the clothesline in full sun, either, because all that sunshine fades fabric and causes it to wear thin. Open shade is a better option. On the other hand, Grandma taught me that if your whites are looking dingy, a good hang in the sun will help brighten them.

Sometimes indoor drying is the only option. In cities and suburbs, for instance, there are sometimes ordinances against hanging laundry outdoors. Or maybe someone in your household is allergic to pollen - in which case an outdoor line may lead to clothes that cause misery. In rainy climates, indoor clotheslines may also be best.

Which brings up a good point: You don't have to use a clothesline to air dry clothes. For years,  I hung clothes on hangers and hooked them over the shower stall or on the edges of doors. It didn't look pretty, but it sure got the job done.

And while you're setting up, be sure to purchase some good clothespins (like Kevin's Quality Clothespins). There are an awful lot of cheap, China-made clothespins on the market. Many of them, such as those found at The Dollar Tree or Walmart, might be fine for crafts, but they just don't hold up well for laundry. They also tend to have rough edges that can snag fabric. It's smarter to buy clothespins that are a bit more expensive, but do a better job.

Prepping the Wash 

When I mention line drying clothes, people often remark how they hate stiff garments and linens. This is easily remedied, though. Just add about 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the wash and your clothes will dry softer. If you use a modern washing machine, pour the vinegar into the fabric softener chute and it will only enter the wash tub during the rinse cycle - perfect! If you have an older machine that doesn't have a softener chute, you can either catch the last rinse cycle and add the vinegar manually, or (less effectively) you may add the vinegar at the beginning of the wash.

Another cause of stiffly-dried clothes is using too much laundry detergent. I recommend using less detergent than suggested on the box; Consumer Reports claims that too much laundry detergent leaves behind lint and soap deposits, which can lead to mold and restricted filters, which in turn can result in mechanical failures.

Finally, the sooner you remove laundry from the washing machine, the better. Letting wet clothes sit not only makes them musty-smelling, but makes them a whole lot more wrinkled, too.

Hanging Up 

To prevent soiling freshly washed laundry, it's best to wipe down the clothesline before each use. Grandma kept an old washcloth handy for just this purpose.

When she hung the laundry, Grandma always gave each piece a good snap in the air to help remove wrinkles. She also took the time to un-crinkle wadded up clothing, like pant legs, shirt sleeves, and collars. Once again, this helps make wrinkle-free laundry (and if you're like me, the last thing you need to do is add another item - in this case, ironing - to your chore list).

It's helpful to hang like items together, since it saves time when you're folding and putting away the laundry. For example, I'll often hang all my son's clothing together on the line, followed by my daughter's clothing. Or I hang all the towels, then all the socks.

A little care in hanging clothes goes a long way toward having line-dried clothes that look wrinkle-free. Not everyone agrees on the best way to hang laundry, but Grandma taught me to hang shirts and pants from the hem. Other people tell me they prefer to hang shirts right side up with clothespins in the armhole seams. Another option I sometimes use is to place shirts on a hanger and hook the hanger onto the clothesline (which saves space, too).

You can also save space on the laundry line by hanging smaller towels on one another. For example, hang one washcloth on the line, then use clothespins to attach another washcloth to the first, and so on. In addition, I often overlap items. For instance, my placemats overlap each other slightly, so I can use three clothespins to hold up two placemats, instead of four. Some people also like using store-bought sock hangers (like this one) to save space; you can use them for washcloths, too.

Whatever you do, always hang items securely or they may end up on the ground, filthy. When in doubt, use more clothespins instead of fewer - especially with heavy items. When I hang bath towels, for instance, I fold them over the clothesline almost to the halfway point and use four clothespins to keep each in place. Yes, they take a bit longer to dry this way, but they don't fall off the line, either.

Removing Laundry 

Once the laundry is fully dry, Grandma removed each item, then snapped it in the air. This flicks off any little bugs that might cling to the laundry. Then she folded each item as she put it in her laundry basket. This - again - helps prevent wrinkles (do I seem preoccupied with that?) and saves time.

I'm thankful to Grandma for introducing me to her clothesline. Through experience, I've learned line-drying laundry isn't difficult - I even find it relaxing, as Grandma did. I hope you'll consider reaping the benefits of a clothesline, too.

This post was featured at Farm Fresh Tuesday Blog Hop.

Sep 19, 2018

How To Do Less Laundry

Americans are wasteful when it comes to a lot of things...and that includes laundry. The average American household wastes a huge amount of time, personal energy, water, electricity, detergent, dryer sheets or fabric softener, and clothes (due to wear and tear), all because they simply wash their clothing too often.

No, I'm not suggesting we all wander around in stinky or obviously dirty clothes. But there's no doubt that before automatic washing machines became popular people - including Americans - washed their clothes much less often. It was simply too much work to do laundry more than once a week. So how did the housewife of old - who probably had more kids than you do and whose work and life was messier because of lack of modern conveniences - manage to wash so infrequently?

Wardrobe Matters

The first important thing to note is that "in the old days," almost everyone had five different types of clothes:

* School or work clothes.
* Play clothes.
* Church or special occasion clothes.
* Nightclothes.
* Underwear.

The average middle-class family might have two or three outfits in each category, tops. So, obviously, there were fewer clothes to launder and therefore less laundry to do.

But it was the way they wore these clothes that saved the most labor and money. Kids wore school clothes only to school. When they came home from school, they removed their school clothes and hung them up to allow them to air out. Then they put on their play clothes.

They often had only one set of "good" church clothes, which were worn only while at church or during special occasions, like weddings. This outfit was washed infrequently since it was typically worn only a few hours per week.

Nightgowns or pajamas were worn every night for a week before they were washed. They weren't worn for lounging before bedtime or during morning play or breakfast. As soon as a child got out of bed, she took off her nightclothes and stored them for bedtime.

Adults handled their wardrobe similarly.

Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting you and your family have such limited wardrobes (although cutting back on clothes is probably a great idea that will save you time and money). I am suggesting we don't generally need to wash clothes that have been worn for only a few hours. To do so, frankly, shows how spoiled we are. What a waste of resources, time, energy, and money! I'm also suggesting that instead of wearing one set of clothes all day long, we adopt the practice of switching into work or play clothes, as needed to spare the laundry pile and our clothing budgets.

My Challenge to You
So here's my challenge for you this week: See how few clothes you can reasonably wash. Wear an apron while cooking - and perhaps even while housekeeping or doing garden chores. Change from good clothes into play clothes as soon as possible. If you know you'll be doing a particularly dirty job, change into some older clothes first. Wear your nightclothes repeatedly.

I think you'll find your life is less stressful and more simple. And you'll be a better steward.

Related Posts:

A version of this post first appeared in January of 2011.

Nov 30, 2017

How to Get Out From Under the Laundry Pile!

How to Get Laundry Done Easily
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Before I had kids, keeping up with the laundry was no big deal. When our first child came along, I still managed pretty well. But when our youngest child entered the household? Somehow, my ability to make sure everyone had clean clothes went amuck.

My husband began giving me withering looks when he discovered, in the wee hours of the morning, that he didn't have any clean shirts appropriate for work. My closet consisted of the laundry hamper, where I dug for the jeans I wore the day before - even if they were splattered with baby food. I even began making my oldest wear chocolate-milk stained jammies two nights in a row because I couldn't seem to keep up with the demand for clean laundry.

I won't say I have the laundry thing totally mastered. However, I have learned a few tricks that make the laundry pile easier to get through. Maybe some of my ideas will work for you, too:

* My best laundry tip is this: Instead of reserving one or two days a week for doing laundry, do laundry every day except the Sabbath. This keeps the laundry pile under control and makes the chore of cleaning clothes a lot easier. Through trial and error, figure out how many loads you must do each day; when my kids were younger, I did one load of laundry 6 days a week. Nowadays, I only need to do a load 4 to 6 days a week. Make your laundry schedule a habit, and it will soon become no big deal.

* Keep one laundry basket for every bedroom, if possible. As you pull things from the dryer or clothes line, sort them room by room into the laundry baskets. If you have time, fold as you sort. Then place the basket in the appropriate bedroom. Put the clothes away later, if necessary, or have the kids put away their own clothes.

* Easier yet, keep laundry loads segregated. By that I mean do one load that is only clothes for one child (or maybe all the kids), and a separate load that's just your clothes. This means you don't have to sort the laundry before folding it.

* Get the kids involved. Even toddlers can help with the laundry by bringing you dirty clothes and pulling out all the clean socks, or all of daddy's shirts, or all their own undies, for folding by you. Preschoolers can begin to help with folding and putting clothes away so that by the time they are in grade school they can do this chore easily. (No, they won't fold everything - or perhaps anything - perfectly, but a few wrinkles never hurt anyone.) By the time your child is 7 or 8, be sure he or she knows how to do a load of laundry without help.

* Treat stains before the clothes go into the hamper. If I put Spray N Wash Stain Stick on clothes as they go into the hamper, by the time I do laundry, those stains usually wash out. This saves me a lot of time because I don't have to soak or otherwise pre-treat stains. So, whenever clothes might come off, I keep a stick - including the bathroom and the kids' bedrooms.

* Wear clothes more than once. Truly, many clothes can be worn more than once without washing in between. Unless it's smelly or shows dirt, hang it up to wear another day.

* Buy fewer clothes. I know some women who literally buy their kids several wardrobes of clothes because they are always behind on laundry. If you follow the tips here, nobody will need as many clothes, which saves you both time and money.

* Hang any items that store on hangers as you take them off the clothesline or out of the dryer. It's a real time saver!

* Mark children's socks with their initials, using puffy fabric paint on the soles. This makes sorting so much easier.

* Don't separate darks from lights. This may seem revolutionary to some people, but I stopped doing separating darks from lights several years ago, and my family's clothes look just fine. If I'm washing new, dark clothes that I think might bleed, I wash them separately, once, with a cup of white vinegar in the wash water to help set the dye.

This post was originally published in October of 2009.

Nov 17, 2017

How to Teach Toddlers and Preschoolers to Put on Their Own Jackets

Teach Little Kids to Put on Their Own Coat
It's been a while since my kids were toddlers or preschoolers (sniff!), but there was a trick I used to teach them to put on their own coats and jackets that I don't see elsewhere on the Internet or in magazines. I LOVED teaching my kids this trick because:

* It saved me time and hassle
* and it made my kids feel more independent. (What toddler or preschooler doesn't love doing it all by herself?)

When my mother saw me use this trick with my first born, she said, "Why not just teach her to put on her jacket the normal way?" Well, because toddlers and preschoolers, generally speaking, can't do it the way an adult or bigger kid does. But they absolutely can put on their own jacket by following these simple steps:

1. Place the jacket on the floor, the right side facing down. At first, you'll probably need to do this for your child, but it won't be long before he figures out how to "do it myself!"

2. Have your child stand at the head of the jacket and place his arms inside the sleeves. It will look like he's about to put on his jacket backward and upside down. (See photos.)

3. Have your child flip the jacket over his head. Viola! It's on correctly and you or your child can now zip it up.

This post is an updated version of one that originally appeared in October of 2009.

Mar 28, 2016

How to Brighten Dingy or Yellowed Whites

Last week, as I was preparing to put the linens back in our freshly painted main bathroom, I noticed the white valance for that room was looking...well, not so white. It was a bit yellowed and dingy. (Imagine that, after a decade of use!) Otherwise, the valance was in great condition and I really didn't want to replace it just to leave it with the house after we sell it, so I researched a few ways to easily brighten the white valance. These methods work equally as well for clothes or linens.

First, Why Do Whites Get Dingy or Yellow?

Turns out, there are lots of reason white fabrics turn dingy or yellow:

* Washing them with colors, which bleed in the wash.
* Storing them improperly, so they touch cardboard or wood.
* Stuff in the air, including smoke and grease.
* Overuse of chlorine bleach.
* Using too much laundry detergent or fabric softener.
* Drying the item too hot or too long in a clothes dryer.

How to Brighten Whites

Washing soda can help whiten whites.
When cleaning anything, it makes good sense to start with the most gentle cleaner, only trying more harsh cleaners if the more gentle ones don't work. Therefore, I've listed these cleaners approximately from most gentle to most harsh/least natural. On the other hand, if you don't have, say, lemons laying around, but you do have ammonia, you may as well try ammonia first!

Baking Soda - In a sink or bucket, stir together 1 cup of baking soda with 4 quarts of warm water. Once the soda is dissolved, add the fabric and soak for about 8 hours. Rinse and launder as usual.

Lemon Juice - This is really old school, but it works well. Fill a large pot (like a stock pot) with water and add two lemons, sliced (not just halved). Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Add the fabric and let soak for about an hour. Rinse and launder as usual.

Vinegar & Borax - Use 1/2 cup each of white distilled vinegar and borax (found in the laundry aisle or on Amazon) in the washing machine.

Washing Soda - Fill a sink or bucket with 1 gallon hot water and add 1/2 cup washing soda (found in the laundry aisle or on Amazon; it is not the same thing as baking soda). Add the whites and soak for 15 minutes before laundering as usual.

Bluing works as well today as it did way back when!
Bluing - Another old school method. Follow the manufacturer's directions. (You'll find bluing in the laundry aisle, or at Amazon.)

Ammonia - Fill a sink with hot water and add 2 tablespoons ammonia. Soak for 15 minutes. Rinse in cool water and launder as usual. (This is the method I used on my valance; it worked like a charm!)

Chlorine Bleach - Pour up to 1/4 cup of bleach into a gallon of cool water. Soak for 5 minutes, then rinse and launder as usual. Use bleach only occasionally, as it can lead to yellowed whites.

Oxygen-based Bleach - (like OxiClean or Clorox 2) Fill a sink or bucket with warm water and add oxygen-based bleach, according to the manufacturer's directions. Allow to soak overnight, then launder as usual.

Jul 10, 2015

The Easy Way to Remove Grease From Fabric

Grease is attracted to me like moths are to porch lights. I don't know how it happens, but it seems every time I buy a new piece of clothing, within a wear or two, a grease stain appears on it. (The most likely culprit is food, but I do wear an apron when cooking and I don't think I'm that much of a slob when I eat!) Since I have a teeny tiny budget for my wardrobe, this is not a happy thing. In the past, I've had to relegate many new clothes to the "garden work" drawer of my dresser, because I just couldn't get the grease stains out. But no longer!

Last weekend I learned a neat trick. It is a

super easy, 
super cheap, 
super effective 

way to remove grease stains from fabric. All you need is an ordinary piece of white chalk.

How to Easily Remove Grease Stains with Chalk

1. Grab the piece of clothing or other fabric and lay it on a clean, hard surface - like a table.

2. Grab a piece of chalk. In my case, I used my children's sidewalk chalk. It must be white. Thoroughly color over the grease stain with the chalk.

3. Brush the chalk off of the fabric. An old toothbrush helps with this, but you can just use your hands, too.

4. If the grease stain isn't completely gone, repeat steps 2 and 3.

5. Viola! The grease is GONE!

To help remove any last bits of chalk, I ran the formerly grease-stained area under cool water and let the garment dry.

I love simple, easy ways to take care of stains. Don't you?

Jun 24, 2015

Tumbleweed Junction's Harvest Apron - a Review

If you're anything like me, you often find yourself outside meaning to pull just a few weeds or check the chickens' water level, only to end up harvesting veggies or fruits or eggs. And, again, if you're anything like me, you struggle with how to carry the food you've harvested so you can get it into the house. I usually ending up putting it in the bottom of my shirt - which I have to hold up to make a sort of hammock. But this just isn't practical - it's too easy to drop the food or have it stain your shirt. I've always thought that to solve this problem, I needed a harvesting apron.

So when Lorretta of Etsy's Tumbleweed Junction sent me one of  her harvest aprons to try, I was excited. No more stained, stretched out shirts! No more dropping tender fruit as I walked to the kitchen! And in fact, I've found the apron quite convenient. I just whip it on as I head out to the yard - just in case I find something I might want to harvest. It's light weight and comfortable, but sturdy enough for anything I might want to harvest in my yard.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Tumbleweed Junction's aprons. They are made from high end quilting fabric (designed to last!), not the cheap sewing fabric sold in too many chain fabric stores. The sewing is also extremely well done. Honestly, better than I could do - and I've been sewing since Jr. High.

I find the apron works extremely well for light-weight food, including eggs, herbs, lighter weight veggies (like beans and peas), and smaller quantities of heavier veggies and fruits. Recently, a friend brought me some lemons from her out-of-state yard, so I checked to see how well the apron would handle something heftier. It did just fine with probably 1 - 1 1/2 lbs. of lemons, but when I tried to fill the apron up all the way, I found I needed to hold the top of it with one hand, or the lemons would spill out.

Another thing I love about this apron is that people of many sizes can use it. I am currently a size 16 (but heading toward smaller sizes!), and some aprons just don't fit me well. They don't have complete coverage, and/or their strings are too short to tie around me comfortably. But this apron has neither problem - and it also fits my 9 year old daughter! Usually adult-sized aprons are overwhelmingly huge on her. That's not true with this apron. (In fact, she loves the apron so much, she's been doing most of the egg collecting, just so she can wear it.)

Occasionally, Tumbleweed Junction offers this apron in a child's size. Lorretta tells me that if there's enough interest in the child-sized version, she'll offer it more often - and may even start selling mother-daughter matching aprons, too. I'm sure you could contact her via Etsy if you're interested.

Also, Lorretta just began offering a sewing pattern for this apron - both the adult and child's sizes all in one package - so you can make this harvest apron yourself, should you wish. It's a nicely printed pattern, too, with color illustrations and clear instructions.

Overall, I'm loving my Tumbleweed Junction harvest apron.It definitely makes life around this urban homestead a bit easier. To order your own harvest apron, click on over to Tumbleweed Junction's Etsy shop.

Nov 12, 2014

Cheap, Easy, Effective Stain Removal

Last month, my daughter accidentally dripped the filling of a bean burrito onto her favorite sweater. I washed it almost immediately, but the stain didn't come out. So I used my long-time stain removal method (soaking it in Oxiclean overnight), but it didn't come out. I re-soaked it overnight...still nothing. Then I tried spraying it with stain remover spray and let it sit overnight again. But the stain just wouldn't go away.

I was afraid we were going to have to throw out the sweater - but then I happened upon this article on Pinterest. It claimed that Fels-Naptha, a soap commonly used in homemade laundry detergent, was something of a miracle stain remover. Since I can buy Fels-Naptha for .97 cents at Walmart, I decided to give it a try.

It worked! The procedure was very simple and quick - and now I have a new, much cheaper stain removal method!

How to Remove Stains with Fels-Naptha:

1. Lay the stained fabric on a flat surface that won't be damaged by water. Fels-Naptha can be used on any fabric you can wash at home. To be extra safe, it's a good idea to test it in an inconspicuous spot on the garment.

2. Dampen the stain with water.

3. Rub the bar of Fels-Naptha onto the stain.

4. Rinse. If the stain is gone, launder as usual. If not, repeat step 3 and 4. Viola! The stain is gone!

May 30, 2014

How to Remove Wax from Fabric

Last weekend, my husband marched into the kitchen with an annoyed expression. I laughed when I saw him, because his shirt was covered with wax. When I asked what happened, he said something about sniffing a Citronella candle and somehow tipping it over, making wax run down his shirt front. He wasn't hurt, so I laughed again. "Well, this shirt is ruined!" he said, kind of upset because it was a favorite. (Yes, the secret is out. My husband loves Duck Dynasty.) "Oh, no it's not!" I said. "I can fix that!" He was highly skeptical, but I did manage to keep him from throwing the shirt away. The next evening, when he came home from work, he was astonished. His shirt was as good as new! And that fact is, it was an easy fix.

You may not have as much wax to clean up as I did, but if you ever get wax on fabric, here's an easy way to remove it.

You Will Need:

Butter knife (non-serrated)
Paper towels
Oxi-Clean (optional)

How to Remove Wax from Fabric:

1. Allow the wax to cool completely. This is important! Trying to remove the wax while it's still hot or warm can actually ruin the fabric.
Wax covered shirt.
2. Use a dull butter knife to scrape off as much of the wax as possible. (In my case, I was a wee bit worried the knife might scrape off the lettering on my husband's T-shirt, but that wasn't a problem at all.) I kept a bowl nearby to put all the little pieces of wax, but unless you have a big job like this one, that's probably not necessary. Alternative: Pop the fabric in the freezer until quite hard. When removed, the wax should pop right off.
Scraping wax off the shirt.
3. Remove all the scraped-off pieces of wax. In my case, I carefully took the shirt outside and shook it. If you're working on something you can't easily move (like the fabric of a couch), just brush the area well to remove the scraped-off wax.
What the shirt looked like after scraping.
4. Put two layers of paper towels down on an ironing board or other hard surface. (These will protect the surface from wax.) Lay the fabric down flat on the paper towels and cover with another paper towel (which will protect the iron from wax). If you're dealing with furniture, just place a paper towel over the affected area.
Pressing the wax away.
5. Warm the iron to medium heat, then press the affected areas. Repeat until all remaining traces of wax are gone.
The shirt after pressing.
6. Wash the fabric. If the wax has left behind a colored stain, wash the fabric with Oxi-Clean.

May 29, 2013

Treating Stains - the Easy Way

After my Laundry 101 post, a friend asked me to post something similar about stain treatments. I was hesitant because I don't treat stains the "right" way. But I DO treat them the easy way - and that's probably what more moms are interested in, right?

But first, let's talk about the "right way." Martha and all the home keeping gurus before and after her say to keep certain ingredients on hand to treat stains. The list is longish. And therefore, the treating of stains by the "right" method seems too fussy to me. I'm a busy mom. I want to get stains out quickly, easily, and without having to keep a lot of stuff on hand. Also, if you prefer all natural ingredients, this post isn't for you. (Instead, check out The Humbled Homemaker's post on using natural ingredients to remove clothing stains.)

Now, here's what I do.

1. Prevent as many stains as possible, but don't make yourself crazy trying to do so. Stains will happen. If you have babies or toddlers use the largest bibs you can find; better yet, use smocks or over-sized shirts for both messy play and eating. Also, give your children play clothes so they can play freely without worrying about ruining their clothes.

2. Treat stains immediately. That means if my child get ketchup on his shirt, I have him remove it right away and I do something to clean it. (Wondering about those on-the-go stain treatment products? I've not had good luck with them. If you're out and about and can't treat a stain immediately, pat it with a damp cloth or wet wipe, but don't rub the stain further into the fabric's fibers.)

3. Learn to tell the different between "if-it-sits-it-will-stain" stain and an immediate stain. The first only becomes a stain if you ignore it. So make it a habit to remove the clothing immediately and wash it. (Example: Fresh juice from strawberries won't stain unless you let it sit; the "stain" comes out easily if you wash it right away. Ketchup and other tomato-based foods, on the other hand, usually need stain treatment, even if caught and washed right away.)

Once I know I have a real stain to deal with, I:

1. Use a stain pre-treatment - either a stain stick or Spay n Wash (which works better, in my opinion on greasy stains). Let it sit for at least 5 minutes or up to a day. Wash. Hang dry. (Some lingering stains don't show when the clothing is wet, so I hang dry to prevent setting the stain in the dryer.)

If the stain persists, I:

2. Use OxiClean. I have never had a problem with this method ruining clothes, but still - use my method at your own risk, since it's not exactly the way the manufacturer recommends using it. Fill a large bowl (or a well cleaned sink) with lukewarm water and dissolve 1/4 cup of OxiClean powder in it. Add the stained clothing and soak overnight. In the morning, place the clothing in the washer, pouring in the liquid from the bowl. Wash as usual.

Super tough stains may require two treatments of OxiClean, but I've only had that happen once (with a bad blood stain).

And that's it! Very simple. Very effective.

Apr 17, 2013

Laundry 101: How to Do Laundry

Did anyone ever teach you how to do laundry? As I recall, my mom told me to separate darks and lights, throw them in the machine, add lots of detergent, and let the machine do the rest. But even if you had a more extensive laundry lesson than I, it makes sense to review what experts say is the "best way," then determine how - as a mother with plenty of laundry to do - you can make the process easier.

For expert advice, I turned to Martha Stewart, finding her tips matched all the other experts I read - and were actually sometimes more streamlined!

1. Martha tells us to first check the colorfastness of every piece of new clothing. This is usually done by reading the label, but you can also test a small area of fabric (preferably inside the garment - for example, on the seam) by dampening the fabric. Now blot the same area with a white piece of fabric. If any of the garment color transferred to the white cloth, you know the garment isn't colorfast and must be washed by itself. (Often, after several washes, such garments will become colorfast, so retest once in a while.)

2. Next, it's time to sort the laundry. Separate anything that needs handwashing or dry cleaning. Amongst the clothing that can be washed in a machine at home, separate darks and lights: White clothing and clothing in light colors such as pastels go in one pile. Black clothing or any clothes of dark color go in another pile.

3. While you're separating, Martha says to make sure zippers are zipped, drawstrings are tied, cuffs are unrolled, and pockets are emptied. If you see clothes that need mending, fix them before washing them because washing can make the problem worse.
Courtesy admiller,

4. Now Martha says to pretreat stains.
Most should go into a large bowl, bucket, clean sink to be treated with commercially made or homemade stain treatments.

5. Open the washing machine and pour in the detergent, Martha says. She also says powdered detergents are best if you have hard water, or the clothes have mud or clay soil on them; liquids are best for greasy stains. "Use the recommended amount," she says.

6. Add the clothes, says Martha, making sure they aren't packed in and that they are evenly distributed. Clothes need to move, so don't fill the machine more than it's capacity - about 3/4 full, she says.

7. Use the shortest wash time - unless the clothes are very dirty. Select the temperature: "Use hot water (120 degrees) to keep whites white and to clean very dirty colorfast clothes - in separate loads, of course. Warm water (90 degrees to 110 degrees) is good for most average loads. Cold water (below 85 degrees) is best for bright colors that are likely to fade and for delicates. Detergents are less effective in water below 65 degrees. Shrinkage is caused by heat -- either from the dryer or hot water in the washer. To avoid it, wash items in warm or cold water, and hang to dry."

8. Select a cycle. According to Martha, "regular" is good for sturdy clothes; "permanent press" is a bit easier on clothes; "delicates" is the most gentle.

9. Once the wash cycle is over, hang clothes to dry or put them in the dryer and select the appropriate setting. The "permanent press" setting reduces wrinkles because it cools down near the end of the cycle. "Air fluff" uses no heat and is best for fluffing pillows or for freshening up clean clothes that have been stored for a while.

Courtesy of Keerat,

Now, there is nothing wrong with Martha's methods. But are they realistic for a busy mom? Maybe, maybe not, depending upon your life and your personality. So here are a few tips for streamlining things:

* Always read care labels before buying. Don't buy dry clean only clothing, clothes that must be washed by hand, or clothes that aren't colorfast. This will save tons of time and money. If you do end up with something that isn't colorfast (say, black jeans) wash them once in hot water, adding 1 cup of white vinegar to the water. This should make the item colorfast.

* Consider whether the clothes really need washing. Americans waste copious amounts of water, detergent, energy, and time washing clothes that don't need it. Pants, for example, can often be worn several times before washing; towels usually can go a week or so; clothes that your kids dump on the floor but don't wear can get hung right back up. Use the smell test!

* Don't sort lights and darks. I never do. Do our socks look slightly dingy? Eventually, yes, but it really doesn't matter to us. Of course, if you have a special white shirt (Really? A mom with a white shirt??), you should probably wash it separately. Don't rely on bleach to lighten it because bleach is really hard on fabric.

* Treat stains immediately. If you're at home, remove the clothing and wash it right away. Often this prevents the need to use strain treaters. If you're not at home, remove the clothing as soon as you get home and use a stain stick or spray on it. For really stubborn stains, soak in a bowl of OxiClean overnight.

* If you're clothes are coming out with detergent still on them, you may be overcrowding the load. Or,
Courtesy of stockbroker/123RF Stock Photo
try starting the washer (getting the water going). Then add the detergent. Once there's a bit more water in the washer, add the clothes.

* Don't run the washer unless you have a full load. For most families, this is no problem, because even if you want to wash a stained shirt right away, there is always laundry in somebody's hamper!

* Use cold water. It's much cheaper and does a fine job. An exception is if clothes are very dirty or need disinfecting. In such cases, use hot water.

* Use less detergent than the detergent-maker suggests. In many cases, laundry detergent isn't even needed! Use a very small amount unless you're washing very dirty clothes or clothes that need disinfecting.

* Hang as many clothes as possible, to save a lot of money.

* Always use the shortest drying cycle you can. If in doubt, go for a shorter amount of time - you can always add additional time later.

* Clean the lint screen in the dryer every time you use it. It saves energy and makes the dryer a safer appliance.

* If you use a dryer, you'll need some sort of fabric softener. The most wholesome and natural softener and anti-cling "product" is plain old white vinegar: 1/4 cup in the washing machine. Otherwise, I recommend Bounce Dryer Bars; they are much less troublesome than dryer sheets or fabric softener.

* To prevent wrinkles, remove clothes from the dryer as soon as it's done. I know it's not always possible, but make it a goal.

* Give line dried clothes a couple of good shakes before hanging and take the time to straighten cuffs, collars, etc.

* Fold or hang clothes right away to prevent wrinkles and the temptation to re-wash. Sometimes this seems like a monumental task, but it usually goes much faster than you think.

* Have your kids help! This is a life skill they need to know, and most kids enjoy helping if you start them early. Toddlers can do things like pull all the socks out of the laundry pile. As they get older, teach them to roll socks into a bundle, sort clothes by family member (they can at least pull out their own clothes), fold simple things like wash cloths, and put their clothes away. My 7 year old daughter can do all her laundry on her own except for the folding (which we are working on); best of all, she enjoys doing it!

And what about detergent? Well, you already know you need a lot less than you're probably using. And I know some people swear by their homemade laundry detergent. I, personally, have found it doesn't dissolve well in cold water and isn't money-saving in my region. (Read more here.) In most cases, powdered detergent is less expensive than liquid. I've tried all the cheap brands and found they all work about the same - so pick and choose your ingredients as you see fit.

See also:
How to Do Less Laundry
Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
Air Drying Indoors

Jan 14, 2013

Natural Alternative to Dryer Sheets & Laundry Softener

Last year, I heard a rumor that you could use white vinegar in place of dryer sheets or laundry softener. But I'd just replaced my Bounce Dryer Bar and it was, as usual, working great. Still, I thought, it would be nice to have an all natural alternative - even if I only used it in a pinch.

So last week, dryer bar now empty, I gave it a whirl.

How to Use Vinegar Instead of a Dyer Sheet or Clothes Softener

1. Fill the washing machine with clothes and add laundry detergent.

2. Measure 1/4 cup of white vinegar; pour the vinegar in the dispenser of the washing machine.

3. Wash and dry as usual.

It worked! the clothes were completely static free and didn't smell the least bit like vinegar. (That last part is very important in my household, because my husband loathes the smell of vinegar!)

Then I wondered: What if you don't have a washing machine with a dispenser that releases liquid toward the end of the cycle? What if you put the vinegar directly into the washing machine, along with the clothes and detergent? So I ran another load, pouring the vinegar over the clothes just before starting the machine. This, too, worked.

Vinegar is also a great natural fabric softener, so clothes I hung dry were not stiff at all.

Next I wanted to know if using vinegar was more frugal than Bounce Dryer Bars. My local Wal-Mart carries four month dryer bars for $6.77. (You may be able to purchase bars that last up to 6 months.) I find the four month bar actually lasts me about five months - possibly because I hang some of our clothes to dry. Anyway, each dryer load costs .21 cents in Bounce Dryer Bar.

In my town, one gallon of Wal-Mart brand white vinegar is $2.82 - which means it costs just .04 cents per load to use.

So there's a definite savings here, assuming you can get a good deal on white vinegar - plus I like that vinegar is all natural and doesn't contain smelly perfumes. Try it!

Jun 11, 2012

Upcycling and Remaking Clothes

Turn jeans into a skirt. (Photo courtesy MaryJanes & Galoshes)

Whether you need to remake clothes because your budget is slim or you want to upcycle clothes because it's less wasteful, the Internet is full of great ideas for doing so.

Personally, I find it easiest to remake women's and girl's clothes, but with some creativity it's possible to upcycle clothes for both genders. And just because a certain piece of clothing ends up on the fairer sex doesn't mean it had to originally start out as something for girls. Your husband's and son's clothes often make wonderful remakes for the ladies of the house. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

* Jeans or slacks too short? A no-sew fix is to roll up the ends, making cuffs for peddle pusher style pants. Or, cut the legs shorter and hem them (or let them fray, if you like) to make shorts.

Turn the holes in a little boy's pants into a monster face.
* Knees worn out of jeans or slacks? Turn them into a skirt. (Ideas and tutorials here, here, and here.) You can also turn jeans into a cute purse or shopping bag or hand bag or some shoes or slippers. Another idea is to turn the legs of old jeans into cute organizing totes. Or make a no-sew garden apron. For women or girls, learn to make pretty knee patches. If you have a little boy who loves cars and trucks, turn worn out jeans into a road for him to play with. My favorite idea for boys is to turn those torn knees into monster faces!

* Button up shirt has stains on the arms or along the hemline? Turn it into a girl's dress, or this toddler's dress, or a wide waisted girl's dress, or this cute dress.

* Sleeves stained on a long sleeved T? Turn it into this cute new shirt.

Patches can be cute! (Photo courtesy Make it Do.)
* T-shirt stained or torn? Turn it into a produce bag. Or make a cute girl's dress. Or just learn to cover up the strains creatively.

* Shirt too short? Turn it into a dress.

* Skirt too narrow? Cut it off at the hipline and add gathered, horizontal ruffles.

From The Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing, 1946.
*Dress too small? Add a vertical panel at center front.

* Man's shirt doesn't fit him anymore? Make it into a dress. (See this one, too.)

* Clothes hopelessly out of fashion? Try using them like fabric yardage to create an entirely new outfit. This works best if you're using adult clothing to make kid's clothing. (For this to be worthwhile the fabric must not be in good condition.)

* Waist too short on a dress? Rip the bodice away from the skirt and add a horizontal panel. This works for too-short skirts, too; add a horizontal panel at the hem or at the waistline.
Add length to bodices or skirts by adding horizontal panels. (From the Better Homes & Gardens Sewing Book, 1961.)