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Real moms: Laundry shortcuts

From sorting colors to checking pockets, a little prep time helps you shorten laundry time and avoid mishaps.

woman doing laundry

If you want to streamline laundry chores, learn how to avoid mishaps and take better care of your clothing. A few extra minutes of prep before you toss a load in the washer is worth the time and saves you from unwelcome surprises.


Inspect clothing in good light so you don’t miss a stain and have to re-launder the item later. Water-based stains such as soda, coffee and blood usually have an outline around the perimeter similar to a road map. Oil-based stains from food oils and grease will be blotchy and darker than the garment. You can pre-treat water-based stains before laundering and have success at removing them completely. Oil-based stains don’t come clean in most washers, and the heat of a dryer further sets the stain and can permanently ruin the item. Your best bet for oil-based stains is a dry cleaner.

Check the pockets

Take those few extra minutes to check all pockets for stray items. Gum, lipstick or a tissue left behind can ruin an entire load of laundry and cost you far more time than the initial check-and-sort. Renee missed a red lipstick she’d tucked in her pocket, and she ran it through the wash cycle. The lipstick melted and left gummy red streaks on the entire load. She’s learned her lesson and now consistently turns pockets inside out to avoid a repeat scary laundry mistake.

Using mesh bags to hold smaller and delicate items — like lingerie — cuts down on wear and tear, reduces tangling during the wash cycle and saves time when you’re sorting.

Don’t overload

Overloading your washer may leave you with clothes that are dirtier than when you started! The wash cycle is designed to run water and detergent through clothes to release the soil and flush it down the drain. Packing your washer too tightly means that dirt and grime will just transfer to other items and not get rinsed away. In Phoenix, Sarah’s teenage son packed multiple pairs of muddy jeans and sweatshirts into her washer following a camping trip. The result? Mud soup, and extra work cleaning out the washer before they could divide the clothes into appropriately sized loads and rewash.

Most basic soil on clothing comes out in the first few minutes of the wash cycle, after the initial soaping. You can save time and cut energy costs by laundering some loads on a shorter cycle. Garments will also benefit, because a shorter cycle minimizes wear. Julie from Colorado says that she can do her family’s sheets and towels on the shortest cycle because they are not heavily soiled. This way she saves on energy and has a load finished in half of the normal time.

Keep it clean

Microscopic bacteria lurk in washers. Bleach not only makes your whites look brighter, but it’s an effective way to kill germs! Make your last load a white one, and simply add bleach. The bleach multitasks, making laundry look great and smell fresh, and ridding the washer drum of nasty bacteria.

Leave the door slightly ajar after laundry chores to help air out the washer and avoid musty odors that might linger or build up.

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