The ultimate guide to cleaning your clothes the smart way

Doing the laundry can be the bane of most of our lives. It’s all too easy to get lazy when it comes to taking care of our clothes which can cost us in the long run. So we’ve created this easy-to-follow guide to cleaning everything you own the right way to help you save both time and money.

Pre-wash preparation

Check the labels carefully.

It might seem like a chore, but always check the labels on your clothes at least once. Your clothes may have hidden materials unbeknown to you that will dramatically alter the way you clean them. Guaranteed, your clothes will last a lot longer if you wash and care for them correctly.

Tip: Mark your labels with different coloured permanent marker to remind you how it need washing. You can draw up a colour key and stick it to the side of your washing machine for easy reference.

Your easy to understand guide to labels:

Your easy guide to labels.
(Image: Lettered and Lined) Your easy guide to labels.

Remember…

1. The machine wash symbol refers to the temperature that should be used to wash the piece. If the symbol contains one dot you should wash with cold water, two means warm, and three dots indicate a hot cycle.

If there is an X over the symbol, don’t machine wash. Only hand wash or take it to your nearest dry cleaners.

2. The bleach symbol notifies your whether or not you should use chlorine bleach. If it’s plain white triangle, proceed with caution, but if there is an X over it then avoid it completely.

3. The tumble dry symbol means just that. You should dry clean only, and if you see the big X then turn to the washing machine.

4. The tumble dry symbol refers to drying methods. A white circle means you can use any heat, one dot indicate you can use a low drying heat, two dots means normal temperature, and three dots allows you to use a high one.

5. The iron symbols identifies whether you can iron your item. A cross indicates no and a single dot means a gentle heat and the more dots the higher the heat.

You can get a very pretty-looking laundry guide print at Lettered and Lined.

Separate and group.

Separate your laundry into white, lights, darks and delicates. You can pick up a laundry mesh or netted bag from most pound-land, IKEA, Robert Dyas and Tiger stores. Pop your delicates in them and they’ll be kept separate from the rest of the load.

Where possible, wash items of a similar weight together so t-shirts and pyjamas in with delicates and heavier items like towels and jeans together.

Last minute check!

Make sure you empty out all the pockets, close zippers to prevent any snagging, and turn your denim and embellished items inside out. If time allows for it, it’s always best to button up shirts and cardigans to prevent buttons coming off.

How to wash Denim correctly

Because good jeans are hard to find.

It can take a lifetime to find the perfect pair of jeans so when we do we tend to wear them for years and years. Make sure you keep them looking as good as possible, and avoid those worn out knee patches and scuffs by washing them the right way.

Don't over wash your denim - it only needs to be washed every 8-10 wears.
Don’t over wash your denim – it only needs to be washed every 8-10 wears.

To start with, make your denim last longer by not over-washing them. If they’re good quality denim, they should last you for up to 10 years. Wash every ten wears and spray with a fabric freshener in-between washes.

Tip: The first time you wash your jeans, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar and a inch of baking soda to the washing machine drum. It will set the colour and help prevent colour bleed.

Turn them inside out before washing – especially with darker hues – to prevent the colour from fading. The tumbling motion is quite aggressive and can strip out dyes. If your lighter jeans have faded and you want to darken them up again, just pop them in with your darker pairs and they should darken from the loose dye.

Hand washing in cold water will help retain their shape and colour, but if you don’t have time a gentle cool cycle will do.

Avoid tumble drying too much, the dryer hear can sap colour, cause shrinkage and break down the fibres in your jeans – making any frays or holes worse. Dry naturally on a rack in the sun or by a radiator.

But if you want your over-stretched jeans to tighten up a bit then let them air dry to about 80% then pop them into the dryer on a high heat – they should ping back into shape.

Wash delicate bras safely

They need some TLC.

Due to the delicate material and awkward shape of bras, they need extra care when washing. In an ideal world, they would be hand washed in lukewarm water with just a splash  of laundry detergent.

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Air dry your bras by hanging them on the sides. Don’t peg delicate straps as they make stretch under the weight of the bra.

If you don’t have time to hand wash then make sure you invest in that mesh laundry bag to protect your bras from other items in the drum.

Follow these easy instructions for machine washing safely:

1. Close any clasps before washing to prevent catching on other items.

2. Pop bras in a mash bag to prevent snagging.

3. Add in any other similar items to the wash like vests, pyjamas and socks.

4. Wash on the baby cycle.

5. Reshape bras as soon as they come out of the wash and air dry them flat. If the straps aren’t too delicate you can hang them up with pegs.

Clean your leather items at home

Try these tips and tricks before turning to the professionals.

Leather should be kept out of direct sunlight and cleaned regularly. Don’t wait for a stain to appear or for it to get too grubby before cleaning. Cleaning your leather clothes regularly will help keep them in tip-top condition.

To give leather a routine clean use a soft or micro-fibre cloth to dust the surface and lightly buff the leather. Them tale a damp cloth, wipe it across a moisturising soap and lightly lather the leather. Don’t rinse off, just buff until smooth and dry.

Use a dry cloth to remove  surface dust and dirt from your leather.
Use a dry cloth to remove surface dust and dirt from your leather.

For stain removal and spot cleaning baby wipes work wonders on leather jackets. Before you spend a fortune on professional cleaning, always run a baby wipe over the area to see whether it can lift off the stain. You’ll be surprised how well this can work, but just be weary of bright stains as rubbing could discolour your item.

Before trying anything, make sure you test it on an area on the inside to make sure it doesn’t darken or aggravate the leather.

If this doesn’t work, it’s time to hit the shops and buy a leather stain removal spray. Non-water based leather cleaning products can remove most stains so make sure you read the instructions carefully. Avoid using rough cloths or sponges that could scratch softer leathers.

You can also clean and ‘feed’ a tired looking leather jacket with olive oil. Just dip a soft cloth into olive oil – or any other vegetable oil – and gently rub it into the stain or dirt mark. Continue rubbing until the mark lifts off then apply a small amount of white vinegar with a different clean soft cloth. Leave to dry and in the meantime mix equal parts of white vinegar and olive oil. Use another similar cloth and rub this solution over the leather then polish with a clean cloth. The area should look clean and like new again.

If all else fails, go back to hand washing. Fashion editors and stylists swear by this trick so if you’re feeling brave then it’s worth a go! Soak your leather in warm water until it’s completely saturated, then take a cloth and start buffing the leather in the water. Leave to dry and your leather should be left cleaner with a slightly matte finish.

Be kind to cashmere and knitwear

They can last a lifetime if cared for correctly.

Only ever hand wash your fragile cashmere. Fill a basin with cold water and add a few drops of baby shampoo before gently lathering.

When you’re ready to take it out of the water, keep the item in a ball otherwise the weight of the water will stretch the material as you lift it out.

Place on a towel and roll to remove excess water then lay flat to air dry. Never peg your cashmere or knitwear by the shoulders as they will stretch.

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You can also wash your delicate wool items in the same way but remember wool – unlike cotton and man-made materials – does not need frequent washing.

Don’t assume it needs cleaning after a few wears – regular spot cleaning and airing will help items last longer and retain their shape and size.

If you do machine wash your woollens, leave to soak in cold water for a few hours to prevent any shrinkage and wash on a baby cycle.

Wash silk with white vinegar

Silk can be tricky so handle with caution.

Always hand wash silk items to keep the delicate material in good condition. Use lukewarm water with just a few drops of detergent, soak for five minutes and gently wash. When rinsing, add two to three tablespoons of white vinegar to remove any traces of detergent and restore the shine in your silk.

Never wring your silk items out as this will stretch and distort the fabric. Instead, like your woollens – lay it out on a towel and roll up. Air dry flat to finish!

Wash and dry swimwear with care

Rule number 1: never wring!

Like that perfect pair of jeans, your dream swimsuit can take a lifetime to find so when you have found ‘the one’ make sure you take care of it.

(Image: wikiHow) Always rinse your swimwear after use to get rid of chlorine and suncream.
(Image: wikiHow) Always rinse your swimwear after use to get rid of chlorine and suncream.

After you’ve worn your swimsuit, make sure you rinse it out with cold water to get rid of any sun cream, sand or chlorine. Fill your basin with cool water and a tablespoon of detergent then swish your swimsuit around in one direction.

Never ever wring your swimsuit – no matter how tempting it is! You’ll stretch it out and damage the elastic fibres in the fabric. 

The same goes for those drying machines found in most changing rooms. Don’t be tempted to use them, they may look convenient but they’ll completely stretch and damage your swimsuit.

It’s also worth noting that the sun can fade the colour so always leave it to dry in the shade or indoors.

For a step-by-step guide to caring for your swimwear visit wikiHow.

Thanks for reading! Do you have tips or advice on how to wash clothes?

 

Please let us know in the comments section below.

Editor

A keen money-saver and fan of all things natural, Anushka enjoys making her own beauty products and is partial to a bit of crafting. Never short of a clever tip or two, she's always looking for new ways to make her money go even further.

  1. 1 Brogan's mom Reply

    Quick tip for washing your bra, just wash be hand with baby shampoo while you’re in the shower it only takes a few moments it makes them more durable and best bit… no more embarrassment when you’ve had to call the washing machine repair man only for him to find an underwire stuck in your drainage pump.
    I do love all these little gems that I get from you 🙂

    1. 2 Anushka F Reply

      Oh wow I had never thought of doing that. Makes complete sense, I’ll try it out! Haha that hasn’t happened to me yet but surely it’s only a matter of time. But not now I’ll be giving your shower tip a go!

  2. 3 Lucy Reply

    For those food splashes on clothes (I’m a messy eater!) just get a bottle of the spray vanish. As I take off the stained item, usually a t-shirt, I just spray the offending area, and drop it in the laundry basket. Even up to 5 days later, the item washes up stain free.
    Many trainers can be machine washed, and come up well, but never be tempted to put them in a tumble drier! If they stay put and don’t kick the door open, then they can distort.
    If you ever need to wash anything containing feathers (duvets, pillows, jackets) put tennis balls into the tumble drier with the item. They bounce around and stop the feathers from clumping, which aids and speeds up the drying process.

    1. 4 Anushka F Reply

      Hi Lucy, I do love Vanish! It’s a great stain remover. Great tip about the tennis balls – I had never thought to do that!

  3. 5 Donatello46 Reply

    Great tips as always Anushka, I never cease to be amazed at the versatility of white vinegar.
    It’s also great to read the experience based tips from your readers.
    Keep up the good work, all of you.

  4. 6 Christine Reply

    I always wash my silk tops by hand, rinse and then pop into the the washing machine (in a pillowcase) for a quick spin. Then, I iron them dry, hang them up on a padded coat-hanger and leave to air for a while before wearing. They should be ready to wear the same day.

  5. 7 june ogden Reply

    to clean angora never ever wash put on a towel and sprinkle literaly with talc powder then roll up or leave loosely and pop them into a bag give a good shake then when you take them out (I leave mine over night)another good shake to remove talc lovely and clean

  6. 12 Sarah Reply

    Can you give me any tips on cleaning the inside lining of a leather jacket, without spending a fortune at the dry cleaners, the armpits are a bit wiffy! Not mine I hasten to add.

    1. 13 Anushka F Reply

      Hi Sarah, you can find good leather cleaning products from places like Robert Dyas that work just as well as professional cleaning. I would have a little look!

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