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How to not totally f*** up your clothes while doing laundry

Here's how your mum does it

How to not totally f*** up your clothes while doing laundry

I’ve seen you. I’ve seen you stood in front of the machine, chin tucked to your chest. I’ve heard you tutt and click, huff and growl, squint at instructions and throw them away. I’ve seen you… I swear I’ve seen you go to kick the washing machine before realising that you do not own this washing machine. This washing machine owns you. 

I know all this because we’re the same. I’ve been there. I, too, have dreamed of booting a Hotpoint or punting a Bosch. Why does this machine fuck up my clothes every single time? How many years have we been doing this? How many years does this need to happen? 

The infantilisation of men is complete with our inability to do the laundry without fucking ruining everything we own. Or, on the odd occasion where everything comes out unscathed, we strut around like we are Alva J. Fisher of the Chicago-based Hurley Electric Laundry Equipment Company. But it’s luck. We know it was good fortune and not skill and it haunts our souls. Like Homer Simpson, praised a hero, for Homer-ing his way out of a nuclear meltdown, we know that we have no idea how we did what we did just then. If the time comes for us to repeat the trick, will Lady Luck guide our hand on the dial? 

The time has come to take luck out of the equation. It’s time to learn how to do laundry properly. As a wise man once said: Grow up, son. People might be watching.

How hot should the water be when washing my clothes?

Depends on the colour (generally: dark colours want washing in cold; light colours in warm) but it depends on the material and how much you love this planet. By and large, you can easily wash everything in cold water, and cold is not only better for the environment, but it’s better on your clothes too, as warm water can lead to shrinkage (think of your clothes like the opposite of your penis). Here’s a guy from Reddit explaining why that happens very well:

For washing in cold water, best to follow a few basic rules: don’t fill the drum too much, use the recommended amount of detergent, and only use the liquid kind – the powdered stuff needs warm water to dissolve.

So unless it’s deeply soiled, you don’t need warm water.

How soiled we talking?

You know what I’m talking about. Get yourself a pre-treatment pen or spray and apply to the affected area, you disgusting, disgusting boy.

OK, well, you know that little drawer on a washing machine? Please tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do with it. I currently just open it and pour stuff in from a great height with my eyes closed, letting god guide my detergent and softener.

I feel you. I needed to look this up because, honestly, I wasn’t sure anyone actually knew for sure. Here’s what I learned from Cleanipedia: Your drawer is usually “separated into three compartments labelled like this: I / II / *. The first compartment is for pre-washing, and should be used when you’re washing heavily soiled clothing. The second compartment is where you should put your detergent, unless otherwise instructed by your product’s packaging. Finally, the third compartment is for fabric softener, which you can use as and when appropriate.”

If you’ve got one of those boxes where you just throw everything in the drum – all the liquids locked up in one soluble package – then lucky you. Keep away from the drawer. It’ll drive you nuts.

A typo-ridden dry clean only label (Wikicommons)

What about dry-clean only?

You can dry-clean the stuff (and I bloody love dry-cleaning, btw) obviously, and that’s safer, but if that’s not an option – because of time, money, or a preexisting beef with your local dry-cleaner – you can almost always gently hand-wash these items or even wash them on a simple cold wash. Try to avoid doing this with anything that has sparkly Ed Hardy crap (a life rule in general), silk, or delicate stuff like lace – that’s the stuff that needs to go to the DC.

Did you say ‘hand-washing’? Are you kidding me?

Yeah, hand-washing. But do it in the bathroom, preferably washing it in the bathtub itself. I know the temptation is to do it in the kitchen sink as that is right next to the washing machine but there is almost always some kind of tea stain or food residue that is lurking about that you promised you’d clean up but forgot to and it’s not worth further-fucking your garment. Use warm-but-not-hot water and get yourself some mild detergent. From then on, take your time and exercise all due diligence. Not gonna lie, hand-washing is stressful but is way better than ruining your clothes. (Air-dry only, too; no tumble-dryer. Sorry.)

Behold the bleakness of efficiency (Flickr/ KellyK)

What about splitting items into colours?

I know it’s really annoying but spending five minutes dividing your clothes so they don’t bleed onto each other will save you so much hassle, stress, and, eventually, money. There are many ways of doing this, but the simplest and safest I found was on a little website I found called Mama’s Laundry Talk who said to separate your clothes into whites (only white items), darks (grays, blacks, navys, reds, dark purples, and similar colours), lights (pastels, light greens, light blues, and yellows), jeans (jeans), and “delicates” (ooh!). If you’d like to further separate items by weight – keeping the heavy shit with heavy shit, light with light – then that’s even more effective, and ensures a more consistent wash throughout your drum.

Please talk me through what I have to do when it comes to keeping my black clothing black. Please. It always goes all horrible and washed out and grey. Please help me.

Hard, innit? Goths need to look after their clothes too. Best things to do: wash in cold water on a short cycle, turn your clothes inside out when washing, and make sure you choose a detergent suitable for cool water washes (and don’t use too much of it, either, or else you might be left with streaks). Even better things to do: wash black items only when you have to. Especially with black denim, it’s almost impossible to prevent all fading, so mitigate that by limiting your frequency.

That’s your girlfriend and she absolutely despises you (iStock)

The other day I left an entire drum of wet laundry lurking in the drum of my machine for the best part of a day – am I a bad person?

You are a bad person, yeah, because you’ve dominated a drum for a whole day and probably made your whole gaff smell like a musty pair of gym shorts while you’re at it. But thankfully, as the excellent Jolie Kerr at Adequate Man notes, all is not lost: your clothes are still clean but if the machine (or your clothes) starts to smell a bit funky just give it a quick rewash with a little white wine vinegar (no detergent) to sort it out. You are still bad, though. Don’t do that, man. Don’t make everyone else miss out on their laundry just because you’re an unreliable prick.

How often do I need to be washing my clothes?

Depends if you’re going to be dominating a drum with your laziness again. But really, look, don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t need to wash your clothes that often. If something’s dirty, wash it; if it smells, wash it; if you’ve worn it more than two or three times or you had an especially sweaty train journey, wash it; if you’ve only worn something once and it seems fine… it usually is. Nothing ruins nice clothing quite like washing it – sorry – and as long as you trust your own judgement when it comes to the ol’ sense test, don’t wash your gear when you don’t need to.

(Main Image: Seinfeld/NBC)