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This is the way to wash for less

By LAURA T. COFFEY
Published March 5, 2006


It's something we do all the time, week after week, almost without conscious thought: wash our laundry. Could a few simple tips could make your wash day go more smoothly and help you save money at the same time? Read on.

1. GO FOR THE COLD. Sometimes you may need to wash clothes in hot water, especially if you're dealing with heavily soiled fabrics or you're worried about killing germs after a bout of sickness in your home. But washing clothes in cold water can save up to 10 cents per 8-pound load if you have an electric water heater.

2. USE THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WATER. Clothes should have enough room to move around, so avoid overstuffing your washing machine. You also don't want to waste too much water on a tiny load. Remember to adjust your machine's water-level control to match the load's size.

3. PRETREAT STAINS BEFORE YOU WASH. For ink, try rubbing alcohol. For dried blood, try 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Pretreat grease spots with stain remover, soap or detergent and let stand for at least two hours before washing.

4. ENZYMES ARE ALL THE RAGE. The laundry detergents that tend to do the best job contain enzymes, so keep your eyes peeled for that ingredient as you shop.

5. BE SMART ABOUT SUDS. Too many suds diminish washing action and can be hard to rinse out - plus they can damage your washing machine. But failure to use enough detergent can turn white fabrics gray and dingy. Follow detergent instructions carefully, and be sure to use low-sudsing detergents, often labeled "HE" for "high-efficiency," in front-loading machines.

6. BE CAREFUL WITH BLEACH. Chlorine bleach can do an amazing job keeping white clothes white and removing stains, but it also can worsen some yellow stains and create holes. Don't use chlorine bleach on wool, silk, stretch fabrics or dyed fabrics.

7. STAY ALERT IF YOU USE FABRIC SOFTENER. Dilute liquid fabric softener in water before adding it to your laundry to avoid spotting. Dryer sheets also can leave oily spots on clothes. If you spot a spot, rub it with a detergent paste or stain remover and wash the garment again.

8. AVOID IRONING. Shake wet clothes out before putting them in the dryer to keep them from balling up and wrinkling. Don't overstuff the dryer, because that makes clothes dry too slowly and wrinkle, and don't overdry clothes, because the excessive heat can set wrinkles. As soon as clothes are dry, hang them up or fold them.

9. IS YOUR WASHING MACHINE ON THE FRITZ? Generally speaking, it's a good idea to repair an ailing washer if it's less than 8 years old. If you need to buy a new one, front-loaders cost more up front but hold more clothes and use less energy and water, so they sometimes qualify for utility-company rebates.

10. CHOOSE THE RIGHT DRYER. It's worth the extra $50 or so for a gas model, which costs less to operate over time than an electric dryer. Also remember that your dryer and washer don't have to match. The only reason to go that route would be cosmetic.

Sources: New Mexico State University's College of Agriculture and Home Economics (http://cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_c/c-503.html) Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org); Tide (www.tide.com).

[Last modified March 3, 2006, 18:47:29]


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