I love to do laundry. I'm crazy that way. I also enjoy discovering ways to do it more efficiently, and by efficient I mean cheaper, better and faster.
In fact, I was about ready to give myself a proper title, The Laundress, until I discovered that a couple of very bright young women in New York City beat me to it. It's OK. They can keep the title and charge an arm and a leg for their fancy shmancy laundry products in little bottles. Me? I'd rather use every tip I can find to create equally beautiful results and keep my money, too. Are you with me? Great! Here are some of my favorite laundry tips to get going.
WHEN WRONG IS RIGHT. Wash your clothes inside out to keep them looking new longer. In this way, the inside — the wrong side — of the garment takes all the abuse caused by the agitation of the washing machine, not the right side. Clothes get just as clean when washed inside out.
SOFT-DRY JEANS. You'll never experience the heartbreak of shrunken jeans if you do this: Put them in the dryer for just 10 minutes. That's enough to soften them. Then, take them out and hang them upside down on a hanger. The weight of the jeans (from being semi-wet) will pull out the wrinkles without shrinking the pants.
DRYER BALL. A ball of aluminum foil (about the size of a tennis ball) works just as a dryer sheet does, plus it's reusable. Laundry comes out completely static-free, which cuts down on wrinkles, too. You can use that same ball for a year or more (or until you notice static has returned).
STAIN MAGIC. To make a nearly magical, all-purpose stain remover, mix 1 part blue Dawn dishwashing liquid with 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. Pour the mixture directly onto the stain. Add baking soda for an extra scrubbing element. Let it sit for an hour or so, and then launder the item as usual.
UNSHRINK WOOL. Mix a solution of 1 gallon lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons baby shampoo. Soak the shrunken garment for about 10 minutes. Here's the important part: Don't rinse! Simply blot out all the excess water with a dry towel and gently lay the garment flat on a fresh towel. Slowly and carefully stretch and reshape it back to its original size. Dry it out of direct sunlight and heat. This tip comes from the Wool Bureau Inc. The company verifies that this technique will work provided the fibers have not become permanently damaged.
QUICK DRY. Need those jammies or towels to dry fast? Throw a dry towel or two into the dryer with your wet clothes and drying time will be reduced significantly.
DRYER-SHEET RESCUE. Don't throw away all your used laundry softener sheets. When your casserole dish or pot becomes impossible to clean, toss one or two of the used sheets into the pan, fill it with hot water and presto! You can wipe the pan clean in just 20 minutes. No scrubbing needed. Store the sheets in an empty tissue box.
BABY SHAMPOO. Instead of using expensive cold-water detergents for delicates, use baby shampoo. You will get the same results for a considerably less cost.
BRILLIANT WHITE. If you want to keep your white laundry stain-free and brilliantly white without using chlorine bleach, here's the secret: Fill the washing machine with the hottest water possible. Add 1 cup Cascade Automatic Dishwasher Detergent and 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (or soda ash from a pool supply store). Throw in washable whites and let the machine agitate for a few minutes. Then, turn the machine off, and let the items soak for at least three hours. Overnight is fine. After, finish the wash cycle and dry the items as usual.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.