12 Essential Laundry Tips and Tricks

Remove stains and tackle the toughest laundry tasks with this no-fail guide to essential laundry tips and tricks.

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1. Keep Your Whites Their Whitest

Do your white T-shirts tend to go grey? White socks look dirty no matter how many times they're washed? Try one of these tried and trusted washing methods for making whites stay white.

* Soak in a solution of 4 litres water and 180g bicarbonate of soda.

* Soak in hot water in which you've dissolved 5 aspirin tablets (325mg each). Add 240ml white vinegar to the washing machine's rinse cycle.

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2. Get Blacker Blacks, Darker Darks

While faded and distressed-looking garments are the rage for some age groups, you may prefer not to look as if the last time you went clothes-shopping was 1998. Here are some tips for keeping black and dark-coloured wardrobe items looking like new.

• For blacks, add 2 cups brewed coffee or tea to the rinse cycle.

• For dark colors like navy blue or plum, add 1 cup table salt to the rinse cycle.

• For denim that will be slow to fade, soak jeans in salt water or a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar before the first wash. Turn the jeans inside out before putting them in the machine and turn the temperature setting to cold.

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3. Get Rid of Odours

Know that "new" smell of dye or chemicals that comes with just-bought sheets or shirts? Have a teenager who thinks nothing of leaving sweaty clothes in a locker or gym bag for weeks on end? Worse, ever have a run-in with a skunk? Grab two old deodorizer standbys. First, add ½ cup baking soda to 1 gallon (3.78 litres) water and presoak any smelly washable items for about 2 hours. Then, as you machine-wash them, add ½ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

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4. Get Rid of Yellow Stains

With time, white cotton and linen tend to turn yellow - hardly the fresh, crisp look for which cotton is famous. Let sodium come to the rescue by mixing ¼ cup salt and ¼ cup baking soda with 1 gallon water in a large cooking pot. Add the yellowed items and boil for 1 hour.

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5. Never Lose a Sock Again

The invisible sock bandit who hangs around washing machines and snatches one sock from a pair will probably never be apprehended, but here's a way to thwart him. Give each family member a mesh bag for their dirty socks. Then, on washday, close the bags and throw them into the washing machine. The sneaky thief will leave empty-handed and you should only have to replace socks when they wear out.

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6. Freshen a Laundry Hamper

Hampers are handy for keeping dirty laundry in one place, but they can get a little ripe when packed with soiled clothes. Two ways to prevent hamper smells:

• Cut the foot off a pair of old panty hose, fill it with baking soda, knot it, and toss this makeshift odour eater into the hamper. Replace the baking soda every month or so.

• Keep a box of baking soda next to the hamper and sprinkle some on soiled clothes as you throw them in the washer, where the soda will freshen and soften the load.

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7. Create Starch Substitutes

No need to run out to the store to buy starch to stiffen your shirt collars or restore body to shapeless clothing. Make your own by pouring 2 cups water into a jar and adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Screw the jar lid on tightly and shake well. Now pour the solution into a spray bottle for use when ironing.

If your permanent press items are looking a bit shapeless, don't use starch when ironing. Instead, add a cup of powdered milk to the final rinse cycle of the wash. Got milk? Got shape.

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8. Try Listerine in your Washing Machine

Did you know that you can disinfect your washing machine with a product that virtually everyone has in their bathroom? Simply add half a cup of mouthwash to your empty washing machine and run it through a cycle. 

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9. Clean Rugs and Curtains

If cotton rugs or cotton curtains have faded, simply add ⅓ cup salt to your laundry detergent to brighten the colours. If a rug is too large for the machine washing, scrub it well with a clean rag dipped in salt water.

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10. Make an Improv Drying Rack

Running a dryer bumps up your electric bill, so if you're thrifty, you'll want to air-dry any items you can. But don't think you need a sunny day or even a clothesline or store-bought drying rack. Just suspend an old (clean) refrigerator shelf or oven rack from a beam in your garage or basement and hook wet clothes on coat hangers onto the rack. Smart move!

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11. Dry Sweaters with Pantyhose

Don't pin sweaters directly to your drying line; instead, run an old pair of panty hose through one sleeve, through the neck, and out the other sleeve, and clothes pin the hose to the line.

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12. Clean Your Dryer Vent From the Outside

Stuffed-up dryer vents can, in worst case scenarios, cause fires, but most of us never think of examining the vent from the outside on a regular basis. To do so, carefully lift up the vent flaps and clean it out-assuming that it's not inhabited by any wildlife, as this is a favourite passageway into a warm house! If you do have visitors, call your local animal control.

The next step? Organizing your laundry room!

Check out more cleaning tips!