The society we reside has certain stereotypes which linger from the more traditional days of American household expectations. One of the most pervasive stereotypes involves the household chores and gender roles. Men take out the trash. Women cook. Men fix things. Women vacuum. Men wear the pants. Women wash the pants.
But obviously roles have changed. Men are just as capable of performing chores such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids, just as women are learning how to fix cars, repair their electronics, and open those dang on jars which seem to be screwed tight enough to cause strained muscles in the palm of one’s hand. But, as a recent college graduate and current co-inhabitant with another male, I was quick to discover the lack of education men receive in certain household tasks. One of the most fascinating situations to behold is a newly independent (or semi-independent as is the case in college) man attempting to wash their clothes. I can’t tell you how many times one of my guy friends asked me where to put the laundry detergent when, in his hands, there was actually bleach. So, here are some quick tips to the whole laundry process so that mom does not need to be on speed dial every time you are faced with the daunting task of what temperature water you should choose.
Know when to wash your clothes. Certain clothes need to be washed more often than others. Now, I’m sure you’d like to push off how long you can wear something before it needs washing but, seriously, clean smelling clothes are phenomenal! Here are just some suggestions of the time frame in which one can wear certain articles of clothing:
- Undershirts/Boxers/Socks: Technically these should only be worn once, then tossed in the dirty clothes hamper. The likelihood of that happening though is slim for most men. For heaven’s sake though, do not wear under garments more than 3 times though, it just gets dingy faster and smells…even if you do not notice. Remember, these articles of clothing are closes to your skin and are often covering the parts of your body which sweats the most and emits the most odor. So they really soak up that day of activity and become quickly unappealing.
- T-shirts: Like undershirts, regular cotton t-shirts quickly soak up the moisture and odor of your body. I’d suggest wearing them only once but, if you give them the once-over and sniff test and they look fine, then go ahead and wear them again. Just, like above, limit it to 3 times before it needs to make its way to the hamper.
- Jeans: Jeans are fantastic. Because they often aren’t form fitted to your body (unless you’re the skinny jean sort) they do not gather up as much of the body odor that other clothes do. Honestly, until they begin to smell or have stains, they really don’t need to be washed. I’d suggest washing them once a month, or whenever you want to fill up the extra space in the washer.
- Casual Work Clothes: ie) khaki’s, button downs, and sweaters. These items do not hide sweat stains and dirt as well as t-shirts and jeans. Also, the point of these items are for situations where you want to present yourself as a put together young man. I’d suggest washing these items every 2-4 times you wear them. Smell the armpits, check for stains, look for dirt, if you notice anything, wash them. The only reason I do not say wash them after every use is because, most of the time, these items are worn for a few hours at work then taken off, not all day, so the length of time worn and the environment which they are worn at play a factor in when it’s time to wash.
Gather all of your dirty clothes together. Pull aside special articles of clothing such as khaki’s, button down’s, sweaters, or non-cotton fabrics. Now, READ THE TAG. I can’t stress that enough. There may be certain items which are dry clean only or delicate or do not tumble dry. These are vital instructions because, if washed in the wrong way, they may fade, tear apart, or shrink to a size which only that annoying pet chihuahua your neighbor totes around can wear.
If it says dry clean only that means you should probably take it to your local dry cleaner once it’s dirty. Yes, there are ways to wash them yourself, but do you really want to take that chance at this stage of your launder experience? Delicate means that you cannot place the item in a high spin cycle and do not tumble dry means that you should not place it in the dryer, instead hang it up to dry.
Check your dirty clothes for stains. I’m talking about that gross yellow armpit stain, grass, mud, oil, blood, wine, etc… If you have a stain on your clothing, pre-treat it with something like Shout or Tide To Go Pens. Product’s like these are easy to use. Just scrub the liquid into the stain and let it sit for whatever the suggested time frame is on the back of the product.
Sorting your dirty clothes. There are several ways to go about this.
- The most common method is separating your clothes between whites, lights, and colored/darks. The reasoning behind this is if you mix whites with darks and then use the wrong water temperature, you’ll probably end up with some nice new pink dress shirts when you used to have white ones.
- Me personally, since I am a female, my dirty clothes consist of more delicate items rather than whites. So I do things a bit differently when it comes to splitting them up. I separate my laundry piles into delicates and regular fabrics, mixing the colored with lighter colored clothing. I will discuss more about this split in the next step.
- You can also choose to just split white’s and colors, eliminating the three pile system.
Now it is time to press all the buttons. After loading the dryer with one of your piles, you have to decide what water temperature to use, what cycle to set it for, and, in some cases, what load size you require.
- Water Temperature: Water temperature is the key to this whole ordeal. Here’s the little way to remember what temperature goes with which pile. Warm water goes with Whites and Cold water goes with Colors. See? WW and CC! Warm Whites and Cold Colors! Not too difficult. Honestly, I would go with any form of hot water. Hot water makes colors bleed and fade faster. It is good for disinfecting further and removing all of the bacteria but, it also deteriorates clothing, towels, bedding at a faster rate then warm water. Cold water makes sure that colors do not fade as fast, or bleed out to other clothing. Now, remember in the previous step how I mentioned that I mix colors and whites since I have very few white items? I do this by only using cold water during my washes. That way my colors do not bleed onto the white or light items I own. I’ve never had a problem with washing my clothes that way before and I’ve been doing laundry for years.
- Washer Cycle: The most common setting is regular. It has the longest wash and spin cycle so it’ll clean your clothes more thoroughly. Just go for that cycle if you are not sure. If, like me, you make a separate pile for delicates such as button down shirts, sweaters, delicate fabrics, then obviously you’ll use the delicate cycle setting. This cycle has a low, softer spin/agitation cycle so that the fabrics are not twisted and whirled about enough to cause damage. I would avoid Permanent Press. It is sort of a mix between the regular cycle and delicate cycle. Just not worth trying to figure it out when you’re trying to go for simple.
Laundry detergent. There are several types of laundry detergent’s out there. I will briefly explain the pros and cons of each version.
- Powder Laundry Detergent: Powdered detergents are definitely made for the budget conscious individual. They last longer and often come in larger quantities for cheaper prices. They are also sometimes considered better for getting out stains. But, with cheaper products, comes lower quality. In some cases, as I have experienced, powder detergent does not dissolve as easily in the washer, particularly if you set your clothes in a cold cycle. They are usually fine in warm water but, on occasion, they will not dissolve in cold water, leaving detergent stains on your clothing.
- Liquid Laundry Detergent: Probably the more common detergent out there, this detergent is already pre-dissolved, which means you just pore and go. They are more expensive then the run-of-the-mill powdered counterpart though.
- Pod Laundry Detergent: This ready to go packet is quick, easy, and pre-measured so you don’t have to worry about messing around with how much to put in. Just pop one or two in the laundry machine and the wrapping disintegrates, allowing the detergent to mix with your clothes. Although this is assuredly a convenient method, they are much more costly then the two listed above.
Honestly, my personal preference is liquid laundry detergent. Not too horribly priced and I don’t have to worry about the leftover residue that powdered detergent can leave behind (particularly since I wash all my clothes in cold water). And, over my four and a half years at college, I probably went through a grand total of one and a half larger containers of detergent (I was doing laundry every 2-3wks). So, for the price and the cleaning power, I’d suggest liquid.
Usually the products will have instructions on the back for how much detergent to use. I’d say, cut that measurement in half. You really do not need to use that much. If you have a top opening washer, just run the water and pour the detergent in, then load in your clothes. If you have a front opening washer (as some college dorms and laundromats may have), there is usually a little drawer that you pull out where you’d pour the detergent. If it doesn’t explicitly say in which whole of the little drawer to pour the detergent, just dump it in the largest one…the others are for things such as bleach and softener.
SIDE NOTES FOR WASHING
- Unless you really know how to use it, or have a friend who does, I’d suggest avoiding bleach. To be honest, I have never used bleach in my life. If I have a stain on a white colored item, I just use stain removal rather than bleach.
- Do not overload the washer. It may be tempting but your clothes will not be cleaned if you choose to fill your washer to the brim. The clothes need space to mix and spin, that way they can be evenly coated with water and detergent.
- Do not toss all your clothes in at once. If you bunch clothes together there is a strong chance that some of them will not be washed. You need to separate all the clothes in order to make sure there is an even cleaning among everything.
- Do not use too much detergent. Trust me. Bad idea. Pouring several cups of detergent will create a suds monster that will terrify little children and maintenance men alike (actually, children might enjoy it, so just the janitorial squad would be scared).
- Do not let your clothes sit for hours in the washer. If you’ve ever experienced mildew and mold in the bathroom because the vents did not let the steam escape then you’ll understand this problem. Leaving your clothes damp and mashed together in the washer establishes a breeding ground of smelly mildew which ultimately means you’ll have to repeat the wash process…something I’m sure you’re not interested in doing.
- Any t-shirt with a print or design should be turned inside to prevent cracking or peeling…same goes with jersey’s that have the numbers ironed on
USING THE DRYER
Using the dryer is not as complicated as the washer so let’s go over the quick rules of drying.
- Again, check the tags on your clothes. Some will say that you can ‘tumble dry’ others will say ‘lay flat’ or ‘line dry’. If something does not say tumble dry then, seriously, do not place it in the dryer. This can destroy the item very quickly.
- Do not overload the dryer. Much like a washer, clothes placed in the dryer need to have room to spin in order to dry.
- Clean out the lint screen. It’s not too common but overly filled lint screens can cause fires. Also, it helps your clothes dry faster and better if there is a clean lint screen.
- Use softener sheets. These make your clothes softer (obviously) and less stiff.
- I’d suggest using the regular setting for almost all dryers. If something needs a special type of drying temperature then I usually just line dry it or hang it on my drying rack.
- Be wary of public laundromat dryers (and sometimes washers), they are more often low quality dryers and can become very hot or not hot enough to dry your clothes. It’s obnoxious but be prepared to due multiple drying’s.
Well, there you have it. The guide to doing your own laundry. This will not only help you out when you’re finally faced with the task on your own, it will also be a nice way to do something for your girlfriend or significant other when the time comes. BUT, and I say this with my hands clapped together, do not do her laundry if you are unsure of the care of a particular item. The fact that you are doing something nice for her will sort of fall flat if you turn her favorite top into a dress made for a Barbie doll.