The Dirty Truth about Laundry

Hawaiian Shirt hereWhen you say “my clothes are dirty” do you mean they are stained? Covered with food or dirt? Or do you really mean “my clothes are smelly”?

Sure, at one time getting dirty literally meant getting dirty — clothes covered with soil from gardening or working the farm, or oil from working on your own car, etc. But the truth is that most people today don’t really get much “dirt” on their clothes at all.

We all know that “doing laundry” involves water, soap, and agitation. Which of those is responsible for making our clothes smell better (remove residue with body odor) and stain free?

It turns out that 90% of the “cleaning” occurs on a molecular level and has nothing to do with the washing machine’s agitation mechanism. Instead the cleaning is the result of the soap and the warm or hot water. No agitation needed (other than to mix the soap and water together and to introduce it into the fabric. Turns out that agitation does nothing but waste electricity and strain and wear the fabrics your clothes are made from.

Why? A washing machine manufacturer can’t really design a setting on their machine that says “use better soap”, so instead they add “super” cycles that involve more and more agitation which does nothing to clean clothes. Some of you might even remember washing machines from a decade ago that had a “soak” cycle — a great idea that seems to have been lost.

So, in summary, the best way to wash your clothes is to let them soak in soapy warm or hot water, then to agitate them only a bit. In fact, research shows that agitating for more than two minutes is a waste of power and does nothing but damage clothes. Even the shortest “delicate” setting on modern washing machines is four minutes — twice what’s needed.

If you want to save water, time, money, and make your clothes last TEN TIMES longer, follow these easy steps:

  1. If your garments actually have stains, wet the stains (just the stains) with warm water, then using a soft plastic brush (about four inches long) and your ordinary laundry soap scrub the stain. Be sure to scrub it from both sides of the fabric.
  2. Put the liquid soap in the washer first — before the clothes. Use an environmentally responsible brand like Planet or Seventh Generation — they work great.
  3. Put in your clothes.
  4. Set the water level much lower than you think is good. Most folks set the level far too high.
  5. Set the machine to pre-soak if such a setting is available.
  6. Set the machine on the shortest delicate cycle you have.

You’ll be amazed to find that your clothes are just as clean (if not cleaner) than before, they’ll smell great, and you’ve saved time, water, and money. Sweet.

Now, a few words about drying clothes. Do you have any garments made from polyester? Did you know they don’t need to be dried in a clothes drier? Just take them straight out of the washing machine spin cycle, hang them on a plastic clothes hanger, and put the hanger on your shower curtain rod for an hour or two. They dry perfectly, without wrinkles, and without any shrinkage.

At our ranch we don’t have any washing machines or driers. Instead we use an amazing gadget called a “Wonderwash”, and in fact, you’ll find one in your cabin and you’re welcome to use it during your stay. They wash clothes in about a minute, without electricity and without wearing your fabrics down to the nubs. They operate based on the same practical research which I’ve shared in the tip above.

Here’s a skeptic and her experience with a Wonderwash:

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