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13 Laundry Mistakes Everyone Makes (And How to Fix Them)

Keep your clothes cleaner, your home greener and your hydro bill a bit more manageable with these expert laundry tips.

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laundry tips - adding fabric softener sheet to dryerPhoto: Shutterstock

You use fragranced laundry detergent and fabric softener

A 2011 study found that fragranced products cause dryer vents to emit seven compounds that contain hazardous air pollutants and two that are carcinogenic.

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Man pouring detergent for laundryPhoto: Shutterstock

You fall for greenwashing tactics

Even “unscented” brands may not be what they purport to be. “Unscented detergents can still contain fragrances to mask chemical smells,” says Lindsay Coulter, the David Suzuki Foundation’s green-living expert.

Fragrance isn’t just a concern with laundry detergents. Find out seven harmful beauty product ingredients to watch out for.

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Baking soda on wooden tablePhoto: Shutterstock

You avoid the do-it-yourself route

If you want to avoid mystery ingredients, make your own detergent. The David Suzuki Foundation recommends using ½ cup per load of a mixture of two teaspoons of salt, two tablespoons of baking soda, two tablespoons of liquid Castile soap and one litre of hot water.

Discover more brilliant uses for baking soda all around the house.

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Essential oils on black tablePhoto: Shutterstock

You use essential oils

Don’t scent homemade detergent with essential oils. “Some dryers heat up to about 57° C, which is above the flashpoint for some essential oils,” says Michael Papeo, captain of public education, East Command, for Toronto Fire Services.

Here are more house fire facts that could save your life.

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Towels folded on tablePhoto: Shutterstock

You leave wet towels in the washer

If your towels are musty, add a cup of white vinegar or a cup of baking soda to your wash load (but not both at once).

Check out 100+ ways to clean with vinegar.

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Green fleece jacketPhoto: Shutterstock

You’re machine-washing microfibre garments

Your fleece jacket made from recycled bottles likely contains microfibres—pollutants that account for 35 per cent of microplastics in the world’s oceans. “With every wash, your garments are shedding microfibres that end up in waterways and eventually in the food chain,” says Coulter. Special fibre-trapping bags can help keep them out of the drain.

Here are 13 washer/dryer problems you’ll regret ignoring.

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laundry tips - white clothes hanging on linePhoto: Shutterstock

You overuse bleach

Instead of using chlorine bleach, disinfect your clothes by line-drying. Sunlight’s ultraviolet rays are effective at killing bacteria in fabrics. Bonus: they’re free.

Did you know that bleach actually has an expiration date?

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Laundry detergentPhoto: Shutterstock

You overuse detergent

Using more detergent won’t make clothes cleaner. Over time, excess detergent can build up and cause smelly residue inside your machine. Use the least amount of detergent possible—start with half the recommended amount, and if your clothes still come out clean, you can try reducing even further.

Here’s how to tell if you’re using too much laundry detergent.

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Lint trayPhoto: Shutterstock

You don’t empty your dryer lint tray

Lint buildup in the filter and vents is a primary cause of the dozens of fires started by dryers every year in Toronto, says Papeo. “Empty your lint tray before every load and vacuum the filter and inside the trap from time to time.”

Here’s how to put dryer lint to work in your garden.

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Vibrant, colourful sock in washing machinePhoto: Shutterstock

You’re ignoring all those missing socks

The real “sock monster” responsible for your missing hosiery? Your washing machine. Small items can slip past the rubber gasket on a front-loading washer, and get trapped underneath the drum. If you’re suspicious, get a pro to investigate, and wash all your socks in a mesh bag to prevent disappearances.

Psst—this brilliant detergent hack will totally change your laundry day.

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Blue jeans in washing machinePhoto: Shutterstock

You don’t wash your jeans

There’s no getting around washing jeans. Some people swear that storing their denim in the freezer kills germs, but that’s a myth—the bacteria only go dormant.

Here’s what you need to know about laundry stripping.

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Washing machinePhoto: Shutterstock

You wash everything in warm water

Up to 75 per cent of the energy used for washing clothes goes toward heating the water. Your clothes will get just as clean in a cold-water wash and they’ll last longer—lower temperatures preserve dyes and reduce shrinkage.

Find out more brilliant laundry hacks.

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Man removing clothing from washing machinePhoto: Shutterstock

You haven’t upgraded to a high-efficiency washer and dryer

Switching to a high-efficiency, Energy Star-certified machine not only saves you up to 25 per cent on your hydro bills, it’s better for the planet. On an annual basis, a full-sized Energy Star machine can save more than 7,500 litres of water compared to old-school washers.

Now that you’ve got these laundry tips under your belt, find out the surprising ways you’re shortening the life of your washer and dryer.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada