If there’s a never-ending story around my house, it’s about the laundry.
Chapter 1: I live on a ranch. We work outside in all sorts of weather, and we get more than a little sweaty — winter and summer.
Chapter 2: My husband is a mechanic and heavy equipment operator who likes to play in the dirt, grease and oil.
Chapter 3: We have horses, cows, chickens, pigs, sheep and wild animals such as bears, foxes and geese. All of these critters leave their “leavings” all over the place.
Chapter 4: In the winter we have mud, in the summer we have dust, both of which deposit themselves on every article of clothing worn. The dirt in this area tends to be high in iron, which means it leaves stains very similar to rust stains.
Chapter 5: We frequently indulge ourselves in veterinary operations, butchering and other activities involving blood and guts.
I have no doubt there are plenty more chapters, but these will do for the moment. As with any other skill, when you do a lot of something, you eventually get good at it. You also find out which tips and tricks are darned good information and which ones are good only for a laugh. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last 40-odd years.
- Cold water is for drinking, not ranch laundry. The only thing I can use cold water on is my towels, and even those tend to get grubby fairly fast (which is why I NEVER choose white towels). Nor can I use cold water without first dissolving the detergent in it. Since I frequently forget to change the water temperature once the detergent is dissolved and discovered the warm-water towels came out cleaner, towels get washed in warm water. Jeans, Carharts and work shirts get washed in hot water.
- It does make a difference if you sort properly, especially if you dry clothes on the line. The dryer might take off the bits of lint from the towels you tossed in with your Levis, but the clothesline won’t.
- It does not make a difference what detergent you use — trust me, I’ve tried ‘em all. Buy the cheapest stuff you can find in large quantities. I can’t see any difference between powders and liquids, either.
- It does make a difference if you add salt or borax when you have hard water. Both of these soften the water and make your detergent work better. Clothes rinse cleaner, too.
- ALWAYS CHECK POCKETS! I cannot tell you how many times I have discovered grease rags, ballpoint pens, markers, crayons, nails, screws, toothpicks and small tools in various and sundry pockets. By the way, should you miss a ballpoint pen, a good dousing with hair spray or rubbing alcohol just prior to washing will usually take the ink out completely. Learned that one back in the day when nurses had to wear white uniforms.
- Use a knotted pillowcase, secured with a safety pin, or one of those zippered laundry bags for lingerie, socks and other small items. It keeps them from snagging on other clothes in the case of bras, protects delicate lace and prevents socks from jumping over the edge of the washer tub and getting stuck between the tub and washer side, which creates all sorts of havoc in addition to the odd looks your children will get because they’re wearing one yellow flowered and one green-striped sock.
- If you buy used clothing with stains or have to deal with something that the regular wash cycle just couldn’t handle, use this trick on everything except blood (for blood, rinse it immediately in cold water and then slosh hydrogen peroxide on it; rinse; repeat until the water runs clear). It came from Amy Dacyzcn’s book, “The Tightwad Gazette,” and it really works. Dissolve one cup liquid dishwasher detergent and one cup Clorox II in one gallon of hot water. Dunk the item of clothing in it and get it thoroughly saturated. Soak overnight, and then wash as you normally would. I reuse the stain solution; just store in the gallon glass jar I use for soaking and reheat prior to use. If the solution starts to look a little tinted, don’t use it for whites – in fact I keep one on tap just for whites, as it will last practically forever.
Hope you have fun doing your next load of wash!