Doing laundry is one of the most daunting tasks of household management. It also requires a certain familiarity, given that the beauty and durability of clothing and household linen largely depends on their correct washing and subsequent treatments, such as drying and ironing.
Unpleasant surprises, like the dark sock that irreparably tinges with bluish all the contents of a washing machine or oversize sweater transformed into a baby size, are always lurking and can happen even to those who are experts: so here is a little guide to avoid disasters more frequent and possibly how to run for cover.
HOW THE DETERGENT WORKS
The first synthetic detergents were introduced on the US market in 1946 and quickly spread around the world. The cleaning power comes from surfactants, special substances that have the effect of lowering the surface tension of the water (the force that keeps the drops compact) making it better to penetrate into the tissues, transporting the washing agents inside the fibres. Dirt is spilled out of the fabric and then rinsed out. Among the washing agents there are for example enzymes, useful for removing grease and grass stains: they bind to stains and break them into smaller fragments, easier to dissolve in water and therefore to be eliminated.
LABELS: OUR BEST FRIENDS
The small cloth labels sewn inside the clothes contain all we need to know to wash our garment effectively and safely. They contain a series of symbols, at first glance a little mysterious, which indicate in detail the most appropriate washing technique, for example dry and water-based, the ideal water temperature, the drying, ironing and eventual program stain treatment. In practice, to avoid mistakes, just read the instructions and adhere strictly to them. In the photo gallery there are the most common symbols and their meaning.
BY HAND OR BY WASHING MACHINE
If the garment allows it, washing in the washing machine is usually more effective than washing by hand. Modern washing machines are in fact equipped with technologies that guarantee accurate washing without damaging the fabrics. Once again: we check the label and follow the instructions. In principle, if possible, we avoid washing at high temperatures: colours and fabrics will live longer. We also check that the washing machine is working perfectly and is well cleaned inside. Before putting a garment in the washing machine, it is advisable to check that the seams and buttons are firm: otherwise the parts at risk of breakage must be reinforced before washing. Better to check any pockets: the quantity of things we may have forgotten inside is incredible; from money to identity documents. Even if you use “colour catchers” it is a good habit to divide the light colours and the whites from the dark colours.
They require some extra care. Modern washing machines usually have a special program for wool and delicates: in any case it is good to know that the wool is felted if it is washed in very hot water and that it tends to deform if the clothes are dried by hanging. Better to place them in a horizontal position on the clothesline. Wool, as well as silk and garments that tend to lose their colour, should not be left to soak except for a very short time. Silk, especially that of the finest and most delicate garments, should preferably be dry-cleaned.
SMOOTHING OR WHITENING
However, bleach, even delicate or coloured, is an aggressive agent on fabrics and shortens the life of our clothes. It is better to use it the least possible and to prefer other bleaching agents, such as Marseilles soap to be rubbed dry on stains (for example on shirt collars), or sodium bicarbonate or perborate. The perborate dissolved in very hot water (around 50 degrees because it is not activated under this temperature) is also useful to eliminate from the whites the odious spots and smudges of colour that sometimes happen after a wash together with something dark.
DO NOT POLLUTE
Detergents are pollutants and should not be exceeded with their use: in any case, using more detergent does not ensure a cleaner laundry at all. So let’s stick to the quantities indicated on the packaging of the detergent that we usually use: on the label is the number of measuring cups to be used also in relation to the hardness of the water in our area. Modern washing machines usually have an automatic system that does not waste water and energy-saving washing cycles: we read the washing machine instructions and act accordingly. Our laundry, but above all the Planet, will be grateful to us.