Want to know how to do laundry like a pro? Our essential laundry hacks guide will ensure you'll never get a laundry load wrong again.
Everyone has searched for laundry hacks at one time or another: was it when you shrunk your favorite sweater, or perhaps you wanted to know how to make your towels nice and fluffy again?
Or, maybe you've stained your blouse and need a stain remover before a meeting? Hand sanitizer to the rescue. Lewis Ames of UK medical grade sanitizer & disinfectant brand Ocean Free (opens in new tab) explains:
'Hand sanitizers were undoubtedly the unexpected “must-haves” of 2020 and as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on are likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. As well as improving hand hygiene and helping to reduce spread of viruses effectively, the humble hand sanitizer has many hidden uses. Hand sanitizer has been known to work wonders on clothing stains.' You can read more on this below.
Along with that nugget of information, we've researched a ton of solutions to the most common – and the most annoying – laundry problems, so that you don't have to do the legwork.
Laundry hacks 1: How to make clothes white again with vinegar
Why are your white clothes not white anymore? This has probably happened because you've either been using too little detergent in a hard water area or you've put too much washing into the machine with heavily soiled items.
Laundry hacks: Rewashing with the correct detergent dose in the hottest water safe for the fabrics should brighten most items – and you should do this every third wash to preserve whiteness.
But, if that doesn't do the trick, simply pour half a cup of distilled white vinegar into the drum, followed by your load, and wash as normal. It's great for washing and softening towels (see more on that below) and there's no need to rewash – the vinegary smell will disperse in the rinse cycle.
Laundry hacks 2: Soften towels that are hard and flat
Why are your towels hard and flat? If you live in a hard water area, the minerals in the water can make your towels hard and scratchy – a long way from the hotel-style fluffiness you enjoyed when you first bought them.
Laundry hacks: You can, of course, try the vinegar in tip 1, especially if you are restoring colored towels. White towels can be put through the hottest cycle possible with a cup of ammonia. Tumble drying will restore fluffiness, especially if you throw in a balled up sheet of tin foil – but don't dry towels on radiators as this will also harden them.
- See more about how to wash towels in our in-depth guide.
Laundry hacks 3: How to get rid of white streaks on dark clothes
Why do you have white streaks on dark clothes? Dark colors – perhaps dark bedlinen – and denim jeans sometimes come out of the wash with white streaks on them, even when you're using detergent for colors. This is because friction in the wash can remove dye along creases.
Laundry hacks: There's not much you can do with existing white streaks other than re-dyeing your items. However, you can prevent it in future by turning items inside out and selecting a gentler wash cycle in future.
Laundry hacks 4: How to get rid of white powder streaks on clothes
Why are there white streaks on your clothes? White streaks of powder left on fabrics after washing are usually due to the machine being overloaded.
Laundry hacks: Rewash, reducing the load, et voila, no more white streaks (hopefully).
Laundry hacks 5: How to get rid of yellow stains under the arms of white tops and t-shirts
Why do you get yellow stains on white tops? Some deodorants, mixed with perspiration, cause staining.
Laundry hacks: Buy new deodorant... and soak your items overnight in hot water containing a cup of bleach. Rinse and wash as care label advises. Our advice? Check the care label first, just in case it advises against bleach; and don't just soak the stains, immerse the entire item.
Not working or nervous of using bleach? You can sponge the sweat stains with white vinegar or with a mixture of lemon juice and baking powder, then pre-treat them with an enzyme pre-wash stain remover. Then wash on the hottest cycle safe for the fabric. Add that cupful of bleach for especially stubborn marks.
Laundry hacks 6: How to prevent shrinking your favorite woolen
Why do wool garments shrink? If you've shrunk your woolens – whether a favorite sweater or beautiful bed throw – it's probably because the wash cycle temperature was too high or the drum action too vigorous.
Laundry hacks: It goes without saying that in future you should only wash woolens on the wool cycle. But is the damage reversible? Not always but... your best option is to rewash the items (if they've dried already) and, when still damp, carefully stretch them back into shape before drying them flat.
- Find out more about how to handwash clothes (and delicates) in our guide.
Laundry hacks 7: Holes in wool or silk items
Why do you get holes in clothes? If you've found holes in wool and silk clothes, especially at the seams, it's probably because you're using biological powder which contains enzymes. Or you could be dealing with clothes moths...
Laundry hacks: You can't reverse this damage (other than with a needle and thread), but swap to a gentle detergent for next time. Find out more about clothes moths in our how to get rid of clothes moths guide.
Laundry hacks 8: How to wash sneakers or trainers
Why do you need to wash sneakers? You went running, they're muddy. Or just not just as white as they were.
Laundry hacks: First things first, we'd recommend checking care labels to see if washing is discouraged or not. Then we'd recommend putting the trainers in a mesh bag for protection, detaching and including the laces.
Lastly, put them on a cold wash if they're colored sneakers to stop them fading. A hot wash might shrink even the sturdiest of trainers, so keep to a cool(ish) wash whatever happens.
If you don't like the banging of the trainers on the dryer drum, lacing them back up and shutting the laces in the door will keep them from being flung about.
Laundry hacks 9: Remove a stubborn stain
Split wine on your favorite shirt? Had a nosebleed on a pillowcase? Trying to get dog mess out of your sofa cushions? Has the baby wet the mattress topper? All these gross-out stains can be tricky to get rid of. Happily, we've put together a guide on each:
- How to clean up blood stains
- How to remove red wine stains
- How to clean up vomit
- Best ways to get rid of urine stains
Laundry hacks 10: How to get the musty smell out of clothes
Why do your clothes smell musty? Your cupboard itself might be a little damp or it might be that slightly damp washing in an airless space means nothing is drying properly.
Laundry hacks: Drilling neat holes in the door of the cupboard will allow air to enter, as will leaving it cracked open. Obviously only putting washing away when it's completely dry will help, but putting an open box of baking powder in the cupboard will help keep it fresh. You'll need to replace it every now and then. Bags of dried herbs will help, too. See the next tip, too, for quickly freshening already musty items.
- Don't miss our genius laundry storage ideas
Laundry hacks 11: How to get wrinkles out of clothes fast
You've hung something freshly ironed in your closet or put bedding in the drawer but it's gotten creased in the meantime and now you need it to look good fast.
Laundry hacks: If you don't have a tumble dryer, the only option is to iron. If you do have a dryer, though, pop the item in it with a dryer sheet and an ice cube for 10 minutes; it'll come out smelling fresh and wrinkle-free.
Lynsey Crombie, Queen of Clean (opens in new tab) explains more, 'Simply get one of your creased shirts from the ironing basket and pop it into the tumble dryer, now along with this chuck in four or five ice cubes straight from the freezer so they are nice and cold. Pop your tumble dryer on for approx. 15 minutes.'
'The ice cubes are going to melt in your machine and this will create amazing steam and moisture… and …. it will leave leave your shirt crease free and shall be ready for wearing straight away.'
Laundry hacks 12: How to get laundry to dry faster
Why won't your clothes dry faster? If you've overloaded your tumble dryer, it's likely the laundry is taking ages to dry. But if you've got little time to get those jeans/spare bedding dry and need to speed things up, there is a handy laundry hack to try.
Laundry hacks: Throw a towel into the tumble dryer with your stubbornly wet laundry. It will help absorb the moisture and your washing will dry faster.
- We've rounded up the best tumble dryers to take out the guesswork. You're welcome.
Laundry hacks 13: How to iron faster (or not at all)
Who doesn't want to ditch ironing? We're all for laundry hacks that mean we can do less ironing (or the same amount faster).
Laundry hacks: Try all of these, altogether:
- Make sure to use fabric conditioner in the final rinse
- Only spin at lower speeds
- Reshape your clothes while they're still damp
- Select cooler and shorter tumble drying cycles
- Hang shirts, skirts, dresses and jackets on hangers to dry, then fold them carefully when thoroughly dry. This will help you avoid ironing in most cases.
- Still got a few items that need tackling? Iron them while they're still damp – it's quicker and easier.
The best irons for crease-free clothing (opens in new tab)
Choose a new iron from our pick of the best models on the market.
Laundry hacks 14: Your iron is leaving sticky residue on your clothes
What is the sticky substance on your iron? Sometimes if you iron an item on a setting that's too hot, you'll melt the material on to the bottom of the iron. Then, the next thing you iron gets the residue transferred on to it.
Laundry hacks: For starters, it's important to iron at the temperature advised on the care label... but how to remove the burnt-on residue?
The best, and quickest, way is to heat the iron to the warm setting, then to rub it with a tightly stretched, damp cotton cloth or towel. If that fails, try rubbing the bottom of the iron (when cool) with white toothpaste or baking soda, applied with a coarse, damp cloth.
- Find out clever cleaning hacks for kids' rooms.
Laundry hacks 15: Your laundry just never ever looks that clean
Why does my laundry not look clean? If your laundry rarely looks as bright or smells as fresh as it should, it's likely that your washing machine itself needs cleaning.
Laundry hacks: Washing machines work hard but are brilliant at harboring bacteria (see our feature on getting rid of germs for more on that), so giving it a clean will ensure your wash load comes out sparkling and that your washing machine lasts as long as it should.
Use our guide to find out how to clean a washing machine in six easy steps (hint: vinegar is involved).
Laundry hacks 16: How to stop losing socks in the wash
The answer to lost socks? Laundry mesh bags (opens in new tab), which are useful for washing delicate items such as bras. Simply put the dirty socks into a mesh bag and they'll all be there at the end of the wash, too. Simple.
Laundry hacks 17: Your clothes are making you itch
Why are my clothes making me itchy? You are using too much laundry detergent, which is causing build up in areas that don't get rinsed out completely; you could also be having an allergic reaction to your detergent that is causing contact dermatitis.
Use less laundry detergent – this can be achieved by buying concentrated detergent that has a measuring cup to ensure you don't put in too much. Put your washing machine on an extra spin. If you're still experiencing itchiness/redness, change your laundry detergent to a non-bio, plant based one, without fragrance.
Laundry hacks 18: Why are your clothes pilling?
Why are my clothes pilling? Pilling, or bobbling is a real pet peeve of ours: it makes even the nicest garment look scruffy, and it doesn't always happen just to old clothes, either.
It's true that some bobbling and pilling is inevitable after many years of wear, but if your brand new sweater is pilling after just a couple of months, it's most likely happening because of the way you're washing it.
Try to wash all your clothes inside out, especially delicate items such as dresses, fine knits, and woolen trousers. That way, if the friction of washing does cause some pilling, it'll at least be on the side no one sees apart from you.
Try only washing the same fabrics together (denim and sweaters in the same wash are a big no-no), or wash delicate items separately in a mesh bag. And – stick to liquid detergent, as it's less abrasive.
Laundry hacks 19: How to use chalk as a grease stain remover
Chalk is ultra-absorbent, so if you have oily kitchen stains you can't get rid of you can rub a bit on them to soak up the grease as a pre-treatment until you can get the greased up item into the washer.
Laundry hacks 20: Freshen clothes without washing them
Have clothes with a bit of a whiff but don't have time to throw them in the wash? Here's one of the simplest laundry hacks: throwing the item in the freezer will help to de-stink for one more time before washing it.
Laundry hacks 21: Iron clothes with hair straightening irons
Got a little crease to get out of a shirt? Here's one of the easiest laundry hacks: hair straighteners are great for getting in between buttons or straightening out a hem.
Make sure the iron is clean and free of product build-up before clamping them on your crisp white clothing.
Laundry hacks 22: Unshrink sweaters with baby shampoo or hair conditioner
We're not kidding. Yes, one of our top laundry hacks really is to unshrink a sweater with baby shampoo or hair conditioner.
- Fill a basin with warm (not hot) water and two tablespoons of baby shampoo or hair conditioner. Let your sweater soak for twenty or so minutes.
- Next rinse and lay the sweater flat as taut as possible while drying so your sweater will stretch back to its original shape.
Laundry hacks 23: Use a laundry folder
A clothes folder (opens in new tab) is a total game-changer. Not only will it make your clothes look so magnificently organized but you'll also get quite the zen-like buzz from the repetitive folding action.
Laundry hacks 24: Thoroughly clean your dryer vent with a paint stick
As safe laundry hacks go, this is by far the safest of them all. Full and clogged up dryer vents are known to cause home fires, so reduce that risk by making sure you remove the lint build-up regularly.
Here's how to thoroughly clean your vent:
- Wrap a damp pillowcase around a paint stick and prod it down the vent area as far as it will go.
- The trapped lint will stick to the damp pillowcase, so you can easily remove it.
Laundry hacks 25: Use tennis balls to fluff up towels
We've got the 101 on how to wash towels in our guide but one of the key takeaways is this: After air-drying your towels, chuck them in the dryer for ten minutes with tennis balls or dryer balls to make them look extra fluffy.
Laundry hacks 26: Mrs Hinch washing machine top tip
Cleaning guru, Mrs Hinch (opens in new tab) recommends not overfilling your washing machine:
"You should leave about the size of your fist at the top (of the wash). That space allows the clothes to move around the drum and the soap to clean your clothes. There’s nothing worse than having to re-wash."
Laundry hacks 27: Queen of Clean laundry top tip
Lynsey Crombie, a.k.a. the Queen of Clean (opens in new tab), makes a genius wrinkle release spray with a combination of water, cornflour and essential oils. All you do is spray it directly on to clothes and iron as normal.
Laundry hacks 28: Invest in a drying pod
It might seem a tad frivolous, but a drying pod like the Dry:Soon drying pod (opens in new tab) is one of our favorite laundry hacks. It's a time saver for those who hate to stand over an ironing board.
While it circulates hot air around your clothes (great especially in winter), it also reduces creases and ironing time.
- Did you know dehumidifiers are an efficient laundry drying alternative to tumble dryers? Read our guide to find out more.
Laundry hacks 29: Use shaving cream to remove stains
Who knew shaving creams (not a gel based version) could have their uses outside the bathroom? They are seriously good at breaking down food and greasy stains from both clothing and carpets.
- Dab a squirt of shaving cream onto the stain.
- Blot the cream in with a clean cloth and leave for around an hour.
- After the hour, remove the stain with a damp cloth.
Laundry hacks 30: Use a salad spinner to dry clothes in a hurry
You read that right. One of the quirkiest of our laundry hacks, a salad spinner will help get most of the moisture out of your clothes so they dry quicker. It's perfect if you really need that cami dry (and stat).
Make sure to hang them up after to retain shape.
Laundry hacks 31: Dry clothes with aluminum foil
As laundry hacks go, this must be the most widely used of them all. Use aluminum foil as an alternative to dryer sheets by simply scrunching it up into tight balls and adding it to your drying load for your tumble dryer.
It'll keep clothes separated and also will get rid of the static.
Laundry Hacks 32: Use hand sanitizer to remove stains
Lewis Ames of UK medical grade sanitizer & disinfectant brand Ocean Free explains more:
'Hand sanitizer has been known to work wonders on clothing stains. Prior to washing, apply to the stained area and leave to sit for a few minutes before washing the garment as usual. Just make sure you use an unscented variant.'