It’s not surprising that laundry is considered one of the most hated chores in America. It’s a time-intensive activity that never seems to end, so much so that hitting the bottom of your laundry basket can feel like a major personal accomplishment. But unless you can afford to buy new clothes every week and throw out the old, this is one chore you can’t escape.
However, you can avoid overworking your washer and dryer. Putting your laundry appliances through harsh wear and tear (which you may not even be aware you’re doing) can shorten their life span, but it could also have other negative effects—you could be ruining your clothes.
To help you sort out your laundry habits, we spoke with some experts who clued us in to the things they wish people knew about common washer and dryer maintenance and cleaning practices.
1. You don’t need that much detergent
If detergent cleans your clothes, then more of it will make your clothes even cleaner, right? Nope, not necessarily.
“More detergent can leave your clothes feeling soapy and crusty, and it will make your washing machine work harder,” says David Moreno, co-founder of Liberty Home Guard. “Your washing machine may trigger extra rinse cycles if it believes there is still soap in the drum.”
These extra cycles cause unnecessary wear and tear on your machine, he says, cutting short the life span of your appliance.
2. Give those dryer sheets a break
When something works, there’s a tendency to overdo it. Just as you may use too much detergent, you may be using too many dryer sheets. According to Moreno, many people tend to double up.
“Dryer sheets leave residue behind that can reduce the efficiency of your dryer,” he says. “That additional residue may clog your lint screen and reduce air circulation throughout your machine.”
Without proper circulation, your dryer could overheat, and might cause a house fire.
3. You need to balance the items in your machines
We know you’re busy, and it’s so tempting to randomly throw items into the washing machine. But an unbalanced washer can damage the drum and other interior parts. That’s why it’s important to wash bulky items in pairs and fill the washer to its capacity.
Be sure to keep the balance when using your dryer, too.
“Don’t dry bedsheets and towels together since bedsheets are a much lighter-weight fabric and could overdry waiting for the towels to finish,” says Billy Miller, an expert at the Whirlpool Corporation Institute of Home Science.
4. Those water fill hoses are probably filthy
You likely don’t pay a lot of attention to the water fill hoses attached to your washing machine. However, according to Benjamin Joseph, co-founder at Liberty Home Guard, hundreds of loads of laundry, and dirty water, can cause a buildup of gunk.
“Your discharge hose needs to be clear if you want your washer to remove grey water efficiently,” says Joseph. “If you notice your hoses are gunky or damaged, replace them.”
5. Fabric softener can make your clothes last longer
Fabric softener can do more than just eliminate static cling and make your clothes smell good.
According to Laura Goodman, senior scientist for Procter & Gamble fabric care, when added to your washer, it can also make your clothes last longer.
“Garment fibers are similar to hair fibers and, over time, can be damaged from rubbing against other clothes in the wash and the heat of the dryer,” she says. “A fabric conditioner acts similarly to a hair conditioner, smoothing the fibers to prevent friction in the washer and dryer that leads to stretch, fade, and fuzz on garments.”
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