Interior design is a really personal business. We not only choose the nightstand (and, ideally, help to build and finish the wall that nightstand rests against), but we talk about what’s on top of the nightstand, and what’s inside the nightstand, and all that jazz.
Well, not all of it. But you get the idea.
The other day, my client Barb and I got to discussing white laundry, and how to keep it bright.
“What do you do?” she asked.
“You really want to know?” I replied. “It’s kind of insane.”
“Yes,” she said, and so I told her.
And she got excited. And took notes. And then texted me from the grocery store whilst buying supplies. And then went home and tried it.
I decided that it would be a shame to keep my crazy white laundry shenanigans a secret any longer.
Tip 1: GEAR
When you have the opportunity, buy a top-loading machine with an agitator. That tip comes from my mother, and my mother-in-law, and my husband, who insisted upon it, and my clients, and myself. When we ditched the front-loader, our whites came out brighter.
Tip 2: SUDS
I use Tide, and not too much. Using more detergent acts as an attractant and actually can make things dirtier. I use chlorine bleach for cotton only — and only on specific cycles (keep reading). I also use 1/4 cup of Borax – a natural detergent booster and brightener, in every load. And OxiClean — at least two scoops.
When my towels start to get stiff, it means there’s a detergent build-up, so I’ll soak them in hot water, 3-4 cups of vinegar, and a cup of OxiClean for a day or two, and then wash with just a tablespoon of detergent. I do this maybe once a year.
Tip 3: THE DOUBLE WASH
This is my mother’s epic trick. Double-wash your whites. Hot water sets stains, so wash whites first in cold with Tide, Borax and OxiClean to release the heavy stuff, and then wash them again in hot water with all of the above and chlorine bleach. I do this every time I wash whites.
Tip 4: THE LONG SOAK
When your husband’s favorite white button-up gets those telltale yellow marks beneath the arms, or your white sheets start looking a little sad, then it’s time for the long soak. In your bathtub or a large deep sink, soak the laundry in lots of hot water, 1/4 C Tide, and 3-4 Cups of OxiClean. Weigh the items down with heavy bowls to keep them submerged. I do this for 48 hours, stirring things around once or twice, and then launder as usual — with more OxiClean and chlorine bleach.
(This post NOT sponsored by OxiClean — and darn it.)
Tip 5: SHAKE YOUR TOWELS
Before you place wet towels in the dryer, give them a shake. This is supposed to keep them fluffier over time. I don’t know if it really works, but I do it. And my towels are lofty and great. (Again, the Macy’s Hotel Collection MicroCotton Towels are my favorite. I’ve been hoarding them for 12 years.)
Tip 6: KITCHEN CLOTHS
I wish I could tell you about my secret tip for removing cocoa powder stains, tomato sauce stains, and all that manner of mess. But here’s what I do: I buy affordable kitchen bar mops, use them and wash them and bleach them until they’re past help, and then I throw them all away and start over.
A package of bar mops is $5. I might spend $10-$15 per year on towels. And I’m OK with that. (Try these. I’m not picky. I buy them wherever I happen to be when it occurs to me that I can’t look at mine a second longer.)
P.S. My friend Linda Cobb, also known as the famous Queen of Clean (yes, her!) has more genius white laundry tips in her books, and also online here. I think she’s fantastic. And now I want to try dishwashing powder on my kitchen cloths.