Home Washing Guide – Laundry Products

As water doesn’t clean laundry on it’s own, our society has managed to come up with a variety of laundry “aids”. Some work and some don’t. Some are harmful to fabric and to the environment. Most, however, are very helpful in producing clean laundry. It is important to choose the right product for the job. Pay attention to garment Care Labels, and follow Product Label instructions for use. Here is helpful information about Detergents, Bleaches, Bluing, Fabric Softeners and Starch.

Detergents

Detergent is needed in every wash load. There are several types and brands of laundry detergent available. Keep in mind that package recommendations are for an “average” load with “average” soil in 16 gallons of water of “average” hardness.

More detergent may be needed for large loads, extremely dirty clothes, or in hard water.
Less detergent may be needed for small loads, lightly soiled clothes, or in soft water.

Detergents may have two major ingredients:

  • Surfactants (surface active agents) make water wetter by reducing surface tension and letting fabric absorb it more quickly. They are biodegradable and easily broken down in the ecosystem.
  • Builders or phosphates are rarely used anymore, as they have been found to be harmful to the environment and have been government banned under “Clean Detergent” acts in many states.

More detergent tips:

  • Add your detergent, whether liquid or powder, to your washer as it is filling up and before adding your clothes. Dissolved, diluted detergent has a better opportunity to spread evenly throughout your wash. This will also lessen the chance for detergent curding, linting or pilling.
  • Do not be concerned with “suds levels”.
  • Cold water detergents are generally as effective as warm/hot water detergents for commonly soiled clothing and they save energy.

Bleaches

Bleach is an excellent stain and heavy soil remover. It also provides a disinfectant action. When used correctly, it can serve as a whitener as well. Of course, we recommend the use of Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing for whitening, as it is more effective and less damaging. As always – follow the Product Label instructions and pay attention to garment Care Labels.

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine Bleach can be identified by the word “chlorine” or “hypochlorite” on the package. It comes in both liquid and powdered form. It can be used for laundering all fabrics except silk, wool, spandex, non-colorfast fabrics, and certain flame retardant finishes. If the garment Care Label says “No Bleach” or “No Chlorine Bleach”, do not use it. Liquid chlorine bleach is a powerful chemical and must be used according to Product Label instructions. Powdered chlorine bleach is not as caustic as liquid – but must be diluted and handled with care. When used incorrectly, chlorine bleach can permanently discolor and damage fabric fibers. Applied directly, it can burn holes in your fabric. Safety should be observed when using chlorine bleach, as it is highly toxic. Never mix chlorine bleach with ammonia, rust removers, vinegar, cleaning fluids, or acids. These chemicals can produce toxic gases when combined.

Oxygen Bleach

Oxygen bleach is “safe for all fabrics” or “all fabric bleach”. However, if garment Care Label says “No Bleach”, oxygen bleach should not be used. This type of bleach is most effective when used consistently. It is not strong enough to restore whiteness to garments that have become gray and dingy or to be considered a “stain remover”. It may be added in the recommended amount along with the detergent when loading the washer. Follow Product Label instructions.

Bleach Dispensers

Many washing machines provide a bleach dispenser. When used per the Manufacturer’s Instructions, they work very well at dispensing the bleach when the washer is at its fullest, and the clothes have already been saturated, thus reducing bleach damage, which can occur when undiluted bleach comes in contact with fabric – particularly dry fabric. Do not add powdered bleach to a bleach dispenser unless otherwise recommended by the machine manufacturer.

Bluing

Bluing is a fabric whitener. When fabric is manufactured, it begins as a grayish product – correctly called “gray goods”. These “gray goods” go through a rigorous process of chemical bleaching, cleaning and finally bluing to make them appear sparkling white in color. As the fabric experiences repeated washings and age, the bluing escapes and the gray or yellowish color returns. Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing provides an opportunity for the consumer to add the bluing back in, thus restoring the just-new white appearance. Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing is biodegradable, nontoxic and environmentally friendly. Always follow the instructions for using Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing. It is important not to use too much bluing. If you do, follow the instructions for removal of excess bluing.

Fabric Softeners

Fabric softener eliminates “static cling” from permanent press garments and from those made of nylon, polyester, and acrylic. It also minimizes wrinkling and makes clothes soft and fluffy. There are several types of fabric softener on the market:

  • Detergents with fabric softeners.
  • Rinse-added fabric softeners.
  • Dryer-added fabric softener sheets.
  • Fabric softeners used in the final rinse are the most effective over-all.

Be sure to follow Product Label instructions for use. Here are some general tips about using final rinse fabric softeners:

  • Dilute and then add to the rinse water when the rinse indicator light comes on.
  • If you have a fabric softener dispenser – follow machine Manufacturer’s Instructions for use.
  • Do not use any other additive in the rinse cycle with your fabric softener or pour fabric softener directly onto clothes as grease-like stains may occur.
  • Too much fabric softener can cause buildup which will “waterproof” items such as towels and diapers causing them to be less absorbent and causing a “graying” effect. If this should happen, discontinue use of fabric softener for a few washes to allow buildup to dissolve and rinse away.

Starch

Modern fibers and fabric finishes have reduced the need for starch. For that occasional need, however, there are starch products available. Follow Product Label instructions for use.