This is part four in my Cleaning House series, because I seriously love cleaning. Part One (clean air) is here, and Part Two (washing the dishes) is here. Part Three (homemade cleaner recipes) is here. Since this is part of a series, I will take a minute to restate my principles of house cleaning. (I say this in complete seriousness, but I also see the hilarity and luxury in having principles of house cleaning.)
- Clean does not have a scent.
- Cleaning does not need to involve separate purchased products for every possible eventuality.
- Perfectly simple and effective ingredients that you probably already have on hand in your kitchen can clean your whole house effectively.
- Reusable is better than disposable.
- Soap and hot water will take care of pretty much everything.
I started washing all of my own laundry when I was in grade 7. I had an ivory silk blouse (I know!) with ruffly things like a poet's shirt that had been a back-to-school purchase from my mother. For some reason, I vividly remember the day - they also had white t-shirts by the Reitman’s entrance that said in graphic rainbow letters “I’m too sexy for this shirt”. (You're welcome - enjoy having that song in your head all week.) The details of the exact washing incident are less clear, but I do remember being extremely resistant to advice (I may still be, just a bit) - one thing led to another, and when my prized blouse was pulled out of the washing machine, it had dark pink streaks all over it. I was so disappointed.
I also remember one weekend afternoon in grade 8, talking on the phone with my friend Erin after I had washed, dried, and put away all of my laundry, and tidied my room. I felt so satisfied, comfortably lying on my bed with so few other responsibilities, (and probably the prospect of a good book lying ahead) and I remember describing that feeling to her over the phone.
All of that to say that I've always enjoyed doing laundry, despite the occasional mishap. It’s the starting point if I have a long list of house to-do’s on a weekend, and even if that’s the only thing that gets done, it still feels so very satisfying. It’s an easy way to get that cleaning momentum going, hands-on time is minimal, and clothes go in dirty and come out clean! What’s not to love?!
Laundry over the past two summers has been a bit more eventful, since our well was dry for the end of last summer, and most of this summer. We’ve been having it filled, and we’re lucky - firstly, we can afford it, which not everyone can - and many, many local wells have been dry this summer - and we can go for 8-9 days using it for all of our regular household water needs except for laundry. Since June, the boys and I would pack up the laundry and spend an afternoon at my parents’ house to get it washed. When their well got low, we got creative and spent a bit of time at the laundromat (which the boys absolutely loved), and I started asking friends what their water situation was before I would go to visit, bringing a basket along too. I can’t wait to be able to wash the laundry at home again. It’s supposed to rain a fair bit this week, which is making me very hopeful!
Detergent: My favourite from the grocery store is Down East Liquid. It’s unscented, works really well on just about every stain and type of dirt, and is inexpensive. Only 2 tbsp are needed per load in a high efficiency washer, and so a jug lasts us about 4 months. For around $12 from the grocery store, I’m pretty pleased with that and have been using it for a decade. It’s also EcoLogo certified (safe for our septic system and biodegrades) and is made right here in Nova Scotia. Recently, I've been using my own detergent from a recipe in The Hands-On Home, and I like it a lot. It’s even less expensive, and I get the satisfaction of making something from scratch. (There are a million and one recipes online to try, too; I think I'm going to try this one next.) I like that I can customize the scent a bit depending on the oils I add. They texture is a bit strange (kind of a goopy slop, but not as bad as that makes it sound.) I keep it in a cleaned empty cat litter plastic bucket (Compliments brand from Sobeys) which does the job perfectly. A scoop of about ⅓ cup goes in per load, and I add it directly in with the clothes, rather than putting it into the detergent compartment. The clothes come out clean, aside from the occasional spot which needs a bit of pre-treatment before another wash (I like Ecover Stain Remover, pictured below). For grease spots, I have a bottle of cheap dishwashing liquid that works well as a pre-wash treatment.
When the boys were babies and in diapers, we primarily used cloth diapers. Our old gifted washer died when Phillip was just a few months old, and we splurged and bought a fancy one. It is now 9 years old, and we have not had a single issue with it. It has the option of setting custom cycles, so I created a sanitizing super hot diaper cycle with an extra rinse, which I would always run with a small scoop of OxyClean (least expensive at Costco, by far). Stripping the diapers every now and then in a super hot load with vinegar and hanging them on the clothesline in the sun was one of my favourite tasks when the boys were little. Small victories with little ones underfoot go a long way.
To light loads, and to loads of our white towels, I usually add a small scoop of OxyClean powder to the wash. It’s a habit that I started when the boys were really young and their clothes were always covered in food bits, grass stains, and everything else imaginable. It is sodium percarbonate, which breaks down into borax and water. There are also “green” brands available, like Nellie’s and Nature Clean, which don’t have the blue specks throughout. But the price of the OxyClean brand at Costco combined with the amount of laundry that we do makes that my first choice. (Also since my in-laws have a membership and will often very generously pick up things for us, sometimes it’s even free.)
Drying time! We definitely use the dryer, but I love my clothesline. Our line isn’t super long, so I can’t hang out a ton at a time. It is also generally very humid here, so sometimes it is just not practical to spend time hanging the clothes out for the day, only to have to put them in the dryer after they come in. I don’t use any fabric softener. It’s an expensive, unnecessary bunch of chemicals that you really don’t need to be putting out into the water system, and if you buy the fabric softener sheets, they just go into the garbage. What a waste! I’ve tried a few types of dryer balls, and my sister actually gave me some gorgeous New Zealand wool ones not long ago that I sometimes remember to put back in the dryer. I don’t find they make much of a difference in the amount of static, but they do help to separate the items as they bounce around, which is helpful for sheets and larger items. I sometimes put a few drops of essential oil on them for a bit of gentle scent. Oh, and please don’t forget to clean your lint trap every time you use the dryer! Not only will you prevent a potential fire, but it also allows your dryer to run much more efficiently, saving time and electricity. Cleaning the outside vent and the dryer hose every few months is one of those boring but necessary little jobs that just takes a few minutes, but could absolutely prevent a fire, so be sure to get that done, and especially during the winter when the dryer is being used more often.
Used clothes washing/drying tip! Anyone who shops at thrift stores might be familiar with that smell. At our local chain of thrift stores, Frenchy’s, bales of clothes are sprayed with something before they are shipped to stores. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it has a very distinct scent, and I was told that it’s to prevent insects and/or mildew, etc. from damaging the clothes in transit. Gross, I know. But in the grand scheme of things, I’d rather buy used clothes with that in mind rather than new with all of the environmental impacts associated with clothes manufacturing. Over the years, I’ve found a system that works for me: washing items in the warmest water they’ll tolerate, an extra rinse with a bit of vinegar, and hanging items out on the clothesline overnight (bonus points if it’s foggy or snowing) goes a long way to help get rid of that scent. It will fade over time anyway, but I like to get rid of it as quickly as I can.
Well, who knew there was so much to say about laundry? I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really do enjoy it. Happy laundering!