Sorting It Out

Washday Helpers

Attack those difficult laundry problems with the right laundry aids. There are products to solve every kind of wash problem, attack every kind of stain, work in every type and temperature of water. Which products should you choose? Here’s a quick review to help you find the ones best for you.


Benefits: Convert soils into colourless, soluble particles which are easily removed by detergents, then carried away in the wash water. Brighten and whiten fabrics; help remove stubborn stains.

Types: Sodium hypochlorite bleaches (also called chlorine or liquid household bleach) are the more powerful laundry bleaches; they disinfect, as well as clean and whiten. They work on many whites and colourfast washables but not on wools or silks. Oxygen (colour-safe) bleaches are more gentle, working safely on all washable fabrics. They work best in maintaining whiteness, not in restoring it.

Techniques: For Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach, read the label and dilute as directed. For best results, add 5 minutes after the wash cycle has begun to agitate in order to avoid destroying enzymes and fluorescent whiteners in the detergent.

For Oxygen Bleach, add directly to the wash water before the clothes are added. Do not pour powdered bleach directly on wet clothes. Most effective in warm-to-hot water.

IMPORTANT: Have doubts whether a garment is safe to bleach? Don’t guess – you may be sorry! Read the garment’s care label for specific instructions. Test first for colourfastness in an inconspicuous area by following the instructions on bleach package label.

Enzyme Pre-Soaks

Benefits: Especially effective in removing protein stains, like baby formula, blood, body fluids, dairy products, eggs and grass. When added to the wash water, they also boost the cleaning power of the detergent.

Type: Powders

Technique: Pre-soak laundry in the washer, sink or a pail before washing. Follow the label directions.

Fabric Softeners

Benefits: Decrease static cling, which is especially useful when washing permanent-press and synthetic fibres. Make fabrics softer and fluffier, reduce drying time, reduce wrinkling and make ironing easier.

Types: Liquid fabric softeners go into the final rinse water; one type can also be used on a cloth and tossed into the dryer. Follow the label directions.
Softener sheets go into the dryer.
Packet-type softeners attach to the fin of the dryer drum.

Techniques: When adding liquid softeners to the rinse water, be sure to dilute first. Do not pour directly on fabrics, because this may cause staining or spotting.
IMPORTANT: Fabric softeners may reduce the effectiveness of flame retardancy on fabrics, like those used in children’s sleepwear.

Prewash Soil And Stain Removers

Benefits: Effective in pre-treating heavily soiled and stained garments, especially those made from polyester fibres. Work well on oil-based stains like animal fats, body soils, cooking oils, cosmetics and motor oils. Soap bars work well on fabric softener, perspiration and tobacco stains.

Types: Liquids, sprays, gels, sticks and soap bars

Techniques: It’s best to treat the stain as quickly as possible. Use liquid, gel and spray removers just before washing the garment. If the stain still remains, apply a second treatment, rubbing directly into the stain.
When using the stick type, immediately rub the stick on the fresh stain, then set it aside and wash it later, even as long as a week.
IMPORTANT: Do not use pre-wash soil and stain removers on neon and fluorescent colours. The colours might fade or run.

Starches, Fabric Finishes And Sizing

Benefits: Give body to fabrics, make fabrics more soil-resistant and make ironing easier.

Types: Powders, liquids and sprays.

Techniques: Use starches on cottons and cotton blends and use fabric finishes and sizings on synthetic fabrics.

Water Softeners

Benefits: Help detergents do their job better by inactivating calcium and magnesium minerals which make water hard.

Types: Powders and liquids.

Techniques: Add powders to the wash or rinse water. Add liquids to rinse water only.

Label Savvy

Don’t guess, read the product label. It’s the way to get the best possible results from any product, wash after wash. There’s more on the label than you might think.

What's In A Name?

Look closely, as the name and the product’s identifiers say a lot. A few facts to look for: Is the product a liquid or a powder? Is it a general purpose or a light duty product? Is it concentrated? Is it a multi-purpose combination detergent with extras added, like a bleach or a fabric softener? Is it fragrance free? If the product is a bleach, is it a sodium hypochlorite (chlorine) or an oxygen (colour-safe) type?

The Ingredients

You will often find an ingredient statement, which includes such facts as the ingredient composition of the product and whether or not a fragrance has been added. Some statements add the generic names of the ingredients plus their functions.

Read The Directions First!

Find out the recommended temperature of the wash and rinse waters; the best wash cycle to choose; how much product to use; when to use more – or less; on which fabrics to use the product; in which order to add the detergent, clothes and water.

Laundering Tips

You’ll find special techniques and when to use them: pre-soaking, pre-treating, pre-washing, bleaching. Also, look for helpful hints on removing stains, keeping “whites” white and colours bright.

Cautions And What To Do If

Here you will find common sense guidelines against misuse. Plus, first aid information for what to do in case someone accidentally swallows the product or splashes it in their eyes. Liquid detergents also warn against using the package for storing beverages or other liquids, since the package is not food-safe. If refills are available, refilling the package with the same product is fine.

Phosphorous Content

Does the product contain phosphates? This statement or a code on the package tells the amount of phosphorus in the product by weight.

Biodegradable Statement

Sometimes appears on the label to state that the product contains biodegradable surfactants and enzymes.

Environmental Statement

Tells if the package can be recycled, if the package is made from recycled paper or plastic and new innovations in product packaging.

Contract The Manufacturer

Call toll free. Look on the label for the 800-number. Call to get more information about the product; obtain help in using the product; submit comments about the product. Or, look on the label for the manufacturer’s name and address, then write.

Garment Savvy

Check the Care Label

To give you the best of wear, your clothes need the best of care. Check these labels carefully. They are your best guide for what to do and what not to do. The manufacturers know their garments well: their fabrics, their construction, the dyes. Always follow their instructions! TIP: Some care labels state: “Use A Mild Detergent.” In this case, use a light duty detergent. A general purpose detergent may cause light spots to appear on the garment, especially on pastel-coloured cotton fabrics. Should such spotting occur, soak the entire garment in a solution of 4 parts water and one part general purpose detergent. This lightens the entire garment and evens out the colour.

First Time Around

Have doubts if a new garment is colourfast? Test it first! Here are two tests to try:

  • Wash it separately the first time around. If there is colour left in the wash water, continue washing it separately the second time, the third time and so forth, until the colour no longer bleeds into the water.
  • Apply a little water or detergent on an inconspicuous area. If the colour runs, wash it separately.

Sorting Secrets

There’s more to the sorting game than just keeping dark garments away from the gleaming whites. The secret is mixing and matching items into loads that need similar soaps or detergents, wash cycles and water temperatures. It’s the time to check those garment care labels for special cleaning instructions. Without a doubt, smart sorting is the way of insuring clean results, wash after wash after wash.

First, Sort By Colour

Wash all whites separately; pastels and medium colours together; brights and darks by themselves. Pay special attention to white and lightly coloured synthetics; they can pick up dark dyes from other fabrics during washing. Check trimmings and decorations for colourfastness too.

Second, Sort For Soil

Sort out those heavily soiled items away from the lightly soiled ones, since lightly soiled items can pick up the extra soil from the wash water. Whites will slowly get greyer or yellower; colours will become duller and duller.

Third, Consider Speciality Sorts

  • The Unmatched Set: Mix small and large items together in each load. This lets clothes move more freely, resulting in better washing.
  • The Fabric Types: Consider the fabrics and how they are constructed. Separate loosely knitted garments and delicates from regular wash loads, then wash on the gentle cycle.
  • The Lint Losers: Fuzzy sweat shirts, chenille robes, flannels and new towels have a tendency to share their lint with other garments during washing. Wash them in a load by themselves away from corduroys and permanent press garments, which attract lint easily.
  • The Fluorescents: Hot pinks, bright greens, electric blues are often much less colourfast than other fabrics. Wash them separately or test them first before washing with other colours. For safety’s sake do not pre-treat with stain removers unless you have tested them for colourfastness first on an inconspicuous area. Fluorescent colours may fade over time.

Spot Attack

Take care to wash away any spots and stains on your washables. Here are a few tips:

Identify The Spot

The more you know about what made the spot or stain, the more likely you are to treat it appropriately. This means you have a better chance to remove it, plus you are less likely to set it further by using the wrong treatment. When in doubt, rinse or soak in cold water before treating or laundering.

Treat The Spot Immediately

The sooner you attack the spot, the easier it is to remove. Get into the habit of checking freshly washed wet clothes for stains that don’t wash away. Instead of drying them, pre-treat the stains and wash them again. Drying can permanently set the stains.


Pre-treating a stain before it is dried or set increases your chances for removing it. Use a pre-wash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or a paste made from a powdered laundry detergent and a little water. First, test for colourfastness by pre-treating a seam or other inconspicuous area. Then, launder the entire garment with a detergent – plus a bleach that’s safe for the fabric.

Blot It Out

Sponge a stain, don’t rub it. Rubbing only spreads it and may even damage the fabric.

Beverage Stains

Beverages containing sugar, such as wine or ginger ale, may seem to disappear. But don’t be fooled, they may still be there! Once the stain has been exposed to air, the sugar oxidizes and leaves an invisible stain, which ultimately turns yellow or brown. The stain never left; it was there all along. The remedy is to treat even those light stains you can’t see immediately, before they dry.

Using A Bleach

Prevent uneven colour changes by bleaching the entire garment, not just the stain.

Old Stains

Old stains rarely fade away, but it’s possible! Try pre-treating or soaking in a product containing enzymes, then launder.

Wash It Away

After treating a stain, launder the complete garment to remove any residue left from the stain or stain remover.

Laundry Tips

  • For the best washing action, mix large items like sheets with a few smaller items, like blouses or hand towels, in the same colour range. Avoid wrapping sheets around the agitator post of the washer. They need to be free to move easily.
  • The recommended amount of detergent on the label is based on average conditions: 5 to 7 pounds of clothes which are moderately soiled and are washed in an average amount of moderately hard water. Change any of these conditions and you should change the amount of detergent. More detergent may be needed for: larger loads, heavily soiled clothes, a larger-capacity washer, hard water conditions. Slightly less detergent may be used if the water is soft, the clothes are only lightly soiled or the wash load is small.
  • For the best cleaning action, clothes need room to move freely. Plus, there must be enough free water to carry away the soil easily. Fill the tub loosely, not completely.
  • Detergents work best in warm-to-hot wash water. Consider using cold water only for washing clothes whose colours might fade or clothes that are only lightly soiled.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s labels and add products accordingly. Some products like oxygen bleaches are added to the wash water before the clothes are added. Liquid fabric softeners go into the rinse water.
  • Cold rinse water saves energy, makes ironing easier and helps prevent permanent press fabrics from wrinkling.
  • Don’t overload the dryer. Clothes need room to tumble freely in order to dry fast and wrinkle-free.
  • Use the specially designed permanent press wash and dry cycles for permanent press fabrics, To minimize wrinkling, the wash cycle has a special cool-down rinse; the drying cycle, a cooling-down period.
  • To save energy, always wash a full load or match the water level setting to the amount of clothes being washed. When washing small loads, use a lower water setting.