We got down and dirty with the experts about how to make short work of laundry day.
Pre-Treat Promptly. Stash a stain removal pen or wipe in your purse and car to deal with coffee spills, lipstick smudges and other stains as they occur. “If you can’t get to the spot right away, mark it with a safety pin so you can easily find it again,” says home care expert Cindy Harris, author of Keeping House.
Stop the "Missing Sock" Search. Mary Johnson, fabric care principal scientist for Tide and Downy, suggests washing longer socks, anklets and no-show styles in one mesh bag that you can transfer directly to the dryer. If half of a pair goes MIA, toss it in a bin to match with its mate later.
Wash Away. Stuffing the machine can create wrinkles and keep clothes from getting clean. For best results, leave a gap about the width of your hand between the top (or front) of the drum and the laundry, and follow detergent dosage guidelines. Remove items immediately to prevent creases.
Loosen Up. To dry clothes uniformly, don’t over-pack the drum—it should be half full on permanent press and three-quarters full on normal loads. For efficiency, Johnson separates wet clothes into slow-drying (jeans, sweatshirts) and quick-drying (T-shirts, dress shirts) batches. Untangle pieces, shake each one out and place in dryer separately to avoid wrinkling. Line- or hang-dry what you can to save even more time.
Supply Smarts. Mount a shelf above your appliances (out of reach of small children), or designate a cabinet for essentials—detergents, pre-treaters, softeners and dryer sheets. While you’re at it, carve out space for folding and keep the area clear.
Perform Pocket Checks. Stray tissues, pens and gum can make a major mess. Johnson places a small bowl by the washer as a visual reminder to give each garment a once-over prior to loading.
Divide and Conquer. To speed up the sorting process, put a hamper with separate sections for whites, lights, darks and delicates in each family member’s bedroom. Set up a centralized basket for dirty towels and a bin for dry-clean items.
Skip Ironing. A few minutes before the dryer cycle ends, Harris takes slightly damp clothes out of the machine and hangs them to prevent wrinkling. Another way to refresh clean but crumpled items: tumble them with a moistened, lint-free towel on a low setting for 5 to 10 minutes. Or try Rowenta’s latest handheld steamer, which heats up in 45 seconds. Rowenta X-CEL Steam Hand Steamer, bedbathandbeyond.com, $70
Upgrade Your Appliances. Today’s high-efficiency machines can hold up to four baskets’ worth of clothing. Other energy-efficient models have their own built-in time-savers. LG’s new TWIN Wash with Sidekick system lets you simultaneously run a regular load and a delicates-only wash in a smaller, secondary compartment. LG TWIN Wash with Sidekick Pedestal Washer, lg.com for stores; $1,399 to $1,799 for TWIN Washers and $699 to $779 for Sidekick Pedestal Washer
No More Eyeballing. Just pop a premeasured detergent capsule (or two for heavy soil levels) in per load of laundry, and it’ll dissolve in water of any temperature. Tide Pods Plus Febreze, tide.com for stores, $8/23-pack, and Vaska One Scent-Free Laundry Detergent Tablets, soap.com, $10/25 tablets