Laundry, Starch & Stains

SAFETY. All detergent and other cleaning liquids and powders must always be capped or lids closed tightly. Keep out of the reach of children and pets. Emphasize to your helper and young children that these substances are very poisonousness and that they are not toys.

Show your helper the pails and basins you have set aside for laundry.

  • Do you have religious beliefs which causes you to be particular about which receptacle should be used for which garment?
  • Please instruct clearly and mark the receptacle clearly with a permanent marker. 
  • Are there items which must be pre-soaked overnight?  If there are young children and pets, as a safety precaution against poisoning and drowning, keep them away from pails filled with clothes which are pre-soaking. These should be covered and the covers locked. Perhaps you might want her to use the pre-soak function in your washing machine.

Read the care labels that are attached to each garmentAs an instant visual guide for your helper, may I suggest that you print a copy and stick on the wall near where she sorts and does the laundry.

Some useful products and items for Laundry

Separate the Different types of clothes into different piles

If you have a large household, it is efficient if you provide different receptacles for sorting and each adult member pops their own laundry into these receptacles.

  • Dry cleaning (who calls the dry cleaner? Does employer or someone send them to the dry cleaner?)
  • Machine wash and hand wash
  • Sports clothes (pre-soaking needed?)
  • Dark, all whites and coloured clothes.
  • Permanent press
  • Underwear and socks (pre-soaking needed?)

Check pockets and take out loose coins etc. Zip, hook and button the garment first. Give her a container in which she is to put these items to hand to you later on.

Check if garments needs mending or sewing like replacing a lost button or re-fastening a hook etc. Do this before washing. Have you shown her where your sewing basket is? If the correct button or colour of thread is not available or some other reason prevents her from doing so, where should she place that garment till then?

Check for spots and stains. Treat them before wash.

What kind of fabric has been stained?

Use a pre-stain remover on the affected spot. Brands like Kiwi and Mr Muscle have stain remover in spray bottles. Tide has a stick form for small spots.

Shirt collar and cuff stains. Some use a bar laundry soap or few drops of hair shampoo and rub/spread it on the collar and cuffs first. Even if a gentle brush is used for these spots, the shirt colour will wear down quickly.

Some brands of detergent contains enzymes and this is helpful to remove stains from baby formula, egg, wine, blood (soak in cold water only first) and body fluids, beverages.

Go to this website to read more about stain removal.

I have found that a brand called “Napisan” or another called “Vanish” is effective in stain removal for cottons and linens and other natural materials.

There are several types of bleach in the market. Chlorine or the household bleach is not suitable for all kinds of fabric and it is harsh, removes colours, in due course will dissolve threads and has a strong stinging smell. There is oxygen bleach or colour safe bleach.

If you are not sure whether a fabric is safe to bleach? Don’t guess. Read the fabric’s care label for specific instructions. Test first for colour-fastness in an inconspicuous area by following the instructions on bleach package label.

Red wine stains. Best done quickly whilst stain is wet. Blot to remove excess. Don’t rub as this sets the stain. Apply some Club soda or white wine on the stain. Blot from outside in to stop stain from spreading.

Martha Stewart’s REAL SIMPLE has this suggestion.

You will need a large bowl, cool water, salt, pot holder, boiling water, vinegar.

  • Blot the stain;
  • Drape the stained fabric over an empty bowl, centre stain inside the rim. Using a clean dry cloth, dab the stain (don’t rub);
  • Pour cool water on stain. Must cover the entire stain;
  • Saturate stain with generous amount of salt. Let sit till salt turns pink;
  • Slowly pour boiling water onto the stain from a height of 6 to 8 inches. Let sit till stain lifts;
  • Soak in vinegar and wash. If stain doesn’t come out, soak in a solution of one part vinegar and 2 parts water;
  • Launder accordingly.
  • Except: From other sources – Red wine stained dry-clean only fabrics. These fabrics must be taken to the cleaners as soon as possible. Attempting to remove the stain at home from dry clean only fabrics can cause irreversible damage. 

For machine wash, turn clothes inside out and then proceed to wash following the machine’s cycles and instructions.

Are you using a front loading or top loading washing machine? If your machine is a front loading machine, don’t wait till you have to call the service man to repair your washer; use only a detergent that is clearly marked “low suds”.

Click here for more information.

Laundry Mesh Bags helps prevent tangled clothes

I suggest the use of laundry mesh nets to help clothes from tangling and excessive wrinkling. There are many types of mesh nets in the marketplace, viz large and small ones with either large mesh or small mesh. Even in a hand-wash cycle, those laundry nets with small mesh gives better protection to clothes with beads and sequins, tiny hooks and buttons. I highly recommend the use of laundry nets for top load machines. Top loaders have a much shorter wash cycle but they tend to cause clothes to tangle and clothes wear down faster.

HINT: Before placing garment into laundry nets,

  • Button, hook and zip laundry
  • Choose the correct net size for garment to avoid over-crowding
  • For clothing with accessories like beads or fabrics like fleece, turn garment inside out.

NEVER combine laundry detergents with ammonia or other household cleaning agents because some chemical mixtures may release irritating gases.

HINT: Here is a helpful Laundry Step-by-Step guide. You can paste this in the laundry area for reference.

My washing machine has mildew.  

  • This could be caused by too much detergent or fabric softeners. Front loading machines are filled with less amount of water than top loaders so these machines will need less detergent or fabric softeners.
  • In our humid weather, the doors should be left open to air. I use a front loading machine and somehow water collects in the gasket even when the door is left open for air circulation. She puts a piece of rag to soak up that bit of water.
  • mildew on the rubber gasket can be removed soaking a piece of fabric with a mixture of water and bleach (1:1) and leaving that piece of fabric on the mildew for an hour or so.

Please look out for a separate post entitled “Tumble Dryers N Washers – Regular Maintenance” which will be published around Jan 15th 2015.

How to starch Men’s work shirts, Cotton and linen clothing, table mats and table cloths.

From the supermarket you can buy aerosol cans of spray starch (for example one brand is “Faultless”). These are convenient but it does not starch the cotton, lace or linen item with the same crispness like the old days.

Click here to get an illustrated recipe using corn starch.

All articles that have been starched with home cooked starch must be dried under a hot sun. 

How to hand wash

Some machines have a hand wash or delicate setting. Some use special laundry nets to further protect their delicate articles.

If the label says “dry-clean only,” avoid washing it at home. If the label says “dry-clean,” you may want to try hand-washing. Before you wash the garment, check a small inconspicuous area first to make sure the fabric is colour-fast. Silk garments should not be hand-washed if they are brightly coloured, patterned, or darkly coloured, as the dyes may bleed.

To hand wash garments.

  • Use a mild detergent (several brands are found in the market place) or dish-washing liquid.
  • Fill a small tub or sink with tap water. Add about a teaspoon of detergent (more detergent if you are hand-washing a large item or multiple items).
  • Soak the item in the soapy water. Use gentle movements to swish the item through the sudsy water. Avoid scrubbing or twisting actions that can stretch or damage the fabric.
  • Drain the sink or tub, and refill it with cool water to rinse. Push the garment up and down in the water until all soap is removed. Repeat with clean water if necessary.
  • Lay washed item on a white clean towel, patting it into shape. Roll up the item and towel. Gently press on the rolled-up towel to encourage water absorption. Don’t wring. Repeat with another clean, dry towel if the first one becomes saturated.
  • Check if you need to lay item flat to dry and whether it has to be dried in direct or indirect sunlight.

How to hang clothes to dry

There are several advantages for line drying clothes. It is more cost effective than using the dryer and it keeps them from wearing out as quickly.

For machine washed garments, hang as soon as the spin cycle ends. Garments tend to wrinkle much more if they sit for too long in the machine.


  • Using proper individual hangers is helpful. Using these free hangers which came from my dry cleaner creates lots of hanging space to hang more items on the pole.

  • Give the garment a quick flip after removal from machine to straighten large wrinkles. Collars can be stretched first.
  • Zip and button where applicable; this helps clothes to have less wrinkles and maintains the shape of the clothing.
  • Some fabrics and articles should be dried flat. These include woolen sweaters. I had purchased the drying net in the photo below from Daiso. I first came across these in the United States. An alternative, send these garments to be professionally cleaned.

  • Hanging T shirts upside down helps them keep their shape.
  • Line dry towels and bed sheets till they are only slightly damp ( iron dry stage) and finish their drying in the dryer with a piece of Downy (fabric softener) saves energy cost but you still get soft towels and the lovely scent of your Downy.

Ironing and folding garments

Are you particularly fussy about how well pressed your garments are? I suggest that you provide:

  • A firm, steady and well-padded ironing board;
  • A heavy good quality steam iron
  • Spray bottle with a good nozzle
  • Clean tea towels which will be used to form an additional layer over trousers during ironing as it will prevent that gleam over time.

Decide on which garments have to be ironed, which to be placed on hangers or folded after ironing. Do you require all children’s clothes, T shirts, cotton knit garments and pajamas to be ironed or just folded? As she demonstrates how she folds your clothes, check if they are to your satisfaction.

Bed sheets and pillow cases, do they need to be ironed and folded? Does she know how to fold fitted bed sheets?

Click on this link below for a video clip illustration on how to do this.

Where and how to organise clothes in each wardrobe.

Generally, the employer and/or the spouse sets up the system of where garments and other possessions should be kept. This requires everyone to sort out what they want to keep in relation to the space they have. A tip would be to “keep like with like” and “keep items that are used most often in prime positions”. These few ideas are helpful:

  • Your wardrobe should be filled with clothes you wear often and those which appeal to you
  • Others and seasonal garments can be still accessible but stored in other parts of the home.

Your efficiency will aid not only your helper so don’t forget to:

  • Give clear instructions how you like this duty to be carried out.
  • Ensure that there are enough different hangers for the shirts, blouses, skirts and trousers and that is a rack to hang ironed laundry.
  • Provide a laundry basket so that pressed and folded can be carried to the various wardrobes for sorting.

One response to “Laundry, Starch & Stains

  1. Pingback: Essential Skills to Teach Your Helper | hints for the home·

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