+ Tips and Tricks

Nine Laundry Tips for the Aspiring Martha Stewart

We spend a lot of money on our clothes, so we have to maintain them.  Don’t risk losing your favorite sweater, jeans, or blouse to a laundry accident.  Here are nine tips that will help you channel your inner Martha Stewart and launder your clothes with the special care they deserve.


Tip No. 1: Sorting Matters.   I didn’t separate laundry until I put a pair of jeans in with my t-shirts an turned them all pale blue.  Such an epic loss will make you change your ways.

There are four laundry categories: darks, lights, towels/linens, and delicates.   Many people combine their towels with their lights, but, because towels take so long to dry, commingling increases the risk of shrinkage.

To make the sorting process easier, choose a hamper with compartments.  I own this Household Essentials hamper with two sorting sections.  I also like this three-compartment hamper attached to a rolling rack so you can hang things to dry.


Tip No. 2: Become a Master of Stain Removal.  With a bit of know-how, any stain can be removed.  This chart is a handy jumping off point, but the best stain remover is Fels Naptha.  This miracle bar will even remove those yellow underarm stains.  Just remember to let the garment sit for at least an hour (or even overnight) if you’re dealing with a tough stain, and pre-soak set-in stains.

Tip No. 3: Check Care Labels.  Know those white care-tags inside your clothes?  They tell you how to properly launder a garment.  This guide tells you how to decipher the symbols.


Tip No. 4: Not All Detergents Are Equal.  I use Woolite for nearly all of my laundry.  The mild formula protects my clothes from fading and shrinking.  I keep regular Woolite and Woolite Dark (keeps your black clothes their blackest) on hand.  It costs a bit more than other brands, so buy it at Costco.  I also recommend The Laundress delicates wash for lacy lingerie.

Concerned Woolite isn’t strong enough?  For very sweaty gym clothes or heavily soiled towels/linens, I keep a few Tide Free Pods on hand or use OxiClean.

Tip No. 5: Use Mesh Laundry Bags.  At $22 a piece, Hanky Panky thongs must be washed with care to extend their lifespan, so use mesh bags.  This keeps your delicates from getting twisted around other clothing, which can easily ruin them. You can also wash baseball caps, sleep masks, and anything you don’t want crushed in the bags.

The Laundress makes a fine mesh bag that’s perfect for lacy underthings.  For a less expensive option, try this set from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Just make sure to buy one with the zipper and not a zip-tie.  The cord can tangle in the agitator.


Tip No. 6: Dry It Right.  Be careful not to overfill your dryer, or else nothing will get dry and the clothes could tangle.  And make sure to follow the care instructions regarding heat settings; nothing ruins clothes faster than too much heat.  If I’m ever in doubt, I air dry the clothes on this hanging mesh rack.

My sensitive skin hates fabric softener, so I throw in a few tennis balls instead (if it’s too loud, use these anti-static dryer balls).  I also recommend this mesh dryer net for women who wash their gym shoes regularly.


Tip No. 7: Just Do It, Buy the Steamer.  When K moved in, he brought one semi-neurotic dog and an industrial clothing steamer.  It seemed like a fair trade.  Steaming your clothes is easier than ironing, and saves you from burning delicate fabrics with a hot iron.  This Rowenta is the best one on the market under-$150, because it allows you to steam both sides of a garment with ease.  If you don’t have space for a full-size steamer, people rave about The Joy Mangano Little Steamer.

No. 8: No Wire Hangers, Ever!  Want to send me into Joan Crawford fits of rage?  Use those crappy, wire dry cleaner hangers.  That garbage will stretch out your sleeves, snag your sweaters and snap without warning.

Instead, pick up slim, velvet flocked hangers that care for your clothes and save closet space.  Petite?  They make petite-sized hangers that won’t stretch out your shoulders.


Tip No. 9: Don’t Forget Your Shoes.  Boots looking dirty?  Don’t have time for a shine?  Buy these Jason Markk Quick Wipes to remove dirt and road salt (so important) and gently clean your footwear.  I keep a few in my desk in case I step in a puddle or something.  In a pinch, they also make a great cleaner for leather handbags.

[photos by Jennifer Debarros]



  1. caroline says:

    My mom literally divides all the colors. She looks like a crazy woman but I have to tell you my clothes growing up were always sparkling.
    x0x0 Caroline https://thecarolove.com/

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  2. LW says:

    Great post. I really need to start separating my dedicates.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  3. Cait says:

    Love this post! So many tips I need to take to heart, but I’m definitely buying Woolite for dark colors TODAY- why is it so hard to keep black pants actually black?

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  4. Jenn S. says:

    I recently (as in this week) decided to start hand-washing my lingerie items. It isn’t difficult, and the price we pay for such items warrants, in my opinion, the special attention.

    Interestingly enough, an otherwise-neglected salad spinner makes an excellent spin-cycle for delicate items.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
    • HH says:

      Hi Jenn – do you wash them in a sink or a bucket or…? I have to say that I’ve balked at hand-washing items in the sink because I’d have to scrub the sink first. And yes, I’m that lazy. 😀

      February 2, 2017/Reply
      • Jenn S. says:

        No judgment, I am too! For precisely that reason, I do everything in the spinner – soak, wash, rinse, spin. Mine is actually pretty big (too big, hence the neglect – it’s an older version this large Oxo one) https://www.amazon.com/OXO-1045421-SoftWorks-Salad-Spinner/dp/B0000644FC). Then, there’s only one thing to potentially clean up! To give you an idea of capacity, I can do 2-3 bras at a time comfortably, maybe a fourth if I got greedy. YMMV on bras – I’m a 32B; ladies with larger cup sizes may need to go with 1-2 at a time.

        If I had more to do, I’d probably use a little 3 gallon bucket or something, then spin items out in smaller batches.

        February 2, 2017/Reply
        • M says:

          Salad spinner idea is brilliant! What detergent do you use?

          February 2, 2017/Reply
          • Jenn S. says:

            Right now, I’m using a mixture of fragrance-free Oxi-Clean and Dr Bronner’s Liquid Castille soap. I measure about 1.5 Tbsp of each into a 16 oz bottle, fill it the rest of the way with water, and shake to combine. Then, I use about 2 oz of that mixture per ‘load’.

            It’s working just fine for now and treating my clothes gently, but I will probably try proper detergent intended for delicates.

            February 3, 2017/Reply
      • Amanda says:

        I use a collapsible tub in my bathroom sink:

        February 2, 2017/Reply
        • Jenn S. says:

          That tub is nice, too. I have one that I use for other things, but it would definitely work!

          February 2, 2017/Reply
  5. Desigal says:

    Plain white vinegar works as well as OxyClean for smelly gym clothes (and makes sheets and towels smell very fresh!!)

    February 2, 2017/Reply
    • M says:

      Do you add vinegar to wash cycle along with detergent?

      February 2, 2017/Reply
      • Got It At Goodwill says:

        I put vinegar in the fabric softener spot in my washing machine.

        February 2, 2017/Reply
        • julia says:

          how much to add? I have tried this, but maybe Im not adding enough since I could tell no difference. thanks

          February 2, 2017/Reply
          • Anna says:

            I add a generous splash, maybe about half a cup. I just add it in with the detergent, but I’ve read it should go in as fabric softener. I don’t use it too often, because I worry it might damage the fibers, but I do use it when they get that smell that just doesn’t go away. Comes out smelling fresh and clean.

            February 3, 2017/Reply
  6. Alison says:

    I also have sensitive skin so a few years back I switched to Arm and Hammer’s detergent that is free of perfumes and dyes. While I miss that “fresh laundry” smell, my skin is much happier and my towels never, ever get dank/musty because of the baking soda.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  7. Kate says:

    I wash my running/yoga clothes in Penguin Sport Wash in their own load – regular detergent doesn’t get the stink out of the clothes. I second Belle’s recommendation against dryer sheets – especially for technical fabrics – over time it breaks down the wicking ability!

    February 2, 2017/Reply
    • Rebecca says:

      I try to avoid drying my nice workout clothes in the dryer unless I absolutely have to. They’re so expensive and the material degrades faster in the dryer.

      February 7, 2017/Reply
  8. Erin says:

    I love those boots in the last photo! Simple design, sturdy heel, not suede. Where are they from?

    February 2, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Old Ann Taylor.

      February 2, 2017/Reply
  9. Maria says:

    Love the photos in this post!

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  10. LS says:

    I splurged on those petite slim-line hangers from Only Hangers a year ago and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my wardrobe. My blouses never have that annoying poke-line by the shoulder and generally my clothes just seem in better shape. Their pant and skirt hangers are also great!

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  11. Sinds says:

    Wow, where has this post been my entire life? I have been struggling with laundry and I needed literally all of these tips. Thank you thank you thank you.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  12. Blair says:

    Oh Lord! Laundry is definitely the worst chore. So good to see this post!

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  13. Liz says:

    Laundry bags are the BEST! In addition to my delicates, I use laundry bags for my “rough” clothes (things like sweaters with gems or sparkles that I don’t want to rip off and that might snag other clothes); clothes that should be line dried so I can pull them out quickly and throw everything else in the drier; and clothes that can easily be snagged like loose loop sweaters or anything with lace. FYI – most laundry bags can go in the drier too.

    Also, my sister lives in an apartment building with washers in the basement. The washers are industrial – think laundry mat washers – and always snag/tear her clothes. She washes everything in laundry bags.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  14. Candace says:

    I also separate out “heavy” clothes. I don’t wash dark jeans in the same load as dark tops, or lighter weight dark items. The rivets and zippers from the jeans are too hard on the other items.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  15. TheLoop says:

    Does Fels Naptha work on silk? I need something that will get rid of armpit stains from blouses. I read a tip online on using Dove soap flakes + distilled white vinegar but haven’t tried it yet.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
    • April says:

      Yes! I had a purple silk dress with a grease stain down the middle. Dry cleaners couldn’t get it out. Used fels naptha soap and took care of it. Miracle worker in my opinion.

      February 3, 2017/Reply
  16. Jessica says:

    This was so helpful! I have been looking for something exactly like the shoe wipes to protect my leather boots in between more heavy-duty cleaning/polishing sessions. Just bought them and can’t wait to try them out.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  17. Anon says:

    two recommendations:
    1. Use colour- & dirtcatcher sheets ( such as these: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_17?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=color+and+dirt+grabber&sprefix=color+and+dirt+gr%2Caps%2C356&crid=1ZKPM0RNLMYH3) in every wash – I’ve found they are very effective, and an absolute life-saver for those occasions when you missed the item that leaks colour and got caught in with a light wash. But put them either in a pocket or one of the mesh laundry bags with the small/special items, otherwise they can escape and block the drain pipe (my handyman, who had to rescue me when the washing machine wouldn’t empty, gave me a strict lecture on this! ANd if you use those little gizmos to hold socks in pairs, put the socks in mesh bags, too, to save escaping gizmos from causing blockages.)

    2. I found Deo-go very effective for underarm anti-perspirant stains; there are alos other brands, but I haven’t tried those – see: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=deo+go

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  18. Jill says:

    Great tips. As Belle discussed before, not putting bras in the dryer is helpful for longevity. I wash them in a mesh bag, dry them on a rack. Also good to wash in cold water rather than warm when possible. One thing about those velvet hangers. Guessing they could not be used for wet items or they might stain. I hang damp blouses, etc., on plastic hangers, hoping gravity will pull out some wrinkles.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
    • Rachel says:

      All of our clothes are hung on the velvet hangers, and I do hang wet items on them straight from the wash. No staining ever!

      February 2, 2017/Reply
      • Jill says:

        Oh, okay, thank you for the tip. Long ago I caused a rust stain using a wire hanger on a wet blouse. Nervous Nellie ever since. 🙂

        February 2, 2017/Reply
  19. Addie says:

    Distilled white vinegar is a natural alternative for fabric softener and doesn’t make noise like tennis balls. It also does an amazing job at removing odors. I put it in a downy ball just like regular fabric softener. And it’s safe to use on workout clothes that say no fabric softener. I use vinegar, Tide Free & Clear. If you miss the scent of fabric softener, put a few drops of essential oil on a damp washcloth and throw it in the dryer on air fluff after your stuff is dry (you can’t add it at the beginning, the heat of the dryer burns off the scent, even on low).

    Anything delicate or prone to pilling gets washed in mesh bags. I don’t hsndwssh because I’m just not convinced I can get items as clean as my washing machine. I air dry most of most items. I think a lot of clothing companies are making their clothes more cheaply so they put dry clean or hand wash only on the tag because they assume the average consumer isn’t careful about washing and drying. I have a bunch of Calvin Klein shirts, dresses and pants that all say this but It’ve had great success using the above tips. The only thing I always dry clean are suits, down comforters and outerwear.

    Last but not least, I’ve gotten blood, chocolate, printer ink and multiple other tricky stains out with Oxy Clean and a soft toothbrush. The tooth brush is key, simply spraying it on the stain doesn’t always work.

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  20. Sheena says:

    Been reading this blog for awhile now since I learned about it from Belle’s mom (I went to high school with Belle) but I have to comment for the first time because laundry is my favorite thing and these tips are all SPOT ON! One thing I would add, for the past year I have been using Woolite’s dry cleaning cloths for my work blazers and I am truly obsessed. https://www.amazon.com/Woolite-Cleaners-Cleaner-Washables-Clothing/dp/B00ED77IXS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486073851&sr=8-1&keywords=woolite+dry+clean+sheets

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  21. Robin says:

    I use tennis balls to refluff my pillows when I wash them, I’ll have to start using them for my other loads as well!

    February 2, 2017/Reply
  22. Liss says:

    Another hot tip for washing stinky sports fabrics (because I’ve noticed sometimes detergents like the Tide pods only mask it): Sports Wash https://www.amazon.com/Atsko-58471-Sport-Wash-Bottle/dp/B00194EUUW/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1486136118&sr=8-8&keywords=sports+wash It completely removes all scents (even the stinkiest – I insist my boyfriend use it after every soccer match!) , and maintains the integrity of the garment (re: the investment lululemons still wick and feel great after years of use). I grew up in a pretty rural part of the states and my friends and family who hunt use it to remove the scent from clothing before they go out – they knew what they were talking about. This stuff is the best I’ve ever used!

    February 3, 2017/Reply
  23. Kate says:

    What a useful post! Bookmarking so hard.

    February 3, 2017/Reply
  24. Shelley says:

    This post was awesome. Now I just need a post telling me how to fold my deep pocketed bed sheets. It doesn’t matter how many videos I watch I can’t.get. the. hang. of.it. UGH.

    February 7, 2017/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I gave up, I roll mine.

      February 7, 2017/Reply