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Level Up Your Laundry Game With These 10 Simple, Cost-Saving Hacks

These money-saving laundry tricks can help you banish wrinkles and remove stains without spending a dime.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Brittany Vincent
Brittany Vincent is a freelance social-media producer at CNET.
Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
Expertise Home Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacks Credentials
  • National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
Alina Bradford
Brittany Vincent
Alison DeNisco Rayome
7 min read
washing machine and basket of clothes

Laundry can be a drag, but there are ways to make the most out of the time you spend washing clothes.

Cris Cantón/Getty Images

Doing laundry doesn't have to be the worst part of your day. It may be one of the most dreaded chores on your list, but there are ways to make using your washing machine something you actually look forward to. With a few clever tricks, you can get your clothes looking cleaner, brighter and fresher than ever, and solve a few frustrating issues while you're at it. It's time to bid farewell to missing socks, tough stains and faded whites once and for all. 

The 10 tips below can also help you save some time and money as you do your laundry -- or at least simplify and streamline your laundry experience. 

For more laundry hacks, check out tips on how to kill mold in your washerenergy-saving ways to do laundry and how to stop liquid detergent from spilling everywhere.

1. Make your laundry smell great without dryer sheets

We love using dryer sheets for all kinds of household uses, but we're kind of done using them in the dryer: They can create a sticky film that covers the lint trap and the exhaust hose, blocking airflow. In the end, the dryer works less efficiently, and you use more electricity to get your clothes dry.

If static cling isn't a problem, a drop or two of your favorite essential oil is a much easier, customizable and eco-friendly way to make your laundry smell great. Dampen an old, clean sock and dab it with two drops of rose, lavender or peppermint extract, then, turn it inside out and throw it in the dryer with the rest of your clothes. The oil will only leave residue on the sock, not your clothes or lint trap.

We like to experiment with oils from Plant Therapy and customize by mixing and matching their extract combinations.

2. Put foil in the dryer

If you do have trouble with static cling, you still don't have to resort to dryer sheets. They're single-use products that produce excess waste and emit potentially harmful chemicals into the air. 

To tame static in the dryer, just toss in a couple of balls of aluminum foil. The balls discharge static buildup, preventing your clothing from sticking together. They're chemical-free and the same dryer balls can be reused dozens of times.

Three balls of aluminum foil

Foil dryer balls can prevent static in the dryer.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Depending on the size of the load, you will need two or three foil balls, each between 2 and 3 inches in diameter. Use approximately 3 or 4 square feet of foil for each ball, compressing it as tightly as you can with your hands and making sure to press down any pieces that may snag on clothing or undo the ball.

3. Never lose a sock again

Don't be resigned to winding up with unmatched socks. Just gather up all your dirty socks and throw them in a mesh laundry bag before putting them in the washing machine. 

laundry socks

Never leave a sock behind again.

Peter Cade

Keep them in the sack when you dry them and only remove the socks when you're putting them away. It's a foolproof method to leave no sock behind.

4. Add a little blue to white your load

Mrs. Stewarts Concentrated Liquid Bluing

Adding a slight blue dye to a load of whites can actually make the items appear more white.

Mrs. Stewart's

If you want your whites to be super-white, try bluing. Blue tint -- sold as bluing, laundry blue, dolly blue or washing blue -- can be found in most grocery store laundry aisles, and adds a little blue dye to a load of laundry.

Mrs. Stewart's Concentrated Liquid Bluing is one of the most popular brands and dates all the way back to 1883.

Now, this isn't like accidentally dropping a red towel into a white load: The addition of a slight touch of blue fools the eye into thinking the laundry is whiter and brighter. 

Bluing is a great way to brighten linens, towels, button-down shirts and even curtains that have yellowed.

Bonus tip: Hanging white laundry in the sun to dry can naturally bleach them without dyes. 

5. Turn that top inside out

Keep your favorite little black dress or distressed jeans from fading by simply turning them inside out before you toss them in the washer. That ensures that the part no one will see gets more abrasion from the washing, spin and rinse cycles than the outside.

Pro tip: To keep your darks vibrant, wash them in cold water and hang dry. That will set the dye to the fabric, so it doesn't bleed into the wash water and fade.

Read more: Tips to Prevent Your Clothes From Fading

6. Restore a shrunken sweater with baby shampoo

In the haste of getting the laundry done, we've all accidentally tossed a favorite wool sweater into the washer or dryer -- only to find it comes out four sizes too small.

woman laments a shrunken sweater

You can still save that shrunken sweater.

Chip Simons/Getty Images

Don't send it to Goodwill just yet. Mix a solution of cool water and baby shampoo -- or hair conditioner -- in a bucket or sink and submerge the shrunken garment for at least 30 minutes. The shampoo will relax the wool fibers, letting you (gently) stretch the garment back to its original size. 

It's not a foolproof method, though: If the fibers are fully felted (i.e., shrunken and tightly smooshed together) they can't be stretched back to their original shape.

6. Dry clothes faster with a clean towel

Turning up the heat on the dryer will make your clothes dry faster, sure. But the more heat you use, the faster your clothes will shrink and wear out. And higher heat uses more electricity.

If you need to dry something in a hurry -- especially a smaller load -- add some dry bath towels into the load to absorb some of the moisture.

7. Use chalk or shaving cream as a stain remover

A grease stain can feel like a fatal wound for a beloved blouse or T-shirt. But if you rub a bit of chalk on the stain when it occurs, it'll absorb a lot of the oil before you get a chance to toss the item in the laundry. It's like having your own homemade Tide pen.

shaving cream

Shaving cream is great at lifting stains if you're on the go.

Tetra Images/Getty Images

If you don't have chalk, baby powder works in much the same way: Sprinkle the talc directly onto the affected area and let it sit overnight before washing.

Shaving cream is another great medicine-cabinet stain remover, especially if you're traveling and short on supplies. Work a dollop into the stain, let it sit for at least 20 or 30 minutes, then blot it up.

8. Use ice cubes to get out wrinkles

Don't have the time or patience to iron? Get the wrinkles out of your favorite dress shirt by tossing it in the dryer with a handful of ice cubes and running the tumble setting on high heat for about 12-15 minutes. The steam from the melting ice cubes acts as a natural wrinkle releaser.

ice cubes

Ice cubes melt in the dryer, acting as a natural clothing steamer.

Theo Cockrean/EyeEm

When the cycle is done, hang it up and smooth down the cuff, collar and seams by hand. 

You can also toss one or two wrinkled garments in the dryer with a damp bath towel and set the timer for five minutes on medium heat.

The important thing with either tip is to take the garment out right away or else it will just get wrinkled again: 

9. Wash your pillows to make them extra fluffy

To wash a synthetic pillow, toss it in the machine alone with detergent and some fabric softener. Set your washer to the "sanitize" setting -- or the hottest wash cycle and fastest spin cycle available. 

When the cycle ends, put the pillow and a clean bath towel in the dryer and set it for 30 minutes on the sanitize mode or the highest heat setting possible. If it's still damp, put it back in and select the damp-dry mode or set the timer for another 10 minutes. If it's still not dry, run the dryer again but check on it frequently.

Fluffing pillow

Yes, you can run your pillows through the washing machine and dryer.

Stockbyte/Getty Images

To wash a down pillow, remove the cover and make sure there are no obvious tears that would allow feathers to escape. It's actually better to wash down pillows two at a time (to balance the washer tub) and load them vertically to avoid being damaged by the agitator.

Wash on the delicate cycle using less detergent than usual, and run extra rinse and spin cycles to wring out as much soap and moisture as possible. Warm or even cold water will do less damage to the feathers in the pillow than a high-heat setting.

Dry the pillows on a low- or even no-heat setting for 15 or 20 minutes. It might take more than one cycle, but be sure to take them out of the dryer and fluff them between cycles.

10. Double your dryer sheet stash 

If you do plan to buy and use dryer sheets, there's an easy way to stretch them further. Instead of watching your supply disappear in a couple of weeks, you can use the same box for double the time by cutting each sheet in half. 

A single load of laundry doesn't necessitate an entire sheet. Cut each one down the middle and toss one half in with each smaller load. You'll still get the same amount of freshness without wasting money on something you're literally throwing away. 

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