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Try These 9 Laundry Hacks for Easier Stain Removal, Faster Drying and More

Spruce up your clothes, towels and bedding with these easy laundry tips.

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.
Getty/Cris Cantón

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Unfortunately, there's no way around the chore of doing laundry -- at some point, you're going to have to address that overflowing hamper. But there are some tricks for getting your clothes cleaner, brighter and fresher-smelling -- not to mention solving some common laundry woes (like socks disappearing into your washing machine or dryer). 

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The nine tips below will hopefully help you save some time and money as you do your laundry. 

For more laundry hacks, check out tips on buying a washing machine, energy-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.

Plant Therapy essential oils

Plant Therapy essential oils

Plant Therapy

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. Stewarts

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

Mrs. Stewarts 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 insures 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 in the wash water and fade.


Read: 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 come out four sizes too small.

Shrunken sweater

You can still save that shrunken sweater.

Chip Simons

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

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. 

Alternately, you can 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

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.