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Appliances

How to do the laundry without ruining your clothes or machines

These tips will increase the life of your machines and keep your clothes looking fresh.

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Photo by Flickr user FunCrush.

Laundry is a necessary evil many of us would rather ignore.

The only thing worse than having to load the clothes into the washer, move them over to the dryer, and fold or hang them, is having to pay a licensed repairman to fix the machines when they inevitably break (at the worst time possible, of course).

Fortunately, there are some things you can avoid to help keep your washer and dryer humming along smoothly and efficiently for longer.

Don't overfill the machine

Clothes need to move about and tumble (to both wash and dry), and if there are too many clothes in the drum, they won't have enough room to move freely. This will force the washing machine and dryer to work extra hard to dry your clothes, potentially wearing them out prematurely. Over time, it will also cost you more in energy, as you will likely need to run the washer or dryer an extra cycle finish to the load.

Cramming too much into the washer and dryer is one of the worst things you can do for the longevity of your machines, too. It can put unneeded stress on the bearings, break or wear the fins of a top-load washer, or throw the drum of a front-load washer or dryer out of alignment.

Give your washer a deep clean

From time to time, running a completely empty can help extend its life and get rid of mildew and other rancid smells that could leach into your clothing. This is a cleaning cycle that you should do if your clothes tend to smell unpleasant after washing them or if the washing machine itself smells sour. Here's a three-step guide to deep-cleaning your washing machine.

Zip zippers and remove coins from your pockets

Zippers and coins pose a threat to your washer, dryer, and your own safety. Zippers can actually get caught on the drum in the dryer.They have also been blamed by appliance manufacturers for shattering (and, scarily, exploding) front-load washing machine doors, which have left laundry rooms and kitchens covered in glass shards. Best practice is to make sure clothing with zippers are fully zipped before throwing them in to wash or dry.

Loose coins can cause the same problem, potentially with more force, and they can also get stuck under the drum, causing unwanted noise and wear and tear.

Make sure your loads are balanced

If you wash jeans or heavy jackets with lightweight T-shirts or don't properly load the washing machine, it can cause an unwanted wobble, which is not only noisy, but damaging to the suspension of the drum, the outer tub, and possibly the floor beneath the washer. If the load isn't too full, it may balance itself out.

It is also possible that the washer itself becomes unbalanced over time, or that it wasn't properly leveled during installation. This will cause the machine to rock or wobble, which can damage your floor and add unnecessary stress on the bearings and inner wall of your washer. If this is the case, raise the washer and screw the pedestal feet in or out to balance the machine. You can also add a 3/4-inch (1.9-centimeter) piece of plywood underneath your washing machine to help absorb some of the shock and protect your floor.

Clean out your lint tray

Not cleaning out the lint tray after each load in the dryer not only traps heat in the drum, which is damaging to your clothing, it also is a very real fire hazard. Take this opportunity to clean the nooks and crannies of your washing machine and dryer. Scrub the buildup off the detergent and fabric softener dispensers and deep clean the lint tray on your dryer.

Properly wash loose bras with underwires

The underwire of a bra can catch on the dryer drum, snag clothing, and even scratch or damage the glass on a front-load washer. It's recommended to either hand wash and hang dry bras and other wired undergarments, or to toss them in a mesh bag, which is also great for keeping socks and other small articles of clothing together during the wash.

Don't wait between dryer loads if you don't have to

No need to wait for the dryer to cool before firing it up again. This is not only energy-inefficient, it is also a missed opportunity to squeeze some extra life out of your dryer. Rather than letting the dryer completely cool before running another cycle, simply tossing in the next load while the dryer is still warm minimizes the workload of the dryer.