5 money-saving tips for doing laundry at home during the pandemic

Cleaning expert Melissa Maker.
Photo by Shayne Gray Photography

If you usually go to a laundromat or send your clothes out to be washed, dried, folded, and returned to you, during this period of social distancing you may be opting to cleaning more of your clothes at home by hand. 

"You're going to be doing quite a bit of laundry," says Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube. That's especially true since the pandemic is making hygiene a top concern for many people: The question "How long does coronavirus live on clothes?" ranked as a top Google search for April 30.

By choosing the right pieces to wear and caring for them properly, you can actually turn what might feel like an inconvenience into an opportunity to save money by doing more of your laundry yourself. Adopting these smart habits now can also help you save more going forward, if you decide to continue applying what you've learned. 

Here are her best tips for washing more of your clothes yourself at home.

You don't need gadgets to do your laundry 

It isn't necessary to buy a portable washer or a dryer to get through this time: "My recommendation would be to stick with your basics," she says. "Stick with the easiest stuff to wash, the lightest stuff to wear, hand wash it, and dry."

Maker recommends picking up laundry pins and a retractable drying line, which she says are affordable items you can use after social distancing ends, too. You can put the ends of the drying line on either end of your shower, she says, "and then everything drip dries right into the tub. So you don't even need a folding rack."  

In short, she says, "There's no need to be fancy here." You can do a good job without spending a lot at the outset.

Know which pieces to wash more often

Which pieces should you wash after every use and which can stand a few wears? Maker says knowing the difference comes down to determining which pieces come into contact with your skin. "So to give you an example, pairs of pants," says Maker. "As long as it's not stained or smelly, you can wear them a few times as long as you're wearing underwear, but your underwear you would wash after each use."

This is a good time to up your undergarment game, she says: Wear a T-shirt under a sweater and wash the T-shirt regularly without washing the thicker sweater as often, for example. "The thing to consider is you're shedding skin cells and body oil," she says. By the end of a day, dark clothing might look like it has ripples drawn on it, for example. "Especially when you see something like that, it's a visual indicator like, 'OK, there's build up, it's time.'"

Note that certain shortcuts that might sound appealing won't actually help you get your clothes clean. Maker says the trick about putting your jeans in the freezer, for example, doesn't work: "It doesn't actually do anything except make them really cold." While some bacteria might not survive, others will just go dormant and then reawaken afterward, she says, "and it doesn't get rid of dirt, oil, or odor." 

Break out your athleisure

The goal is to stay comfy at home during the pandemic while wearing easy-care garments, says Maker, so "athleisurewear is fabulous to wear at a time like this." The pieces tend to be easy to hand wash and they dry quickly. "Whereas if you have a heavy cotton hoodie, that is laborious to clean by hand, because you have to keep wringing it out and you need a lot of soap. And then you've got to hang it to dry and it's going to take a long time to dry because it's a heavier material."

Athleisure tends to be easy to clean by hand with a gentle detergent, and if you hang it near a window, it shouldn't take too long to dry. "I air dry my athleisure even when we're not dealing with this [pandemic]," she says. "And let's be honest: It's very comfortable." 

Athleisurewear is fabulous to wear at a time like this.
Melissa Maker
Host of YouTube channel Clean My Space

Use friction to get your clothes clean

When you're washing T-shirts and other nondelicate items by hand, get some good friction going when you wash, says Maker. (For delicate items, you would rub more gently.)  "If you've ever seen a clip of an old-timey person hand washing their stuff, they would use a washing board or they would kind of rub the fabric together," she says. "They might do a bit of a wringing motion; they might swish it around with their hands. The idea is that you want to create a little bit of friction to rub out dirt, grease, body oil."

She says you need to get some vigorous movement, so a good investment would be a wash basin where one side is textured like a washboard. "It will provide you utility once all this is said and done."

Let the garments sit for about 10 minutes to make sure they are soaked through. Then rinse thoroughly with cool water until it runs clear. "You want to get rid of as much liquid as possible, so the less time it's going to take to dry," she says. 

For delicates, avoid wringing or twisting and just knead the items between your fingers. "You can kind of rub gently against the washboard, but that's about as vigorous as you want to be," she says.

Don't stress about perfection

You don't have to concern yourself with getting everything in the best shape possible. "If your stuff isn't as perfectly clean as you would love it to be right now, we're living in temporary and very weird time right now," says Maker. "You're not seeing anyone. Don't worry about it." 

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