- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Q: I recently moved away to college, and I admit it — I do not know how to do laundry. Can you give me some tips so I don’t ruin my clothes?

A: Doing laundry for the first time can seem stressful, but there are some common rules of thumb that will help you avoid disaster.

When washing your clothes, make sure first to look at the clothing care tags. If the label recommends dry cleaning, take the garment to your local dry cleaner.

Once you have determined which items can be washed at home, separate those items into color piles — darks, reds, lights and whites. Darks and reds should be cleaned in cool water to prevent fading. Lights can be cleaned in warm water, and whites typically are cleaned on a hot setting. Poor sorting of loads can cause problems with dyes bleeding onto other garments.

Be careful not to overload the washer. This can lead to wrinkles and excessive wear on the garments. Also, the dirt and soil from some garments can become redeposited on others. This can dull vibrant colors and make whites dingy.

Make sure you don’t overload the dryer. Overdrying lightweight or delicate fabrics can result in permanent wrinkles in heat-sensitive fabrics. After sorting by color, you may want to sort clothes by fiber content and weight. Heavier garments might require more heat and time than light garments.

Finally, fold or hang garments immediately after drying. This helps ward off wrinkles and keeps your clothes looking fresh.

Q: My white pants turned gray after washing. What happened?

A: Discoloration usually is attributed to one of two problems. First, most whites are treated with fluorescent whiteners or optical brighteners during manufacturing to achieve a desired shade of white. Brighteners decompose with age, exposure to light or, in some cases, the heat of cleaning. Washing the item in bleach also will destroy the brighteners.

Decomposition causes the white fabric to appear dull and dingy or have a slightly yellow or green color. Graying fabric also can be caused by overloading the washer, low water levels or incorrect detergent levels. These factors contribute to discoloration because soils may not be flushed out in the rinse cycle but be deposited on the items in the load. You may be able to rewash the items in a load with higher water and detergent levels so that impurities can be flushed out of the fabric and removed.

If the problem still exists, take the garment to your local dry cleaner.

Q: We just got a new puppy, and he is not house-trained yet. How do I get stains out of our couch and carpet?

A: The first few months when pets are being house-trained can be tough on you and your carpets.

Urine stains usually appear as absorbed, yellowish or brownish discolorations and are more apparent on lighter-colored carpets and upholstery. Many pet-stain-removal products are on the market, usually available in the cleaning supplies section of your local grocery or pet store.

Before using the product, test for colorfastness by applying a small amount of cleaner on an unexposed area of the carpet or upholstery. Let stand for five minutes, then rinse. If the color is affected, don’t use the product.

When blotting the area, always use clean, white towels or paper towels. If the stain-removal formula doesn’t remove the stain, try mixing 1 teaspoon of ammonia with a half-cup of water and then blot.

Blot any remaining stain-removal agents or moisture with a clean white towel and let dry. It is important to remember that this process takes patience and careful testing. If the stain persists after this process, it may become necessary to seek advice from a carpet cleaning professional.

Q: Now that it’s baseball season, I’ll be wearing a lot of my favorite baseball caps. How do I go about washing them?

A. The preferred method of care is to hand wash the cap with a mild dish detergent, rinse and air dry. Machine washing on a gentle cycle may be another option; however, this tends to be rough on the brim of the hat. The plastic, adjustable hooks on the back of the hat may also pose a problem, as they tend to melt at higher drying temperatures.

Be sure to choose a dishwashing detergent that does not contain chlorine bleach. Before attempting to clean any cap, test for colorfastness.

Chris Allsbrooks is an affiliate board member and spokeswoman for the FabriCare Foundation. She has 13 years’ experience as a textile analyst in the International Textile Analysis Laboratory of the International Fabricare Institute in Laurel. Send questions to [email protected]

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