Whether you are stocking a laundry room for the first time or need some advice on purchasing only the products you really need for laundry, there are the five laundry products you should always have on hand: detergent, oxygen bleach, disinfectant, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar. With these basics, you'll always have clean laundry.
01 of 05
When you visit a store's laundry products aisle, you'll find an almost overwhelming array of laundry detergents. Some claim to be absolutely necessary for specific fabrics and types of clothing.
Detergents are now offered in liquid, powder, or single-dose packs formats. All of them clean clothes well. However, liquid detergents are very effective on greasy, oily stains, and can be easily used as a stain pre-treater. Powdered detergents are usually less expensive to use per load. They are effective on clay and ground-in dirt. Single-dose detergents are convenient and simple to use. They are typically more expensive to use on a per load basis.
Almost all brands are now formulated to use in high-efficiency front load or top load washers; just look for the "he" (high-efficiency) symbol to be sure. You may actually have a hard time finding a detergent without the symbol, but rest assured that you can use "he" laundry detergent in a standard top-load washer.
Whether you decide on liquid, pods, or powder, remember that price isn't always the best indicator of how well a detergent will perform in cleaning your clothes. The key is to look at the list of ingredients on the product label. The more active ingredients listed in the formula, like enzymes that break down stains and surfactants that lift the soil away from the fabric and suspend it in the water; the better the detergent will perform.
If you select a liquid, heavy-duty detergent (such as Tide or Persil) that includes the enzymes, surfactants, and other ingredients to remove most stains and heavy soil, you can use it to pre-treat stains and there's no need for a separate stain remover.
If you choose a less expensive detergent, you'll also need to purchase an enzyme-based stain remover.
You'll see detergents specifically marketed for baby's laundry because they are hypo-allergenic and less harsh on sensitive skin. You can simply choose a fragrance and dye-free detergent because it is these ingredients that are most often the cause of skin reactions.
02 of 05
Oxygen or all-fabric bleach works more slowly and gently than chlorine bleach and contains sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate. It is safe for use on all washable fabrics–except silk, wool and leather–and for all colors and white fabrics. It can be used in any temperature water.
When this bleach is used in the wash, the chemical ingredient oxidizes to help remove soil and organic matter and brightens the fabric. Fabrics will receive the most impact of stain removal and whitening and brightening by allowing them to soak for at least one hour and up to eight hours. Your patience will pay off!
Oxygen bleach does not disinfect fabrics of viruses and bacteria.
03 of 05
There are times after an illness or if someone in the family has an infection that laundry needs to be disinfected. This can be done with chlorine bleach, pine oil disinfectants, phenolic disinfectants, or quaternary disinfectants.
In addition to disinfecting, when chlorine bleach is used in washing laundry, the chemical ingredient oxidizes, helping to remove soil and organic matter. It generally whitens fabrics by removing dyes left by stains or general soil.
Care should be taken to use chlorine bleach properly because it can also damage fabrics.
04 of 05
Odors and general grime in our laundry can usually be removed as the detergent molecules break up the bacteria cells and soil. However, in certain types of water, the detergent needs a boost to work more effectively.
Baking soda helps regulate the pH level in the washer water by keeping it from being too acidic or alkaline. By adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to each laundry load, detergents can work more effectively to reduce bacteria and loosen soil.
As a natural mineral, baking soda also helps absorb odors from fabrics. Adding one cup of baking soda to a tub of water and allowing stinky clothes to soak overnight can remove odors and is less harsh on the environment than synthetic products.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Distilled White Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar has many uses as a fabric softener, odor remover, and stain remover in the laundry room.
The mild acid in distilled white vinegar acts as a whitener and brightens dingy clothes in the laundry. To get stained white socks and dingy cotton dishcloths white again, add 1 cup white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water. Heat to boiling, and add the articles. Let soak overnight, and then launder as usual.
Adding 1/2 to 1 cup distilled white vinegar instead of a commercial fabric softener will leave your clothes soft and smelling fresh by stripping away any residual detergent and soil from fabrics.
Mendelson, Cheryl. Laundry: the Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens. Scribner, 2010
Laundry Care Tips for Eczema. National Eczema Association
Lansky, Vicki. Baking Soda: over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of. Book Peddlers, 2013