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On Laundry

Sunday, 10 March, 2013

The most important idea within my theory of laundering textiles is detergent is largely unnecessary. If you are using an old school “1x loader” upright domestic washer, you might stand to use roughly 50% of the amount of detergent indicated on the packaging. The action of the water, the agitation, does almost all of the work. The primary deodorizing, aside from the removal of actual filth,  is accomplished by the temperature of the water which should be over 140 degrees for most natural fabrics.

Because the action of water is so critical in the cleaning of textiles, catalyzing the water is far more important than the addition of synthetic animal fat. The primary purpose of detergent is to impart an additional odor: flowers, berries, cinnamon or vanilla, something innately artificial that is focus grouped to impart the idea of clean.

Even more important than the chemicals used, is the device.

My dedication to coin-op laundries is not merely a product of my relative frugality. The washateria offers the big, upright front-loading commercial washing machines which shall make you spit at those sissy-ass upright household “washers”. In the better joints, you will find upright washers with heavy-soil mode, typically for an additional fee. Always use the heavy-soil mode for anything not better hand washed.

Heavy-soil mode runs an additional pre-wash. When you see the brown or grey water produced by this first wash, which then drains away before the conventional wash begins, you will understand just how filthy your domestic textiles have been all these years.

A load of laundry is presumed to be 10 lbs of textile. Volume doesn’t enter into it. If you bother weighing your laundry you may be surprised at just how little 10 lbs actually is. The commercial-grade upright washers can be found in the laundries with capacities of 2x to 10x, that is that many loads washed at once.

For whites, I use a quarter-cup per four loads of washing soda and a scoop of oxygenated cleaner for the pre-wash and a quarter-cup per four loads of soda, one-eighth cup of chlorine bleach and two-scoops of oxy. for the conventional cycles. You will note there are no detergents mentioned. For sparkling whites, the kind of whites that make older women presume this bachelor is married or something similar, this is all you need.

Whites are to be washed in hot water. This water should be a minimum of 140 degrees at the tap. All laundry is to be rinsed in cold water.

In lieu of conventional synthetic fabric softener, or to provide an additional degree of deodorizing for particularly soiled items, use white vinegar, also a quarter-cup per load in the rinse cycle. The acidity works wonders, but is not so strong as to remain in your textiles after drying.

For especially heavy soil, including but not limited to clothing worn close to the body for extended periods of time (days or weeks), items soiled with animal, including human, waste, heavy mold or the produce of an insect infestation, don’t mess around with grocery store items. The product to use is a bioextractor. Common household cleaners are not intended to address this degree of filth. I am loyal to Get Serious! brand, recommended by a veterinarian long ago and available at larger pet stores such as Petco. Information is difficult to find for this application. Use a half-cup per load in lieu of detergent with no other products, and after a water-only, heavy-soil preliminary cycle. Then run a second full wash as normal. Vinegar in the rinse is not strictly required, but recommended. The results can be shocking.

Pre-treat stains with a thin washing-soda paste. Get Serious may be used as a pre-treat for appropriate stains.

For non-white items, that is lighter items or things likely to be damaged by chlorine bleach, the protocol is the same, save the introduction of chlorine bleach. You may use a bioextractor on items which are not color fast without ill effect.

In the event you use an old-style upright “1x” washer, a up to a single dose of detergent should be used. The agitation cycle on these machines are simply not effective.

Always defer to instructions on the label for water temperature and cycles.

To dry, be certain to place no more than 2x loads in a conventional commercial dryer. Household washer-dryer sets are typically well matched, but in a coin-laundry or other commercial environment you must be certain the textiles have enough room to tumble around. The failure of the machine to dry clothing in a timely fashion is not a failure of the device so much as a sign of overloading. When well loaded such items as dryer sheets are not required. Dryer sheets primarily serve the function of imparting odor and a synthetic lipid to textiles. All textiles should be dried until they are warn to the touch and not damp in any way. Ideally the use of medium heat for an extended period of time, over 40 minutes will yield the best results with regard to static and softness, but are you so patient?

The initial harshness of synthetic-lipid-free clothing and towels is a function of being well dried and stored. This dissipates within minutes of use.

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