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Laundry Care Basics: Colorfastness, Presoaking, and Sorting

This is the second part in a series on laundry care basics. We hope that this series helps you achieve cleaner laundry and avoid common problems.

What Is Colorfastness and Why Does It Matter? "Colorfastness" refers to a fabric's resistance to fading or running. In other words, if a fabric has good colorfastness, the dyes in the fabric will have less tendency to leach out into the water when you do your laundry, presoak the item, or attempt to remove a stain. The more colorfast your clothes are, the less likely they will fade or run when you sweat. The more colorfast your curtains are, the less prone they'll be to fading in the sun. In general, clothing today tends to be more colorfast than they were just a few decades ago. However, you should always be careful to test the colorfastness on any new piece of clothing to make sure the color will not run out and ruin your other clothes when you wash them together. In fact, you may see instructions like, "Test for colorfastness before use" on some laundry supplies. It is very important to heed this instruction because, for example, you don't want to leave a spot on your clothing after you apply a stain remover to your child's favorite shirt! You'll never hear the end of it! To test for colorfastness on a new item, place the item in a small tub of water at the same temperature you plan to wash it in and let it soak about an hour. Does the water turn a color? If so, it is not colorfast because some of the dye leached out. Next, repeat the same thing using the detergents, color bleaches, and any other products you add to your washes. For a full test, switch the items around and/or rub the the material together. If you plan to use a stain remover, you'll want to do an extra test. Find a piece of the material that is hidden, such as the underseam, and apply your stain remover to this hidden area to determine if the chemicals in the stain remover make the dyes leach out or run. Be sure to rub it in good because this physical abrasion can affect how the chemicals interact with a fabric. You can also easily make your new clothes and other fabrics more colorfast. Simply mix one part white vinegar and five parts water and then soak your new items in this solution for about fifteen minutes. Be sure to do this before you wash them for the first time.

The Importance Of Presoaking Your Laundry Whether it is grass strains, coffee stains, grease stains, or ketchup stains, the offending gunk that is causing the stain will be at least partially embedded in the fibers of your clothing or other fabrics. Therefore, the normal laundry cycle, may not provide enough time for your detergents, or even powerful stain removers, to work their magic! Moreover, if you place your wet laundry into the dryer without completely removing the stain first, i.e. the stain doesn't get removed in the wash cycle, the heat of the dryer will make the stain set and it will be much harder, or even impossible, to remove later. Presoaking your laundry is the number one key to stain removal, not the brand of detergent you use or the type of stain remover you spot clean with. Yes, those are important factors, but the sheer amount of time you allow your cleaners to break down the material(s) causing the stain is your most potent weapon in stain removal! Thus, be sure to presoak any stains BEFORE you get to the laundromat! Further, the worse the stain is, the more soak time you should give it but aim for at least thirty minutes, if not an hour, for all stains. In fact, soaking overnight is not a bad idea unless you are using chlorine bleach on whites as this chemical can weaken the fibers of the material if left on too long. However, other forms of bleach will work even better if you presoak a longer time!

The Importance Of Sorting Your Laundry Even if you use the vinegar trick above to make your clothing and other materials more colorfast, if you wash your whites or lights with your darks, you still run the risk of a small amount of the darker dyes leaching out and dulling your whites and lights. Over time, this has an accumulative effect and you'll end up having to replace your clothing more often. If you wash all your clothing and other materials in cold water, it is a bit safer to wash all colors together because they'll have a tendency to lose a lot less dye. However, they will likely still leach a minute amount of dye and this can still discolor your whites and lights over time. Sorting is also a great time to turn your pants and shirts inside out, plus check your pockets and remove any items you find. You certainly don't want to launder your money, unless you happen to be of the criminal persuasion :-) LOL!

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