Home Front is an online conversation between two Washington Post Home Section writers and their readers about the best way to feather the nest. Every week, Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, April 2, with special guest chatters Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber, founders and co-owners of the fabric-care line The Laundress.
Terri Sapienza: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. The topic of the week is laundry and we dedicated an entire section to the subject today. And joining us for the chat this morning are Lindsey Wieber and Gwen Whiting, co-founders of The Laundress, a luxury fabric care and specialty detergent line. Lindsay and Gwen are here to answer all of your pressing questions about laundry and Jura and I will be around to answer the rest.
Oviedo, Fla.: I got a great deal on a Martha Stewart down alternative comforter - $39/king size! But it says dry clean only - it is all cotton, white on white stripes. I think the dry cleaning would yellow it and I hate the idea of perc near my face all nite. It is carcinogenic. Can't I save money and wash it in a roomy commerical machine, cool water? Help me salvage my bargain!
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You can absolutely wash this item in hot or cold water since it is 100% cotton. I would stay away from the dryer and hang dry if this is an option, or low tumble dry.
Springfield, Va.: What can I quickly get around here to avoid moths? I'm sending some clothes to a friend and some boxes won't be opened for a year. I want to put something in the boxes for possible moths.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Be sure to wash everything before you begin storing.
We recommend storing everything in a cotton bag with a zip closure. We have a large laundry zip bag that can be used for long term storage.
Do not use moth balls, Lavender is a great alternative to moth balls and is a natural repellent for moths.
Washington, D.C.: What is the best way to wash my 100% cotton white sheets? And how do I remove stains? I've tried the standard stain removers, oxygen boosters, non-chlorine bleach without much luck... is chlorine bleach the way to go?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Do not use bleach. What kind of stains are you trying to remove? We have an enzyme based stain solution which is the best for tough soiled areas. The Laundress Stain Solution or any enzyme based remover will work. We soak tough stains. Use hot water when washing cotton sheets. Don't dry or iron if the stains are not removed.
Canton in Baltimore: I have a hand crocheted beige/coffee colored cotton lace table cloth that has decades old rust stains. It's perfect otherwise but I never use it because of the stains. Is it possible just to bleach the whole thing, let it go to white, and then restain it with coffee?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We have been successful with our machine cleaner which we developed to remove rust from irons and steamers.
We removed rust from a white t-shirt. The product will turn yellow and then you have to rinse with warm water and hand wash afterwards with detergent, not Woolite. We cannot guarantee this will work but this is really your only option with rust. Bleach will eat away at the lace and damage it.
Greenbelt, Md.: I was wondering if you might have any intel on washing machines that are less than 27" wide. I have an extra-narrow space, but I want a regular (stacking) washer and dryer, not a portable one. 24" might work, 23" would be even better. I have not been able to figure out a way to search online by width. Thanks for any guidance you can offer.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We recommend contacting www.gringerandsons.com as they work with small spaces.
Montgomery Village, Md.: You say not to use bleach on the white cotton sheets. Should I not use it on my white towels and bath mats as well? How else do I keep them bright?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You dont have to use chlorine bleach. We recommend an oxygenated bleach or our Whites detergent that has an optical brightener to keep your whites bright without harmful chemicals. Bleach cancels out detergent and it will break down the fabric over time, eventually causing holes or tears. It can also yellow.
Washington D.C.: I love doing laundry! I have been using your cedar cashmere wash on my sweaters, and it's wonderful. I see that you are making one for J. Crew. Does it have the same cedar scent?
Also, I try not to put my clothes in the dryer, and they often end up stiff after hanging dry (especially jeans). Any tips to soften them up?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: The J.Crew Cashmere Wash is a lavender blend which also repels moths-it is a wonderful scent that we created especially for J.Crew.
We have a denim wash that we developed for this exact reason. It contains color guard and a plant based softener so your jeans will not be stiff after hang drying.
D.C.: I have always had trouble with my husband's white t-shirts. I've tried Shout followed by a combination of detergent and chlorine bleach followed by detergent and non-chlorine bleach followed by a rinse. They inevitably develop a stiff dark area under the arms and I end up throwing them out and starting fresh. Suggestions?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You definitely need to follow our stain removal recipe as it is designed for stubborn stains like under arms, ring around the collar and cuffs.
Richmond, Va. : In an effort to save money, we are cutting back on dry cleaning. My husband has started doing his shirts and they do not look good. Is it my imagination or is this aging them significantly? They are all-cotton dress shirts. Right now, he washes them (regular Tide, front loader w/cool water) dries them briefly and then irons them. Is it the detergent? I always assumed whatever industrial process they used to get them laundered was harsher than what we do at home.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Washing your clothing is the best way to care for them and to have longevity in your item. Are you noticing fading?
We recommend not putting his shirts in the dryer. You might want to us a detergent with color guard. Are you starching your shirts? The dry cleaning process is much more harsh.
Washington, D.C.: Any ideas on how to prevent deodorant build-up in the under arm area? I am a female, and I sweat a lot, so I cannot go without. It seems like I have to buy new shirts every season!
I have a laundry room in the basement. There are 3 settings: hot, cold and warm. And a load costs $2 wash/0.75 dry
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We recommend soaking your items before putting them into the machine and dryer to make sure the stains and buildup are gone. This will save you time and money. You might find out that you don't have to use your washing machine and you can handwash/soak most of your items and hang dry. We do this a lot for workout clothing, dress shirts and delicates. Try this recipe for your deodorant buildup. We have that happen to us and are successful with this:
Washington, D.C.: I have the hardest time with perspiration stains. I don't glow or feel the heat - I sweat! I need a step-by-step lesson on caring for my clothes from the time that I walk in the door after work and change out of my work clothes. What is the absolute best way to remove these stains?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Here you go-try this.
Arlington: I bought some fabric in Cambodia that I use as a table runner. It's skirt fabric that is rather heavy brocade with gold threads. Can I handwash it? Sorry, I don't have good information on fabric content.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: What does it feel like? Silk?
You can use our Delicate wash to handwash it. It will probably lose a lot of color in the water which is normal.
Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for a compact plastic drying rack that I can put in my tub whenever I want to drip dry clothes. Not having much luck. Most drying racks are too big or are made out of metal. Can you recommend something?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Check out www.organize.com. they have a great selection you might like.
Alexandria, Va.: For the person interested in storing clothes for a long time: a hint I learned years ago about storing woolens is that you can sprinkle loose pipe tobacco over your woolens, including cashmere and other fine wools. Then put into a pillow case or store in a cotton bag. The tobacco is a very strong insecticide. Use whatever smells good to you. It will not make the clothes smell like tobacco, but will definitely keep insects away.
washingtonpost.com: But will it stain the fabric?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We have had success with lavender wrapped in a breathable fabric like linen or cotton. Cedar Chips will help as well.
We have never tried the tobacco, I imagine it could stain if it gets wet and possibly stick to clothing if the temperature where it is being stored is too moist.
Washington, D.C.: White sheets again -- The stains are mainly from lotions and cosmetics.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We recommend an Enzyme based detergent and stain solution.
The hottest water you can get and extra soaking is great for cotton sheets. Check for stains before putting your sheets into the dryer.
Our Whites Detergent is a great for white sheets, and pretreat with our stain solution before washing.
Here is a 15% off coupon to use if you want to try out our products.
Dry Cleaning vs. Washing: As a knitter, I use Soak to handwash a lot of sweaters that say they have to be dry cleaned. And I am noticing that other things with a dry-clean only tag seem to be quite washable including fancy-pants silks and linens. Is there a guide to materials that can be handwashed or even machine-washed and those that will shrivel up and die unless dry-cleaned?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We have a washing chart on our website that will be helpful.
Dale Blooming: Settle a debate for me: I say it's unsafe to leave your house while the washer and especially the dryer are in use. The roommates don't believe me. I have come home to an empty house with the dryer running. Is this unsafe or okay?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: The washing machine should be fine but the dryer is not safe to have running when no one is there. A lot of house fires are caused by dryers. Make sure to clean your lint tray all the time.
Alexandria - Yellow Pits: Hello and thanks for this laundry chat! If the pits of your t-shirts are already yellow (have been washed and dried several times) is it too late to get them white again?
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Never to late to try. Follow this recipe:
New HE on the way!: I am expecting delivery of a new HE washer and dryer next week! Very excited about this.
In practical terms, how much more stuff can I put in one of these? Current washer fits an almost-full Ikea bag of clothes; new one is an average size for HE.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Do not overstuff your HE machine. The drums are smaller and if you put too much in your clothes will not get clean.
RE: Dry Cleaning: Since you say dry cleaning is more harsh, how would we wash items that say "dry clean only" other than dress shirts? I am thinking sweaters, silks, etc.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You can wash most silk and cashmere items. Please follow our washing chart on what fabrics can be washed. If the label says dry clean only, check what fabric it is made of to know if you can wash it or not.
Alexandria: I have read about all in one washer/dryers. Do these work well? Thanks.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: If you have the room and ability to get a separate washer and dryer then you should do so. If you have the ability to manage the controls then great, but we don't use the dryer for a lot of items so that would not work very well.
Gettysburg, PA: I always seem to have problems with green clothing and the color fading out in splotches. What am I doing wrong? and why does it only happen with green???
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We don't know about this issue but color loss in splotches can occur from leftover bleach in your machine. Do you use bleach?
Terri Sapienza: We're out of time for today. Thanks to Gwen and Lindsey for all of their great advice, and thanks for everyone for joining us. Chat with you next week.