With so many laundry products on the market, it can feel overwhelming to pick the best option. As a result, we often grab our usual detergent and softener and call it a day.
However, when it comes to doing laundry, the types and quality of the products we use can greatly affect the results. Knowing which products to choose – and which to avoid – is key to ensuring whiter whites and softer sheets.
These are the seven laundry room essentials you need to keep in your cabinet and why laundry experts would never miss a restock.
Laundry room essentials
Keeping all the laundry products you need to hand is one of the best organizing tricks to make laundry easier, experts assure. Not only does it mean you can tackle mounds of sudden laundry whenever you need to, but it helps you to build up a stain removal station to remove spills and marks before they set in – making the washing itself simpler.
1. Laundry detergent
It is no secret that you shouldn't wash clothes without laundry detergent, so it makes sense that this is the number one product on laundry experts' essentials lists. A quality detergent can make all the difference between a satisfying fresh wash and a musty pile of discolored clothing, explains Taylor Robinson of Heritage Park Laundry.
There are two different types of detergent to choose from, depending on your fabrics and your skincare needs – enzyme-based for touch stain removal and enzyme-free for a gentler wash (more suitable for sensitive or young skin).
‘A concentrated biological or enzyme-based detergent like Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent, available at Amazon, is perfect for washing cotton, polyester, rayon, bamboo, blends, and more,’ she explains.
An enzyme-free detergent, on the other hand, is more delicate and is often more suitable for young or very sensitive skin. They are also softer on fabrics, meaning they are ideal for washing items made out of natural materials such as wool, silk, or linen without the risk of damaging or wearing down the fibers, Taylor adds. Most modern enzyme-free detergents have also now been formulated to work at lower temperatures, helping you to save money on laundry, too.
2. Stain remover such as oxygen bleach
Pre-treating your stains is the best way to ensure that the mark comes out completely when you launder the item – especially when getting a stain out of a white shirt. As such, it helps to have a powerful stain remover such as Oxi Clean Stain Remover from Walmart on hand to break down stubborn marks before they set in, continues laundry expert Taylor Robinson.
It is important to note that you should never use chlorine bleach for this, as it is a harsh chemical that fades colors and turns whites yellow,’ she urges. For items that need brightening up, oxygen bleach does the trick.
‘When the powder dissolves in warm water, the oxygen molecules work to release stains. It is also wonderful for other stains around the house, such as outdoor furniture, carpets, and upholstery, or even bathroom floors, tubs, and tile.’
3. White vinegar
Using white vinegar in laundry is a common hack that laundry experts use to achieve a range of results, from brightening the appearance of clothing to removing stubborn stains and even killing mildew. Laurel Hess, laundry expert and founder of on-demand laundry service hampr swears by white vinegar:
‘White vinegar is the most versatile tool in your laundry room toolkit. It is a great cleaner, but it can also work wonders as an odor remover, fabric softener, and brightener for your whites.
‘To remove odors in your washing machine, simply add two cups of distilled white vinegar once the tub is filled with water and run a complete cycle (just remember not to pour it directly onto your clothes). For extra freshness, run the load again with detergent.
‘To use as a fabric softener, just add ½ cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment during the cycle. This will help release any leftover detergent residue that can make your clothes feel rough and stiff.
‘For brighter whites, try pre-soaking your items in a mixture of one cup of distilled white vinegar to one gallon of hot water before washing as usual (and don't worry, your clothes won't smell like vinegar afterward).
‘Just be careful not to use too much vinegar in each load as it can damage the rubber gaskets in your machine over time.’
Laurel founded hampr, an on-demand laundry platform, to aid in her quest to vanquish the mental load carried by families across the country. She started with the most hated chore: laundry.
4. Fine mesh laundry bags
One of the most common laundry mistakes people make is not bagging delicate or small items so they are not damaged or lost in your washing machine. To help resolve this, laundry expert Taylor Robinson suggests investing in some quality fine mesh laundry bags to help prevent snags, tears, and pilling from the metal drum and agitator or abrasion from other items in the machine.
Just zip your delicate item inside mesh laundry bags and pop it in the machine.
5. Wool dryer balls
'It is most common to use dryer sheets to help remove static from clothing, but using wool dryer balls can do the same job for less – and without the worry of microplastic pollution or increased flammability,' says Michelle Smith, founder and owner of Mama Suds.
‘Wool dryer balls help dry clothes faster and help avoid overdriving, which is the leading cause of static cling,’ she explains. 'Toxic dryer sheets can be unhealthy and often coat laundry with endocrine disruptors that can cause skin irritation, such as contact dermatitis, or even trigger allergies.'
6. Washing machine cleaner
It is not just the products used to clean your clothing that is essential, but your washing machine too, reminds laundry expert Laurel Hess. Cleaning a washing machine with a dedicated washing machine cleaner is essential to prevent musty odors on clothes and stop mold on rubber seals.
‘To prevent product buildup and odors, it's recommended to run a cleaning cycle every 30 cycles or about once a month,’ Laurel explains. ‘Neglecting to clean your washing machine can lead to unpleasant odors and the growth of bacteria. But don't worry, we have a solution. Our go-to cleaning agent is Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner from Amazon. Simply toss one of the tablets into your washing machine drum and start a self-clean cycle. If your machine doesn't have a self-clean option, just choose a Heavy cycle with Hot water.
‘These convenient tablets effectively clean the drum and inner workings of your machine, leaving it fresh and clean for many more loads to come.’
7. A good quality washing machine
'While you can hand wash clothing, nothing does the job like the best washing machines,' says Sacha Dunn, laundry expert and founder of sustainable cleaning company Common Good. ‘While it's an investment piece, a high-efficiency machine will save you money on energy and detergent, and their gentle motion will help extend the life of your fabrics,’ she says. As such, they are always worth the investment, even if the high initial price may seem off-putting.
How does hotel laundry smell so good?
Hotel laundry often smells incredible because they use high-quality, high-efficiency laundry detergents and fabric softeners to help remove odors and relax fibers. They also ensure that laundry is separated by type and soil level so that no fabrics are overwashed, or soil is transferred to cleaner pieces, preventing the transfer of musty smells and making everything easier to wash.
What is the secret to good-smelling laundry?
There is no one solution to good-smelling laundry – it is often a combination of having a clean washing machine, using good quality laundry detergents, and ensuring clothes dry quickly on a line in fresh air or using a dehumidifier to prevent lingering dampness creating musty smells.
When stocking and organizing a laundry room, try to keep all of these products in easy reach – especially your stain-removing products – so they can be grabbed quickly when you need to stop a spill from setting or get laundry done quickly.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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