Should I wash new clothing before wearing it for the first time?
Yes, it’s a good idea. Before showing off that new top, you might want to run it through the washer. Otherwise common additives may put you at risk for contact dermatitis, says Hilary Baldwin, a New York City dermatologist. A prewear wash also prevents excess dye from staining skin or other fabrics, like upholstery. It’s particularly wise to clean intimates, like lingerie and swimsuits, before wearing them. “Although it’s rare, you could catch scabies or crab lice from others who have tried the garments on,” says Carolyn Jacob, a dermatologist in Chicago. Rinse these items in very hot water and hang them to dry (this won’t damage the fabric) before putting them on for their big debut. ―Sarah Smith
2 of 7 John Lawton
How do I keep my black pants black?
Don’t wash them (as much). If you primarily wear your black pants indoors―in an office, for example―you can get away with wearing them four or five times between washings. A purse-size bottle of OxiClean Spray-A-Way Instant Stain Remover ($5 for two at drugstores) will help you spot-treat stains (blot; don’t rub) and avoid excessive washings. To eliminate chalky marks from makeup, deodorant, or powder, try a dry sponge like Miss Oops Rescue Sponge ($10, missoops.com).
When you are ready to do a load of laundry, turn the pants inside out to minimize color loss caused by the friction from rubbing against other clothes, then choose a short, delicate cycle. “The colder the temperature, the better, since warm water tends to break down fibers and fade clothes faster,” says Steve Boorstein, author of The Clothing Doctor’s 99 Secrets to Cleaning and Clothing Care ($5, amazon.com). A specialized detergent for cold-water loads, such as Tide Coldwater ($8 at drugstores), helps neutralize the color-sucking chlorine that can be found in tap water. Then hang or lay the pants flat to dry; don’t throw them in the dryer. And the next time you’re in the market for black trousers, look for a fabric that retains dark dyes, like a washable wool blend or nylon, as opposed to acetate or linen.
3 of 7William Abranowicz
How do I keep white knits white?
First, determine whether the stain is oil- or water-based. Water-based stains include most beverages, like juice and wine. These may seemingly disappear into your clothing, but a water-based stain will usually leave a slight ring around the stain as it absorbs into the fabric. Oil-based stains come from items like salad dressing and perfume and are more evenly absorbed into the fabric.
Water-based stains should be washed within one to two days of the spill. If you don’t notice it until the stain has turned yellow, Steve Boorstein, founder of Clothingdoctor.com, recommends soaking the garment in four inches of warm water mixed with either OxiClean Versatile ($10, greatcleaners.com) or a color-safe bleach for about 30 minutes, or until the stain disappears. For more options, see our round-up of the best laundry detergents.
Oil-based stains are trickier to remove, so leave them to a professional. The sooner you take in the clothing, the better. And be sure to confirm that the dry cleaner can remove oxidized oil stains (a process not all cleaners perform). ―Melanie Wagner
4 of 7Lisa Shin
What’s the best way to deodorize gym gear?
With a bit of preventive care and the right detergent, you can cure the stench―and even keep it from festering in the first place. After a workout, give clothes a quick rinse in a sink; wring them out to remove as much water as possible, and stow them in a large plastic bag before putting them in your gym tote. Since the confined compartment of a tote can breed smelly bacteria, take the dirty clothes out as soon as you get home and wash them according to the label directions. Steve Boorstein, president and founder of Clothingdoctor.com, recommends using the hottest water temperature that your gear can handle, along with an enzyme-formulated detergent, such as 2X UltraTide ($14, target.com for stores). “The active ingredients will effectively break down protein-based stains, like perspiration,” says Boorstein. If you still detect an odor, then the problem could be the clothing itself. Try wearing more-natural fabrics, such as cotton blends, whose fibers release odors more easily than synthetics do. ―Elinor Smith
5 of 7Burcu Avsar
What’s the best way to clean a bulky comforter?
Most down-alternative comforters are machine washable, but it’s best to do this in a large commercial machine at the neighborhood Laundromat. A smaller household washer could compress and distort the filler, says Allen Rathey, president of housekeepingchannel.com.
Wash the comforter with the machine set on the gentle or delicate cycle, using cool or warm water. Since every comforter is a bit different, check the care tag or contact the manufacturer for detergent suggestions. Then dry the comforter on low heat with a few tennis balls to plump it up. Or consider using Down Fluffer rings ($15 for 2, thecompanystore.com), which help, you guessed it, fluff your comforter in the dryer.
Keep your comforter clean in between washings by protecting it with a duvet cover. When the cover needs a cleaning, it will easily fit, just like bed linens, into a household washing machine. ―Sharon Tanenbaum
6 of 7Thayer Allyson Gowdy
How do I get the chlorine smell out of a swimsuit?
While a dip in the pool on a hot summer’s day is refreshing, the chemical smell that’s sometimes left behind isn’t. To get rid of the odor and to help your suit last longer, follow these simple steps, courtesy of swimwear expert and Canyon Beachwear store manager Ilene Sofferman.
Always hand-wash your suit as soon as you can after swimming. This prevents smelly bacteria and chemicals from making themselves at home in the fibers.
Use a lingerie cleaner that is formulated to gently yet thoroughly clean delicate pieces. But when the chlorine smell is overbearing, Sofferman recommends using a swimsuit cleaner like Canyon Beachwear Swimwear Cleanser ($7, canyonbeachwear.com). These solutions are designed to remove chlorine while restoring the brilliance of a suit’s color.
Pour one capful of cleaner into a sink filled with cold water (never warm or hot), then add the swimsuit. Swish it around for about three minutes. Depending on the level of odor, you can leave the suit to soak in the solution for a few minutes more.
After cleaning, rinse the suit and roll―don’t wring―the excess water out with a towel.
Lay the suit flat to air-dry.
7 of 7Monica Buck
What’s the best way to wash delicate laundry?
If the care tag says “gentle cycle,” use a mild detergent. “Regular-formula liquid detergents have chemical additives that can harm delicate fibers,” says Linda Cobb, known as the Queen of Clean (queenofclean.com). Cobb likes Woolite ($6.50, at supermarkets), but if you’re already using an all-natural detergent for regular loads, she recommends Mountain Green detergent ($10, at Whole Foods). “Green detergents are safe for any type of clothing because they are all natural, meaning they don’t contain chemicals that will harm those gentler items.”
For colorfast delicates that are stained, Cobb suggests treating them the natural way, using 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, which is just as effective as nonchlorine bleach. Pour ½ cup into a full load and your garments will sparkle. ―Elinor Smith