Dirty Laundry: Secrets of Your Washer and Dryer

From laundry detergent to battling lint, don't get spun around by laundry.

ByABC News via logo
March 24, 2010, 3:28 PM

March 25, 2010 — -- Could your clothes be dingy from too much soap? And what's the number-one reason your dryer doesn't dry?

Things you don't know about your washer and dryer that could save you time and money:

Too much!

The truth is, most clothes would get plenty clean just from the agitation of the water in the machine. But what do we do? We fill up the detergent lid or dispenser to the very top. That can wreck your machine long-term and make your clothes stiff short-term.

So here's a concept! Read the instructions on the box or bottle. Many brands come with multiple fill lines for different-sized loads now and you can experiment with using even less than recommended. If you want to see if you've been using too much detergent, throw a few towels in your washer without soap. Run it for five minutes on hot and if you see suds, that soap is coming from your towels. If your skin is always irritated, that could be why.

My mom won't like this, but cold water is perfectly fine for all but the toughest laundry loads -- clothes with oily stains on them, for example. Ninety percent of the energy your washer uses goes to heating up the water. Switch to cold and you'll save money and your clothes will last longer. Even switching to warm instead of hot can cut your costs in half.

Cutting back on your soap will help because the soap scum lingers and provides a place for bacteria to breed.

Another possibility is to run a cup of bleach through an empty washer once a month, but consult your owner's manual before doing this. Some recommend it, others don't.

Cleaning the lint trap is not enough.

Your dryer has an air vent that releases hot air to the outdoors. Eventually, it clogs up with lint. Not only will your dyer stop drying, you could set your house on fire.