Unconventional tips to clean unconventional items

Dry cleaning isn't the only choice for blankets, curtains, and other unusual items. Here's how you can wash many of these at home.

Unconventional tips to clean unconventional items

Throw blankets in the washer

  • Large, bulky items like blankets and comforters often have special instructions on the label. If so, follow them.
  • If the item is washable, check to see if it fits in the washer. When dry, a blanket or comforter shouldn't sit above the top row of holes in a top-loading washer.
  • Wash a comforter by itself in warm water on the regular cycle, making sure it is submerged in the water.
  • Most comforters will fit into a front-loading washer easily. If a blanket or comforter doesn't fit into a washer, take it to a commercial laundry.
  • Both items can be dried in the dryer or dried on a clothesline or drying rack.

Diaper duty

Diapers were designed to absorb some of the toughest stains, so they're also one of the hardest items to clean. If you use cloth diapers, and opt to wash them yourself, you'll be faced with a three-step cleaning process:

  1. First, rinse dirty diapers in cold water.
  2. Give them a long soak, overnight if possible, in a pail of diaper conditioner or borax solution.
  3. Once the diapers are pre-treated, launder them in the washing machine on the regular cycle. Be careful not to overload your machine, but most can take three dozen diapers easily.

Filling you in on pillows

Some pillows contain filling that can become lumpy or stained when wet, so read the manufacturer's label for washing instructions. Here's how to clean most pillows:

  1. If a pillow or down-filled vest is labelled washable, first fill the washer halfway with water, then submerge the pillow to get the air out of it.
  2. Let the washer fill, then wash the pillow or vest for 8 to 10 minutes on a regular or delicate cycle.
  3. Open the lid occasionally and press air from the items and balance the load as necessary. Because a front-loading washer tumbles its load, the action itself expels air from the items.

Block your hand-washed sweater

  • Sweaters that have been hand-washed should be laid out carefully to dry so that they retain their original shape.
  • Before washing, outline the shape of the sweater on a large piece of white wrapping paper. Place the pattern on a flat colourfast surface, such as a beach towel or waterproof counter.
  • After washing the sweater, blot it gently with a white towel, then pin it to the outline of the pattern. Pins should be placed so that the edges of the sweater are not pulled out of shape or they will dry in scallops.

Illuminating facts about curtains and drapes

  • Curtains and draperies are especially susceptible to the long-term effects of sunlight, which can weaken the fabric and expose it to tears or frays when washed.
  • It's best to wash both items in warm water, on either the delicate or hand-wash cycle of the washer.
  • If you have doubts take window coverings to a dry cleaner.
  • Always dry-clean lined drapes. The two fabrics may react differently when washed.
  • Vinyl or plastic curtains can be cleaned by wiping with a damp cloth and a mild detergent or plain water.

You can skip the dry cleaners with a lot of your unusual items by doing it yourself. If you do, you could save yourself a lot of time and money.

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