Ok. Yes, you’re at the right place. This is the photography blog of Jennifer Mauren Photography. Bear with me as I depart just a bit from my normal photo subjects.

Laundry. Ugh. But, don’t run away yet.

I’ve become somewhat of a local celebrity amongst my friends as the “go to” laundry gal. It started like this…

My great grandmother was one of 13 kids. My grandmother one of 4. My mom was the youngest of 5 kids. Stories of how poor my mom’s family was growing up are legendary. I was the oldest of 3 kids. But, my parents were not wealthy at all. My dad is a UPS driver (and a fantastic one at that). My mom stayed home with us and taught piano lessons. For years, I just thought my mom was cheap and her laundry ways were just based off that fact. Then I came to realize, that the ways I’d been trained on were, in fact, REALLY effective. Looking back, most of my clothes were handmade by my mom and grandmothers. And I know the vast majority of my mom’s clothes growing up were handmade. They had to pass down through several kids and needed to look great. So learning to laundry well was important so it didn’t look like you were the 3rd girl wearing that dress. And while I was the only girl in our family, we were BIG on hand me downs in our family. So, the fact that my aunt washed her clothes this way helped me because it didn’t look like I was one of many to wear them either. I’m not saying this in a “poor me” way. Not at all. I looked forward to the day hand me downs came in a big garbage bag, like I looked forward to Christmas. I was THRILLED to get to wear the stuff I saw Kim wear last year!! I loved the dresses my grandmothers made me. And they almost always made a matching one for my cabbage patch kids, too! Lucky girl, I was!

If you know me well, you know that I am anything but a neat freak. I leave that status to my mom and mother-in-law. Nope, not me. Stop by my house unannounced and I’ll all but guarantee I’m 12 hours behind in dishes and my floors could use a good mopping. But, at least when I drop my kids off at preschool, they LOOK like they come from a clean home! haha! But, I’m very particular that my kids look nice in their clothes. Even if it’s play clothes. It pains me to put them in a stained shirt. I can’t deal if they are mismatched. Yup, it’s a character flaw. My only one (do you hear my husband’s maniacal laughter?!). And, because of my frugal upbringing, if I am spending money on clothes, I want them to look new in their “just bought condition” as long as possible.

Anyway. My mom was prolific in her use of white vinegar. It was her version of the windex featured in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. I thought she was just being cheap (and she was). Turns out, the stuff works amazing.

Lets start with new clothes. Clothes like this pair of leggings.

Multi color stripes. Wash them with the whites and risk the pink and navy dinging up the white. Wash them with the darks and risk the other darks in the wash dinging up the whites. I can’t STAND dingy clothes. Really. Even if they don’t bleed, they can fade easily.

The solution? Soak them in a vinegar water solution like this. (Note: this soaking is a load of new jammies for my boys. Superman, Batman, and Lightning McQueen, if you must know. And yes, that’s a big old jug of GoJo.)

By soaking them in vinegar it helps set the colors. That way you can wash this colorful set of leggings with your whites and they won’t bleed their cute navy and pink-ness all over the rest of your whites. The vinegar sets those colors. NOTE: if you wash them in the darks, while the colors are set other colors can still bleed onto them, but they won’t bleed onto other colors, make sense? It doesn’t work both ways.

So here’s what I do. I get a batch of new clothes. They come in the house. First they get tried on (if necessary). Second, they get divided. Usually into 3 groups.

1) lights
2) brights/whites mixed together (pictured below)
3) darks

Then tags come off, and to soaking they go.

Now, in general, all but solid white clothes get soaked in this house. You may think it’s a pain. But, really, it’s no additional work if I’m already soaking things. Rip the tag off and drop them in. It’s just part of my routine. And lets face it, with 3 kids under 5, I’m in a perpetual state of laundry.

You may ask why I soak darks if they get washed with darks anyway? Because as much as I hate a dingy white, I also loathe a faded dark. There’s nothing worse than a shirt that’s “supposed” to be black but has that faded appearance. What about your favorite (probably expensive) dark wash jean? Yup, just not the same when it’s faded out some. Soak that bad boy! And it’s not just for preventing fading darks, it prevents other colors fading too. Bright pink t-shirt, yup, prevents that from fading too.

Now, this is not an exact science. As, really, nothing passed down from generations is. It usually involves units of measures like: glugs, pinch, scants, and heaping.

As you can see I have a laundry sink. We never did growing up. We just left the top open on the washer and let the water fill up and added the vinegar and let it soak that way. But, I’m all “new-fangled” with my laundry sink, so I soak them there. Truth be told, I prefer the top load way. No need to drag it over to the washer. So, step one is remove tags. Step two is fill with enough water to cover. As you can see in the above photo, the clothes are soaking. From here I add a good cup or so of white distilled vinegar. Yup, you guessed it. 4-5 glugs. Be generous, this stuff is only like $1.99/gallon. And depending on the clothes, I usually soak for a few hours.

Now, the current bain of my existence. Gap brand clothes. Oh, they lure me in with their styles and their sales, but be warned. Their stuff bleeds BADLY. I bought a dress for Delaney recently that bled after repeat soaks. (more on repeat soaking in a minute). And I had “garment dyed” (not sure what that means) teal blue shirt for Carter that caused, what I now refer to, as “The Great Laundry Incident of 2012” just hours before we left for Disney to have family photos taken. There are certain items that when you soak them, you notice the water really changing. First thing is to look to see if you need to remove those items and separate them further so they don’t bleed onto other things. If so, I just use a big ol’ mixing bowl. I squeeze a bit to test for color fastness. Sometimes I have to rinse and re-soak in another vinegar/water solution. This was the case with the Gap items. Repeat soakings, those got.

What about clothes that you’ve already washed once (or many) times? Yes, you can still soak them an set the colors. But, if they’ve already faded a bit, it won’t rejuvenate those clothes.

Now that you’ve soaked the clothes, and are ready to wash, here’s what I do. I wash everything (except linens and towels) on cold. It’s just habit. And I’m forever in fear of shrinking clothes, so I wash on cold. I rinse on cold and dry on low as well. I wash them with Tide free and clear, and use my “fabric softener” compartment to put (you guessed it) more white vinegar. Why? Vinegar helps rinse the clothes of soap residue. And soap residue can damage fibers and weaken fabrics. Especially for towels, getting the soap out is really important. I also do an extra rinse. Why? My youngest daughter has really sensitive skin and I want to make sure all detergent is out before her sweet skin is against it. Why Tide? Well, I’ve tried other brands. I’ve made my own. I’ve purchased the environmentally friendly, I’ve purchased the cheap stuff. But, my husband works outside building pools in South Florida and his stuff gets DIRTY and smelly. And eventually, those other detergents just don’t clean and his stuff smells after coming out of the wash. And I don’t mean “doesn’t smell like perfume”. I mean “smells like dirty man”. So, Tide it is. I do wash Delaney’s stuff in the free and clear version of Babyganics because her skin is so sensitive, and have been happy with that for her.

I do dry most every thing on low. I even ::gasp:: put sweaters in there. WITH THIS EXCEPTION. I put sweaters in there ON LOW for 5 minutes just to help bring their shape back a little. My aunt taught me to not leave the dryer while they are in there. Like, put your hand on the dryer and don’t walk away. Because no soaking will bring back a shrunk sweater. I also put a timer on, because I’m known to get distracted. But pull them out after 5, fluff, and lay flat to dry. But, lets face it, I’m in South Florida, so sweater washing/drying is at a minimum.

What about stains? Oh boy. My husband is a pool builder. Do you KNOW how dirty his clothes get? Lord have mercy. My best stain treater (and cheapest) is a mix of 1 part Dawn (the regular blue stuff, don’t get all fancy on me) and 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. PLEASE NOTE!!! LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE!!! This solution is NOT good for super bright colors, some darks, and even (crazy, I know) khaki. It fades it. In that case, I use shout or Dreft Laundry stain remover. I’ll also bust out a felz naptha bar and use that if necessary. I have a plastic brush I use to brush stains, and even an old toothbrush. Getting to stains asap is the best. I have the boys trained that if it has a stain to set it out and I’ll get it. They usually just set it on the laundry sink and I see it and treat it.

I do use oxiclean from time to time. Usually if it’s a nasty stain that I really need to soak/work on. And Oxiclean is great for getting out stains that have come back from being stored. It’s in my arsenal, but isn’t a regular player like the others listed are.

Now, I can’t help you with the folding/putting away. (although I’m a lover of the Martha Stewart way of folding t-shirts… look it up on youtube!)

I also soak swimsuits. Certain materials fade more than others. Cotton especially. And in South Florida we spend a lot of time in swimsuits! I don’t want the faded and gross after just a few wears.

And seriously, I can’t post a blog post without a cute picture (besides of clothes). Here’s one of Delaney! She’s getting so chubby! Love it!

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