Q&A: Brian Sansoni on laundry

Brian Sansoni
Sep 27, 2018

Brian Sansoni is a vice president at the American Cleaning Institute, the trade association for the cleaning products industry. Since 2000, Brian has served as the chief spokesperson for ACI and is responsible for the promotion of various subjects including sustainability and consumer outreach. He knows a great deal about doing laundry and detergent use and current issues such as laundry packet safety.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 15 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Good morning to all and especially to Brian Sansoni. I'm excited to have a chat about laundry and Brian is the guy to do it. Let's talk about changing up your laundry routine today.  Brian is a vice president at the American Cleaning Institute, the trade association for the cleaning products industry. Since 2000, Brian has served as the chief spokesperson for ACI and is responsible for the promotion of subjects including sustainability and consumer outreach. He knows a great deal about doing laundry and detergent use and current issues such as laundry packet safety. Let's chat.

Hi Jura. After being in my house for 10 years, I'm working on purging stuff we don't need/use anymore. I'd like to have a yard sale when I'm all done, but the thought of pricing everything is very daunting. My first thought was to have a "free sale," but I thought people might take my stuff and just resell it. I don't want that. My second thought was, "Everything's 1$" but then I think the first people will come take all the stuff worth more than 1$, leaving only the rest. So any other creative ways to do this without requiring me to price everything? Thanks!

Good for you for trying to get rid of unwanted things. Here's an idea. Have four tables: $20, $10, 5 and $1. That way you might get a bit more cash for your things that are of better quality.

Good morning Jura and to all your readers and viewers. American Cleaning Institute looks forward to our chatting about the laundry!

I am a father of two young daughters and currently am in the process of introducing them to new household chores – one of them of course being laundry. What are some things to keep in mind?

Having kids help with the laundry can be a great way to teach important life skills and at the same time be a perfect bonding experience.

Start with small tasks like sorting clothing and checking garment labels (if your child is old enough to read). All clothing and fabrics that call for the same water temperature, wash cycles and type of detergent should be washed together. Use this chance to teach the importance of washing lights vs. darks.  A lot of parents turn the laundry routine into a hamper sorting exercise for the kids. Have them…

1.     Sort dark and bright clothes in one load, pastels and lighter colors in another, and whites in a separate load.

2.     Remove fuzzy sweatshirts, robes and bulky bath towels that might shed lint to wash those separately.

 

You can also visit PacketsUp.com to download some coloring activity sheets and at the same time learn about laundry safety.  To that point please remember safety should always come first in the laundry room. That means all liquid laundry packets and cleaners should be kept up and out of reach (and sight) from young children even when you’re in the laundry room with them.

arm pit stains. Any help? Sweat OR deodorant both are always trouble.

 

You’re not alone in facing sweat or deodorant-related stains. We recommend a prewash stain remover or rubbing with bar soap.  If perspiration has changed the color of the fabric, apply ammonia to fresh stains or white vinegar to old stains; rinse.  Launder using hottest water safe for fabric.

 

NOTE: Stubborn stains may respond to washing in a product containing enzymes or oxygen bleach in hottest water safe for fabric.

I have a son who is off at college and on his own for the first time. I must admit, he didn’t do much of his own laundry before he left home, so I’m not confident he’s easily going to start a routine of his own. Do you have any tips or guidelines for college students who might be doing laundry for the first time?

College is such a busy and exciting time and to your point, for many young adults it’s the first real exposure to creating a consistent laundry routine. Where to start?! Here are a few things to keep in mind for your son and all of the other college students out there this fall:

 

  •  Read the label and use the recommended amount of laundry detergent. Adding more detergent doesn’t make your clothes cleaner.
  •  Sort your laundry ahead of time and separate whites, lights and darks in different loads.
  •  Save energy by using cold water to wash. Washing your laundry in cold water helps the drying process become more efficient.
  •  If it’s dirty with dark stains – wash it and don’t let it sit in your hamper for too long.
  •  Not sure about some fabrics? Always read the label and pay close attention to the materials. I also included a quick infographic on fabric care that he can take a closer look at.

 

Is there anything I should be doing in the laundry room to be more environmentally friendly and save on utility costs?

Believe it or not, working more cold water loads into your routine can play a major role in the energy you use (and the money you spend) when doing laundry. About 90% of the energy your washing machines use goes toward heating water. Just by switching to cold water washing, your household could eliminate about 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Cold water is not only important for the environment, but also for your clothes. Hot water can cause certain items to fade, shrink or bleed. The right temperature can prolong the lifespan of your clothes and save you money in the long run.

 

 

Walking toddler in the house! What is the best way to keep my laundry room safe for a child on the move?

I hear you loud and clear. As soon as kids find their feet they start to explore. Specifically, within the laundry room, it is critical to always keep laundry packets and cleaning products up and out of sight and in their original, sealed containers. Another simple way to keep your laundry room safe is adding child locks on cabinets or closets doors accordingly and make sure childproof locks are enabled on laundry appliances. A great resource from the American Cleaning Institute is PacketsUp.com.  The site provides critical laundry safety information and you can order a free Packets Up “reminder cling” to put on your cabinet or washing machine as a reminder to store products safely in your home.

Jura introduced this session - and wrote a couple of weeks ago - about changing up your laundry routine.

It's important to consider this: are the products you're using getting the job done? If they are, keep doing what you're doing.  If your clothes, though, are not coming out clean, consider another product. 

Think about using a trial size of a detergent you've read or heard about. See if that works.

Also, make sure you're not overloading the washer or dryer, as this can affect the quality of the laundering or drying process.

As a reminder, always make sure you're sorting your laundry loads the right way - for example, don't mix lights and darks, etc.

Any tips on washing with well water? We have a water softener but it still seems like clothes are rough, and the cycle doesn't eliminate all the soap in the wash.

Thanks for the great question! To better prevent excess suds from showing up, make sure you are not adding too much detergent. And consider adding the detergent first and let the water level fill completely before adding your dirty clothes. This will help the detergent dissolve more completely and rinse. And think about using dryer sheets to help soften the clothes.

I'm still using a jug of detergent, but someone told me that I'm probably using too much and switching to pods will give me the right amount. On all fronts--cost, environmental impact, effectiveness--do pods work better than my jug of detergent or is it just a different delivery method?

Consumers have a few different ways they can do their laundry. It’s really a matter of preference. Liquid laundry packets are quick and easy since they’re pre-measured and detergent jugs can give more flexibility based on the amount of laundry in the load. Some people swear by liquid detergents, as they can dose the detergents themselves.

An important reminder: today's powdered and liquid laundry detergents are more concentrated than ever, packing more cleaning power into reduced doses. So you do not need to overdose your laundry loads with detergent. 

Most efficient one piece washer dryer for apartments?

While we don't make specific appliance recommendations here, it is a good idea to consider having an energy efficient model. What we can share with you is some advice on using high-efficiency (HE) detergents, which are formulated to work effectively in HE washers. 

Check out our advice on using these detergents effectively online at https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/clean_living/he_detergents.aspx

 

Here is a recent article I did about changing up your laundry routine. Read it here.

What's the proper way to wash jeans?

Jeans can typically be worn three times – maybe more – before washing them, following the instructions on the tag. You'll find many apparel manufacturers recommending to wash jeans in cold water, which can help preserve the life of the fabric. 

We are hearing that some people don’t wash their jeans but put them in the freezer instead – they say that freezing temps can kill some of the bacteria resulting from routine wear, without risk of shrinking. Don’t believe this hype! The bacteria (frozen or not) is actually not that big of deal. But you’ll still need to wash away stains, sweat and any skin that is sloughed off…

 

What makes a garment truly dry clean only? I get it when we're talking about certain fabrics like wool and silk or specific items like blazers and overcoats. Sometimes I see dry clean only on something synthetic and in every case I've experienced, those items have survived just fine being washed in a cold, gentle cycle and air dried. So what gives? Are some clothing manufacturers overly cautious or does some rayon/polyester/whatever actually need to be dry cleaned?

When it comes to dry cleaning vs laundering at home, we recommend following manufacturer guidelines for the best care of fabric.  That’s the recommended approach and one that can extend the lifespan of the garment, but of course not the only route to go.  There are gentle care detergents for finer fabric, as well as in-dryer kits for special care or “dry clean only” fabrics. Let’s face it -- we all don’t have time to run to the dry-cleaners so it’s good to have options.

 

What do you think about Charlie's Soap or Norwex detergent? Do you think it cleans as good as the commercial stuff as Tide or Arm and Hammer using such a small amount and without the scent?

There are a lot of great detergent brands available in the marketplace, for sure. We’re officially brand agnostic here at American Cleaning Institute, but we like to say, use the product that works best for you.


The great news for consumers is that they have multiple selections of laundry and fabric care products that they can choose from in the marketplace. And the challenge for consumers can be that, yes, there are multiple selections of products on the marketplace to choose from.


If the product you're using doesn’t seem to working, consider using a trial size of a different product to see if your experience is better.

 

 

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I recall reading that it's the dryer, not the washing machine, that beats up your clothing and wears it out faster. Is that true? I installed a long closet rod in my laundry room, hanging from the ceiling, and I hang up most of my clothes instead of putting them in the dryer. I'm saving some money on gas & electric bills too.

Heat and friction can limit the lifespan of a garment and that can happen in the washer or the dryer. Line drying can be a way to cut down on that wear and tear, especially for delicate items. Washing in cold water is another option (learn more at https://www.coldwatersaves.org/). You’re right; it can save energy and money.

My kids are stain factories. Food, candy, ink, grass, mud and the list goes on. Is there a silver bullet for overall stain removal, like bleach? Or does it depend on the type of stain?

 

Ah, I was waiting for the stain question.  Stains can be tricky to remove. There are different solutions for different types of stains. For example, if bubble gum finds its way to your kids (or your own!) pants or shirt, you can apply ice or cold water to harden the gum and then scrape it with a knife. There are all sorts of stains, but I know we don’t have all sorts of time so I’ll point you to this great resource we have -  American Cleaning Institute’s stain removal chart to help with just about every stain you can think of. Just remember - speed is the key to attack just about every type of stain. The quicker you can treat the stain, the better.

I have an LG all in one washer/dryer. It isn't vented so the drying cycle is endless and inefficient. Do you have any tips for improving performance? Or is this the price I have to pay to never have to hoard quarters and schlep dirty clothes to the basement laundry room?

It would be faster and more efficient if it was vented, but that doesn’t mean you have to resort to quarters. Try smaller loads and consider air drying things that take a long time, like jeans and towels. 

There are many “recipes” for making your own detergents on Pinterest and blogs. Do you have any suggestions on the best homemade detergents? Do liquid or powders work better? I have an HE washer. I normally buy unscented detergents. Also two problems I have - how do I get ink out of a velvet chair cushion and dried Elmers glue from a silk oriental rug?

We always urge caution if you consider taking the 'make your own' detergent recipe angle, because, well, you're on your own. With formulated products, you get specific product safety and usage information on the label and from the brand website.

Specifically, HE detergents are formulated to work in HE machines, which use lower amounts of water than older style machines.

 

We have a front-loading HE washer and use a couple kinds detergent. Using an appropriate measure of powdered Tide (marked "HE" on the front) leads leads to a TON of bubbles. Using packets never causes excessive bubbles. What's the deal?

This goes to the theme of this chat: changes in laundry routines. Use the product/product form that works best for you.

If you are having issues with a brand that you've used for awhile, don't hesitate to call the company's toll-free line usually listed on the product label. They have folks available to answer all kinds of questions about their products. 

If we -- a family of two -- sorted as you suggest, we'd be washing six or eight mini-loads a week! Light clothes, dark clothes, towels, sheets are the loads we run, (plus special occasions like bathroom rugs). It works fine and wastes a lot less water and energy.

Solutions to doing the laundry on a regular basis are definitely not 'one size fits all.' If you do mixed loads often, consider using a dye trapping sheet, which captures loose dyes in the wash and can prevent colors from bleeding onto your other clothing.

Hi Brian, I moved to the UK where tumble dryers are rare (and I have no space for one anyways) and the climate is rainy. Do you have any tips on how to make air drying better? My main issues are that my clothes often smell a bit musty despite running a dehumidifier and using a vinegar rinse, and my towels are unbelievable scratchy. We've been fortunate with relatively warm, sunny weather this summer, but soon I know it will be dark and damp again, making it all the more difficult to dry laundry. Thanks.

Thank you for your excellent question.  I suggest you use a scented laundry detergent with an oxy boost and/or a liquid fabric softener mixed into the formula. Oxy boost laundry products are specifically formulated for deodorizing washable fabrics, at all temperatures, and in hard or soft water. Liquid fabric softeners work without a dryer. And to perhaps help dry your clothes more quickly, think about rolling them in a towel first. And space them out more on your clothesline for ventilation.

 

 

Hi Brian, one of my cats enjoys soiling in inappropriate places like my bed, the sofa, hardwood floor - you name it - when he is displeased with me. What is the best product for cleaning these messes (both urine and feces): a cleaner with an enzymatic, or one with “oxy” power? Thank you! Lauren (Smith) Semeniuk

When it comes to laundering pet stains, we recommend pretreating or soaking in a product containing enzymes.  Also laundering using sodium hypochlorite bleach, if safe for fabric, or oxygen bleach. 

I have one of those low water use HE washers. I use liquid detergent because if my loads are small I'm afraid a pod will be too much. Are the pods even ok for HE washers? I must say while I understand they are water usage efficient I am not a big fan. I have had some times when clothes come back with clean grass clippings stuck to them - not rinsed off. And the day I tried to wash sheet that someone had been sick all over - don't get me started! There are just times you want to see clothes washing in a nice big tub of water.

Liquid laundry packets are designed to work in a variety of washing machines, including HE. Remember the number of packets used will depend upon the size of the load and the level of soil that is being removed. Be sure to read and follow the HE detergent product label and the manufacturer’s appliance guide to maximize your washer’s efficiency.

Thanks so much Brian - we appreciate all the information and tips. Next week my guest will be Jennifer Boles, author of the popular design blog The Peak of Chic who is an expert on design history and timeless style. Until then...

We've enjoyed chatting with everyone today. Remember, you can get year-round tips and information on detergents, fabric and household cleaning on ACI's website, www.cleaninginstitute.org.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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