We all love the smell of freshly laundered clothing, and the crisp, pressed lines of a well-ironed shirt or pair of trousers. But not many of us may love the process of doing laundry, and some like ironing clothes even less! That s why washing machines, dryers and irons are becoming increasingly high-tech and sophisticated —to help us do more laundry in less time. Having a well-planned laundry area will also help you work more smoothly and efficiently.
So, how do you tackle this chore without breaking into (too much of) a sweat? Check out our guide to everything from choosing your equipment to designing the space and caring for your fabrics.
CHOOSING A WASHING MACHINE
First, measure the space you d like to place your washing machine in, and choose a machine that fits. Combined washer-dryer models are a good choice for tight spaces. A front-loading machine will let you use the space above it for folding clothes, or to stack a dryer above.
Front-loading machines will also allow you to load heavy, bulky items such as bedding more easily than top-loading versions. However, you will have to bend over when loading and unloading the clothes, which might prove a bit of an inconvenience. Using the machine with the right capacity will help you save electricity and water. An average-sized household will need a washing machine with an approximate capacity of 6-8kg. Washing machines are subject to the Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (MWELS) —the more ticks they have, the less energy and water they use.
If you have special considerations such as allergies or if you re washing baby clothes, pick a machine with features such as detergent residue detectors (which give fabrics a more thorough final rinse —great for those with sensitive skin) or a baby clothes mode, which uses very hot water to obliterate bacteria. Technological innovations such as the Miele for Life programme even cater to washing needs at different stages of your life (using the same machine). Using computer software, Miele for Life “upgrades” selected Miele washers with the washing programmes you need.
Washing modes for delicate fabrics such as silk or wool will help you cut down on dry cleaning bills. For maximum enjoyment of your downtime while the machine is running, pick one with noise-reduction capabilities.
Use a laundry bag (a small nylon bag with a zipper) to protect delicate items such as silk underwear and pantyhose in the wash. The bag will also prevent clothing with hook and loop fasteners from snagging onto other garments.
choosing a dryer
Dryers weren t so common in the past, with most households drying their clothes naturally in the sun. But now, with many homes left empty during the day (no one to bring in the washing when it rains), having a dryer is a real advantage.
The factors to consider when deciding on a dryer are similar to those of choosing a washing machine. Take into account the size of the machine, its drying capacity (an 8kg capacity is recommended for households that dry beddings and curtains), energy consumption (dryers are also included in the mandatory energy-labelling scheme), noise level and the special features offered. These include crease-removal functions to help you cut down on ironing time.
There are two types of dryers, both of which operate differently (which will affect where you decide to locate the machine). Air-vent or vented dryers come with an outlet hose to disperse the hot damp air and should be placed near a window or in a well-ventilated area, condenser dryers typically condense this hot air into water, which is collected in a tank within the machine. This means the dryer can be placed anywhere you want it.
Separate your clothing and put similar fabrics together in one drying cycle. Your clothes will dry more evenly, and you will also save time and energy.
CHOOSING AN IRON
There s no need to adjust ironing temperatures for different fabrics with the Philips PerfectCare GC9245 steam iron ($699), which releases steam at a consistently high pressure.
Creases in clothes are caused by the effects of heat and moisture, so it takes the same elements to loosen fabric fibres and “fix” them in the shape you want. That s why many modern-day irons come with steam functions. Using a dry iron means you ll need to dampen the clothes before you iron them. However, you should use a dry iron when you press starched clothes. Heavier irons work better when there s little or no steam available, but with lots of steam, the weight of the iron becomes secondary.
For better results in less time, consider an iron that has a pressurised steam generator. A separate boiler base holds the water and the steam is sent to the iron through a hose. These usually cost more than regular irons.
If you like the idea of using a garment steamer, take note that in order to get smooth surfaces, you ll need to stretch the fabric to steam out the wrinkles. Remember that garment steamers won t give you crisp pleats and fold lines, either.
To save time when ironing, start with fabrics that require low heat (silk, nylon and polyester) and move on to those that call for high heat (linen).
DESIGNING YOUR LAUNDRY AREA
Make sure there is enough clearance for you to open the machine doors and operate switches comfortably, and also ensure that the machines are located close to power and water points.
The benefit of a front-loading washing machine, as mentioned earlier, is that it can go under a countertop or have a dryer stacked above it. If you have the space, a countertop to sort dirty laundry for washing or to fold clean clothes is helpful. You can also put clothing that needs to dry laying flat (such as woven items) on this surface.
If you re planning (and have the space) to do your ironing in the laundry area, store your ironing board securely using a wall-mounted holder so accidents don t happen. Alternatively, install a wall-mounted version that stows flat against the wall when it s not needed. Add wall-mounted shelves to hold detergent, pegs and even a radio to keep you company.
KEEP THEM WORKING
Golden rules for maintaining your washing machine and dryer.
•Read your instruction manuals. Some washing machines require you to use certain detergents only.
•Perform regular maintenance of your machine s detergent drawers and drum. Residual detergent or water can breed bacteria. Do a maintenance wash a few times a year —run the machine on an empty load, and at the hottest temperature it can handle.
•Inspect the drums of washing machines and dryers regularly, and remove any foreign objects inside them as they may cause disturbance during usage or cause wear and tear.
•For dryers, clean out the fluff filter after every use. Empty the water tank of condenser dryers frequently.