Here are some guidelines to follow:
Sort - Separate light and dark fabrics. Use cold water wash. Don't over dry - use a rack or shower curtain to do a final dry.
Soap - Use a gentle Ph neutral detergent - we use and recommend the laundry products featured on earlytobed.com as well as Dreft and Ivory Flakes and Shaklee.. These products are highly concentrated, are HE compatible and. Use of tide, cheer and harsh detergents void many warranties.
Whiteners - If you need to bleach use a non-chlorine variety of whitener. Chlorine bleach is harsh on fabrics and on the environment. LeBlanc Linen Wash is especially good at removing stains and can be used as a spot treatment before washing. An old fashioned and very effective remedy for many stains on white fabric is to squeeze lemon juice on the stain and set the items out in the sunshine.
WATER TEMPERATURE - Use cold water
DRYING - Set the dryer at a moderate heat level - you don't want to burn up the fabric. If you have the space another option is a good, old-fashioned clothes line. Many hardware stores and eco-stores carry retractable versions that can be taken down and put away when not in use. There's really nothing quite as pleasant as sheets that have been sun and air dried. Plus sheets off the line can be virtually wrinkle free.
WRINKLES - And that reminds me to talk about ironing. At the store I tell people that any sheet purchased from Early to Bed is guaranteed to wrinkle. That's because the fabrics are made from natural fibers like cotton and linen. But I have never heard of anyone being ticketed for wrinkled sheets. After all, the idea is that we sleep on them. Sheets relax with usage and, will become softer and smoother over the years. Pulling things right out of the dryer or off the line, and prompt, neat folding will minimize wrinkles. Also, ironing pillowcases and the turnback on the flat sheet (the end with the wide hem) will give you the appearance of ironed sheets without the pain of doing the entire thing. A good local laundry is also a nice option to have.
FABRIC SOFTENERS - Be careful and use less than you think you need. A little goes a long way. Check the care instructions as some fabrics can be stained by the oils in fabric softeners. Never use fabric softeners on Modal fabrics made from beechwood or other micro fiber fabrics. Also, never use fabric softeners on towels as it inhibits the ability to absorb moisture.
TOWELS - The best thing I can say here is LeBlanc Towel Wash or, surprisingly, LeBlanc Down Wash (yes - using Down Wash on towels makes them really soft). Both products keeps towel soft, fluffy and absorbent. I have learned that drying towels on the line leaves them a little rough and stiff. As 'green' as I'd like to be, a soft towel feels better to me and I use the dryer. If you like a rough towel by all means use the line.
DOWN - Again I refer you to a LeBlanc product - Down Wash. It is terrific. At my house I like to do the down pillows and comforters once a year. What a project. Two pillows at a time is okay but comforters really need to be washed individually. Follow the instructions to the T on the Down Wash bottle. That means you'll use cold water and the gentle or delicate cycle on the machine. It's okay to wash pillows in a top loader with an agitator but comforters should be washed in a front loader. Drying is the where all the effort comes in. Using one or two clean tennis balls and the no-heat/air setting on the dryer it will take hours for pillows and comforters to dry.
You'll keep re-setting the dryer for the maximum time allowed and starting it up again. With patience and tennis balls you will end up with a clean, fluffy, sweet smelling product. Don't cheat on the temperature setting. This is the voice of experience. Being impatient, I dried a comforter on the lowest heat setting instead of the air only setting and it is just not the same. I fried some of those delicate down clusters.
Between washings down can be refreshed and fluffed by popping in the dryer on the air only setting with the clean tennis balls, or by setting outside on a covered porch when lightening is in the air.
STORAGE - A linen closet where sheets, blankets, extra pillows and comforters can be separated is ideal. If you don't have a linen closet a separate drawer, or a basket under the bed or hanging in the closet on the big blanket hangars you can get at most dry cleaners works. Always put things away clean. Most bug damage to fabrics is because there is oil or dirt on the item and that's what the bugs are after. Lavender and cedar are natural bug repellants and using sachets of one or the other helps to protect your linens. I like to store comforters over the summer in breathable laundry bags rather than plastic. But if you are shutting a lake cabin for the season zippered plastic bags with the air pushed out or sucked out are the safest way to go. If you are someone who likes to change out your decorative accessories and pillows with the seasons try to set aside closets and/or shelves for storing just those items. It will make the changeover more organized and fun.