2010 September 6

A shoplifter who has been convicted of theft is awaiting sentence in Essex. The superbly named Corie Riddles, who is eighteen, took jeans and a polo-shirt into a changing room in a local store, put them on and left wearing the new clothes. His reason for stealing? His own clothes were too smelly!

So, if you’d rather launder than languish in prison, this is how to keep your casual cotton clothing clean and fragrant.

Checking cotton clothing before washing

Begin by sorting your washing into dark colours, mid-colours and whites. Washing light colours with dark ones is likely to send the whites and lights a dingy shade. T-shirts, polo-shirts and sweatshirts should all be checked for stains before washing. Zip-front hoodies should also be checked, then zipped closed as this helps maintain the shape of the garment. If you own long-sleeved-T-shirts or sweatshirts, ensure the sleeves are fully unrolled for the same reason.

Washing cotton clothing

If you find stains, apply a suitable pre-wash stain treatment, and either leave it to stand as the manufacturer suggests, or rinse it out according to the instructions. Don’t use hot water to treat a stain as it can ‘set’ certain stain materials and make them permanent.

When you set the washing cycle, remember that any cotton clothing that has a protein stain (eg most food or bodily fluids like sweat or blood) needs to be washed in cold water because hot water will ‘set’ the stain. If no garments in the wash are stained, choose a warm water wash and cool rinse. Too hot a wash can shrink your cotton clothing or cause it to lose dye colour.

If a garment was stained when you put it in the wash, check it before you put it in a tumble dryer – if there is still a stain, take the garment out and re-apply the stain treatment and wash it again. If you tumble dry an inadequately removed stain, it will become permanent.

Drying cotton clothing

To save money and reduce effort, drying cotton clothing on a washing line saves electricity and ironing time, and can also reduce the risk of shrinkage. Some people like to put their favourite T-shirts on a plastic hanger and peg that hanger to the line to ensure the clothing keeps its shape as it dries.

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