6 Gloriously Simple Tips for Way Better Laundry

Our co-founder Amanda Hesser shares her top laundry tricks and product picks.

March 13, 2019

For The Big Spring Spruce-Up, we’re throwing our windows wide open and letting in all that fresh air. Follow along for handy tips and game-changing tricks—cleaning and organizing to-dos, home decorating projects, and more.

One of the first things I was told in my early days at Food52 was that our company's co-founder and CEO, Amanda Hesser, loves to do laundry. Another team member mentioned it offhandedly when I inquired about a bowl filled with clothespins in a shared lounge space: something like, "Oh, Amanda loves to do laundry. Loves it."

While it turned out to be mostly conjectural—I've never actually seen Amanda add to or take pins from that bowl—I never forgot this detail.

And it checks out. When Amanda agreed to share her thoughts about all things spin cycle for our Big Spring Spruce-Up campaign, I asked why, exactly, she loves doing laundry so much. She has no fewer than nine reasons:

  1. Laundry has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  2. And that end involves a tidy pile of clothes that you get to wear again!
  3. It’s one of the few household tasks that you can pick up at different stages and not have it rule your day.
  4. Laundry is predictable (when done properly).
  5. Doing laundry doesn’t make you sweat.
  6. You can fold laundry and have a meaningful conversation.
  7. Laundry allows you to bring order and neatness to the messiness of your life.
  8. Laundry smells good.
  9. Laundry involves warm, fluffy fabrics. ("What’s not to love?")

It's no wonder, then, that laundry is a Hesser family activity, taking place several times each week smack in the middle of their home.

"We don’t have a laundry room—it’s just a closet with a stackable washer and dryer in one corner of our open kitchen and dining area. I keep the laundry detergent and stain spray in our liquor cabinet, which is right next to the laundry closet. I consider this a pretty luxe situation for New York City," says Amanda.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“A bit of laundry soap, always something that is easy on the environment. Drying in the sun if possible then a quick dip in the dryer to soften things up. Folding Marie Kondo style to fit in the drawers/shelves they inhabit. The beauty is pleasing and my clothes and other washables are happy!”
— Bonnie M.

Here, she shares her most clever washing tips and sworn-by products—bowl of clothespins not included:

1. Use Detergent Judiciously

Just like when she's cooking, Amanda's not afraid to tinker with recommended quantities for the best laundry results.

"I use one-third the amount of soap indicated on the detergent cap," she says. "Neither our waterways nor your clothes need that much soap."

2. Don't Let a Tough Stain Get the Best of You

Amanda's top trick for defeating stubborn stains? Don't give up.

"Lightly wet the stain, rub a bar of soap, stain stick, or spray into the stain, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. If it’s a heavy stain like blood or dirt, run this soaped spot under cold water and scrub it between your hands to try to loosen as much of the stain as possible before laundering. When it goes into the washer, use cold water and put it on the full cycle so there’s lots of swishing and rinsing. You may need to run it a few times," she says. "Don’t assume that because a stain didn’t come out the first time, it will never come out. Rub soap into it again and repeat the rinsing, scrubbing, and washing process."

3. When It Comes to Dress Shirts, Simply Hang & Stretch

One of Amanda's biggest laundry breakthroughs to date has been cracking the code of clean dress shirts at home.

"Years ago, I found myself frustrated by how expensive dry cleaning is (don’t get me started on the sexism of dry cleaning!)," she says. "In order to do this without having to iron, I wash them in cold water, remove them from the washer as soon as the cycle is done, hang on a plastic hanger, and then stretch each sleeve and quarter of the shirt to straighten it. If there are ruffles, yes, I pull on each area of the ruffles, too, so they dry loose and airy. Drying shirts this way won’t get them as smooth as a pressed shirt; your shirts will look put together but a little looser, which is more my style anyway. But it’s free, you don’t have to wait a day or two for it, and you’ll appreciate the feeling that you’re taking good care of your clothing!"

4. There's A Secret to Better Folded Sheets

"Sheets always fold better if you remove them from the dryer just faintly damp," reveals Amanda. "Learned this trick from my mom, whose linen closet looked like a store display."

5. Air-Dry Your Way to Longer-Lasting Clothes

While the dryer's a solid bet for quick, clean laundry in bulk (think: bedding, towels, those 15 sweatshirts that always seem to be in your hamper...), Amanda's got a different approach for her most treasured pieces of clothing.

"Air is your best friend when it comes to laundry. I hang dry so many pieces of clothing: jeans, tights, bras, shirts, and any nicer t-shirts," she says. "I started doing this when I was younger and wanted any good clothing I bought to hold up longer. It works. I have jeans and t-shirts that are 10 years old, and they still look great."

6. Streamline Your Folding by Doing One Thing First

"When I have a big pile of clothes to fold, the first thing I do is sort it," she says. "I make a pile of socks, a pile of underwear, a pile of shirts, etc. It’s much easier to clear an area and quickly fold a bunch of shirts, than to do a shirt then a sock then pants. Also, if you have helpers—aka kids—they love sorting, and socks are easy to pair and fold, so my kids are always assigned to sorting and socks!"

Amanda's Top Laundry Picks

"This is the laundry basket in our kids' room. They love it because they can toss clothes from the other end of the room into it, and it easily rolls into the kitchen when it’s time to do their laundry."

"I have dozens of these, layered between sweaters, strung on hangers, and nestled in drawers."

"Great for small spaces."

"I consider this a household essential—a rack is great for hanging shirts, sweaters, and table linens to dry. And this multitasker can double as a slim perch for towels if you don't have hooks in your bathroom."

What's your tried-and-true secret for better laundry? Let us know in the comments!


Martha M. March 17, 2019
I have used vinegar often to soften laundry. Once it dries it doesn't smell like vinegar.
Love the no white line in your jeans trick!
Wini March 17, 2019
If you take out sheet before completely dry the will smell mildewy. If you mean let them continue to dry outside the dryer, to much time wasted
Suzi O. March 17, 2019
I agree on the air drying! Saves on dry cleaning too. For virtually anything that can go in the wash but seems to delicate, I use mesh laundry bags. Before drying, I give them a 5 minute tumble on the regular cycle in the dryer to help remove the wrinkles (the most commonly used app on my Apple watch is the timer), then hang and stretch out any remaining wrinkles. Works like a charm and again, extends the life of garments. I've even taken to doing this with my better socks!
Amanda H. March 17, 2019
Will have to try the 5-minute tumble!
Anne B. March 17, 2019
I thought everyone did this. Shaking items before the transfer from washer to dryer significantly cuts down dryer time. I also use those wool dryer balls.
Lindsee March 17, 2019
My grandma taught me to do laundry, she was a nurse for 30 years and is famous for her white whites. (Uniforms used to be strictly white in her day.) She is a laundry legend.
But the best thing I learned from her is to give everything a shake when you take it out of the washer before you put it in the dryer. All the clothes are rigid and plastered on the inside of the washer from the spin cycle, so I take each individual item and give it one big shake before I toss it into the dryer. Just to release it from it’s deformity and bring it back to its own shape and form, but also to reduce wrinkles. It is the first step in wrinkle prevention, all other steps occur in the dry cycle, like making sure you don’t overdry items, and of course removing them before the dryer stops, but this one step has the biggest impact in reducing wrinkles. It’s step one, and yet I’ve never known anyone besides my gma and I who do it!
Amanda H. March 17, 2019
My mother does this too (both the shaking out and removing clothes before the dryer stops) -- sounds like we come from similar laundress dna :)
Author Comment
Ella Q. March 17, 2019
I can't believe I've never tried this. Will have to incorporate into my own routine. Sounds like a well-tested tip!
laurenshapiro March 17, 2019
I often find letting the laundry soak in the washing machine tub before the jiggling starts gives me a nicer result
Amanda H. March 17, 2019
Great tip -- it's probably not that different from letting a pan soak before scrubbing it. Thanks.
Meg O. March 14, 2019
I too had my kids help with laundry as soon as they were old enough to understand what was wanted. (they've all been adults for more than a decade) The first laundry chore that I gave to each child was to mate socks. My eldest, a girl, mated socks perfectly. My second, a boy, could not mate socks to save his life. He'd put the same styles together, but couldn't correctly match navy blue, brown or black socks, except if the styles were different. He did the styles perfectly. After a few weeks of the chore, he refused to do it again, because I always had to correct his errors, For a couple of years I thought he'd just been being obstinate but when he was about five, we found out he is color blind. He's not able to see the differences between navy, brown and black socks. I'd misjudged the situation completely.
Something to keep in mind if your child can't do some basic task. Maybe he or she actually can't do it for some unrealized reason. Trust your kids. They don't generally refuse to do chores especially when they'd be rewarded for doing the chore correctly.
Amanda H. March 16, 2019
Thanks for sharing your story and appreciate the good life advice -- "Trust your kids." Hear, hear.
Bonnie M. March 14, 2019
I too love doing laundry. The sorting: Towels, jeans and heavy socks, whites and darks.
A bit of laundry soap, always something that is easy on the environment. Drying in the sun if possible then a quick dip in the dryer to soften things up. Folding Marie Kondo style to fit in the drawers/shelves they inhabit. The beauty is pleasing and my clothes and other washables are happy!
Author Comment
Ella Q. March 17, 2019
I feel calmer just reading this! :)
HStamm March 13, 2019
My stain remover for several years has been Dawn ultra dish soap. I noticed that it was used to clean waterfowl after oil spills. I decided that if it could clean oil off of birds and not harm them it had to be good! I keep a small squeeze bottle close to my dirty clothes basket and simply squeeze a bit on stained clothes before I drop them in the basket. Ready to go on laundry day. I never have had to repeat!
Author Comment
Ella Q. March 13, 2019
Great tip! I have some spare Dawn around, will give this a go.
Jennifer B. March 14, 2019
We use Dawn as an eyeglass cleaner too. No streaks and just a tiny bit works. We put it in the little spray bottles that they give you with new glasses.
Noreen F. March 14, 2019
Especially if the stain is oily, Dawn is great!
Amanda H. March 16, 2019
Such a great tip -- thank you!
Noreen F. March 13, 2019
If I had the space to hang everything to dry, the only things that would go in the dryer would be cotton underwear and fluffy towels. My condo had an outdoor clothesline, and I miss it so much!
Author Comment
Ella Q. March 13, 2019
There's nothing better! My fire escape doesn't quite cut it. :)
Amanda H. March 13, 2019
Totally agree -- I grew up with mom and grandmother hanging clothes, and especially sheets, and have very fond memories of running through the damp sheets as they hung over our lawn!
Leigh March 13, 2019
I miss clotheslines! I don't have one now and the last house I rented, I strung the lines between 2 pine trees! :) I use little folding racks in front of the floor heat vents in my bedroom for most items, only bed sheets and heavy items go in the dryer.
Cj34668 March 17, 2019
Ha, I moved from Cali to Chicago in trying to dry something outside overnight by putting on fire escape I ended up with a still wet but frozen dress! Thing could stand on its own. Lesson learned.
Amanda H. March 17, 2019
Annada R. March 13, 2019
Ella, I particularly like Amanda's two tips about sorting and folding and air drying your best clothes. I tend to do the latter too for my silk, sarees and traditional Indian clothes.
But I digress .. I once met a lady in a mall and I don't remember how our conversation turned to laundry. And she told me something that I'm never going to forget. She said while deciding your laundry mix apart from the colors, you should also pay attention to how heavy the clothes are. Because the heavy clothes are going to mess with the light clothes in the dryer and not let the latter dry completely.

What do you think of that, Amanda & Ella?
Amanda H. March 13, 2019
Hi Annada, I have noticed this but never made enough of a connection, so thank you. Sometimes, I'll dry my husband's jeans with socks and his t-shirts and the lighter items do come out a bit beat up.
K B. March 13, 2019
My top laundry hack: to avoid a white love running along the seam of jeans, turn them inside out before drying. Also, when I realized I was getting reactions from fabric softener, I started using a white vinegar rinse instead (with essential oils added to eliminate the vinegar smell). This, combined with balled up foil in the dryer, means no softener or dryer sheets.
K B. March 13, 2019
Should read "to avoid a white line running along the seam of jeans.". Edit button please!
Author Comment
Ella Q. March 13, 2019
That jeans trick is genius! Will be trying it out myself ASAP.
Amanda H. March 13, 2019
My mother does this -- thank you for reminding me! Also, I never heard of the balled up foil idea before. Some people use tennis balls. Here at Food52, we're big fans of the wool dryer ball (spoiler alert: we're soon launching a new set and style of them! :) ).
Leigh March 13, 2019
I love the idea of vinegar(how much?) and essential oils in the rinse cycle. How many drops, what scents do you use?
bmallorca March 17, 2019
I think we're all on the same page, or at least similar. I have a little bottle of Dawn (used to be in my camping gear) and use the flip up nozzle top to scrub the soap into any stains.

I'd used vinegar with lavender oil in the softener dispenser for about 5 years when I read somewhere some pretty strong opinions about vinegar being detrimental to the rubber gaskets, etc, inside the washer. So since then, I haven't been using vinegar or anything else, and seem to be doing fine. I do miss the lavender smell, though.

I always sort the clothes into flat piles by person first out of the dryer, and let hubby do his own folding and putting away.
Paula March 13, 2019
A few years ago I ditched the stain spray and instead I pour a bit of actual laundry detergent (mine has OxyClean in it) on the stain and let it set a bit. This is much more effective than any stain product I've tried and it means one product instead of two to manage and store. And yes to treating stains more than once as the article mentions.
Author Comment
Ella Q. March 13, 2019
So clever—thank you for sharing!
Amanda H. March 13, 2019
Yes, great point!