Since my teen years, the clothes hamper has been my household nemesis. In high school, I was in charge of the clothes pile, a task that languished under my watch until my parents gave me some organizational tips and demanded improvement.
Now that I'm a parent, I have a new spin on laundry dramas. Consider the math: Multiply three children by seven towels a week. Add in 15 sets of school uniforms and several I-wore-it-for-a-minute shirts. With that mix, laundry becomes a major investment in terms of time and money.
These days, the sorting-washing-folding duties belong primarily to me. It's just like high school. But determined to finally score an ''A'' in home economics, I've done my homework. I've accumulated the following tips from detergent companies, appliance experts and other personal care sources:
Like many things in life, good organization is the key. The makers of Tide recommend a well-stocked, well-organized laundry room that is convenient to the rest of your home. Reduce your sorting time, by setting up different hampers for different colors (color, white and dark clothes) and fabric types.
In my home, I plan to eliminate the double-digit towel cycle, by assigning each member of the family two towels for the week. That should reduce weekly towel usage to 10 towels from its current high of about 30.
And speaking of towels, you can speed up drying time, by adding a large dry towel to a damp load. This step could cut your drying time (and costs) by 25 percent or more, according to The Laundry Alternative, a Vermont-based appliance company.
• Yellow armpit stains on linen and cotton shirts. Sprinkle stained areas with a teaspoon of meat tenderizer. Scrub the area with a clean toothbrush. Put the shirt aside for an hour and then wash it in hot water, according to the May 15 issue of First magazine.
• Collar stains. Rub a chalk stick around a collar ring; let it stand for 10 minutes, then wash. The chalk powder soaks up the oil that creates the collar ring. The oil, the ring and the chalk wash away, according to First magazine.
• Measure carefully. Many consumers waste money and resources by using more laundry detergent than necessary, according to The Laundry Alternative, which specializes in eco-friendly laundry and septic system products. South Florida has soft water and that means less detergent is needed to wash laundry. Corey K. Tournet, owner of The Laundry Alternative, said in an e-mail that the term ''hard water'' was coined because it is ''harder'' to wash clothes in it than soft water.''
Believe it or not, I actually enjoy ironing. I meditate while steaming out wrinkles. But if you hate ironing, the manufacturers of Tide detergent have a few suggestions. For instance, wash lightly soiled and bright color items in cold water to reduce wrinkles. (A cold water wash saves energy and money.)
• Shake out your clothes before transferring them to the dryer. This step prevents clothes from becoming wrinkled or balled up.
• Don't overstuff the dryer; clothes do not properly circulate in an overstuffed dryer.
• Fold or hang up garments immediately after the dryer stops spinning or else you'll have a tangled heap of wrinkled items.