10 Life-Changing Laundry Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

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Do you fantasize about winning the lottery, if only so you could pay someone else to deal with your laundry? Life is messy — anyone in charge of doing their own laundry is confronted with that reminder daily. Taking your clothing from stained and stinky to clean and fresh isn't always a simple task. It's easier to rise to that challenge when you have a bunch of shortcuts and secrets tucked away in your back pocket.

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1. Banish Stains With Baby Wipes

Do you always feel a little tense while eating or drinking in clothes that are dry clean only? Stain removal is so much more of a hassle when you don't have the option of throwing the soiled garment in the washing machine. Keep baby wipes on hand to treat stains on those delicate fabrics. These wipes are made with detergent strong enough to wash away some marks, but gentle enough that your clothes shouldn't be damaged.

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2. Treat Grease Spots With Chalk

Oil is great for cooking your food, but not so great for your clothing. Your best chance at removing a grease stain on fabric is treating it right away, before it has a chance to set it. Keep white chalk in the kitchen and laundry room to rub into those oily stains. Chalk will soak up some of the grease and wash away in the laundry.

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3. Use Vinegar to Treat Sweat Stains

When you've been working out, you want it show in your muscle definition — not in the yellow stains on your shirts. Detergent alone won't get rid of sweat stains on clothing. White vinegar could be up to the task, though. Soak stained areas in vinegar for at least a few minutes before laundering these items like normal.

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4. Fluff Laundry With Tennis Balls

Have you ever pulled a comforter or big cozy blanket out of the dryer, only to find it's disappointingly lumpy and flat? Next time, add a tennis ball to the dryer. It will create agitation that keeps towels, blankets and down jackets fluffy. And it probably goes without saying, but don't try to recycle one of your dog's tennis balls for this purpose. Only use fresh tennis balls to fluff your laundry.

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5. Lift Sticky Stains With Ice

Apparently, chewed gum has some sort of magnetic attraction to clothing. The next time gum finds its way onto your jeans instead of into the trash can, head for the kitchen instead of the laundry room. Cover the sticky spot with ice and let it sit for a few minutes, then use a butter knife to remove the hardened mess. Try to get all the residue off this way, as your washing machine may not be up for the task of getting dried gum off of clothing.

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6. Skip Dryer Sheets and Use Foil Instead

Why buy dryer sheets when you have a perfectly good substitute sitting in a kitchen drawer? Foil balls disperse static electricity, so your clothes won't cling when they come out of the dryer. Make a fist-sized ball of foil to toss into the dryer, or cover a tennis ball with foil. These balls can be reused over and over again.

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7. Reverse Shrinking With Baby Shampoo

Has this ever happened to you? You pull on a favorite, flattering sweater and suddenly feel like a sausage stuffed into a casing. Did you gain a ton of weight overnight, or did your dryer shrink another beloved piece of clothing? Soak the shrunken item in a solution of warm water and a little bit of baby shampoo, then gently stretch it back into shape and air dry.

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8. Treat Musty Smells With Vodka

It's so disheartening to pull a big batch of laundry out of the dryer and to smell mildew instead of a fresh, clean scent. It may not be necessary to throw musty-smelling towels and clothing back into the washing machine. Instead, put a little vodka in a spray bottle. Spritz the fabric and let it air dry, and the smell should be much less noticeable.

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9. Try Eco-Friendly Soap Nuts

If you've made a commitment to cut down on waste or to use fewer chemicals, soap nuts could be the perfect new addition to your laundry room arsenal. They're a kind of dried berry that contain a natural cleaning agent called saponin. To use soap nuts instead of detergent, put a handful of them in a mesh bag and add the bag to a load of warm-water washing. The water will release the cleaning agent, and the soap nuts can be used again.

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10. Use a Flat Iron to Get Rid of Wrinkles

It doesn't matter how fresh and clean your laundry is — if your shirt collar is wrinkled, you're going to look unkempt. But unless you're really talented with an iron, you're bound to struggle with those hard-to-navigate areas like the collars, arms and plackets of your dress shirts. A narrow hair straightener is easier to work into those tight spots. Buy a cheap flat iron just for this purpose; one that's already been used on your hair may be coated in product residue that you don't want transferred to your clothes.

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