Coming Clean

Photo: Kang Kim

The Best Bet
The laundry process remains a mystery to many. Why do colors get dull? (Soap buildup; try some vinegar in the wash cycle.) And why doesn’t powdered soap dissolve? (You’re using too much.) In fact, powder is more environmentally friendly than liquids. And regardless of the detergent chosen, consider always using cold water. Not only does it save energy, cold water is effective in cleaning all colors and materials—including expensive denim. The best powder for cold-water washing? Seventh Generation Free & Clear ($7.99 at Whole Foods, 250 Seventh Ave., at 24th St.; 212-924-5969) has no dyes, phosphates, or chlorine bleaches. For more on how to optimize your laundry, turn the page.

Photo: Courtesy of Laundress

For Delicates
Lingerie experts at La Perla recommend Laundress Delicate Wash ($20 at Sleep, 110 N. 6th St., nr. Berry St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-384-3211).

Brighten Colors Naturally
Dissolve one cup of plain table salt in the water before adding laundry.

Photo: Courtesy of Method

Cruelty-Free Softening
Method’s dryer sheets don’t contain animal fats, as most do ($4 for 32 at Target, 139 Flatbush Ave., nr. Hanson Pl., Brooklyn; 718-290-1109).

Photo: Courtesy of Home Depot

The Real Luxury
A washer-dryer in your apartment. LG’s diminutive combo unit requires no venting and, at 110 volts, it plugs right into the wall socket without rewiring ($1,399 at Home Depot, 40 W. 23rd St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-929-9571).

Photo: Courtesy of Biz

For Those 800-Thread-Count Sheets
High-end linen companies swear by Biz ($10.49 at Kmart, 770 Broadway, at 8th St.; 212-673-1540).

A Bleach Alternative
White vinegar is naturally acidic and will whiten clothes when added to the first rinse cycle. Use a quarter-cup to a half-cup, depending on load size.

Photo: Courtesy of OxiClean

Best All-Around
OxiClean lives up to its tough-on-dirt TV marketing ($4.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond, 620 Sixth Ave., at 19th St.; 212-255-3550).

Photo: Courtesy of VIPP

That’s a Hamper?
VIPP’s sleek metal canister doesn’t need to hide in a closet ($339 at Gracious Home, 1220 Third Ave., at 70th St.; 212-517-6300).

Photo: Courtesy of The Container Store

Surface Treatment
A brisk brushing keeps suits and coats fresh without dry cleaning, which can dry out fibers ($9.99 to $14.99 at the Container Store, 629 Sixth Ave., at 19th St.; 212-366-4200).

Photo: Courtesy of Random House

The Reference
Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook has 54 pages just on laundry ($45 at Williams-Sonoma, 1175 Madison Ave., at 86th St.; 212-289-6832).

Photo: Davies + Starr

Keep Change Under Control
This coin purse holds $8 in quarters compactly ($78 at Peter Hermann, 118 Thompson St., nr. Prince St.; 212-966-9050).

Photo: Courtesy of Bungalow

A Boast-Worthy Laundry Bag
Pile it all in Bungalow Scout’s sturdy, good-looking version of the Canal Street carrier ($35 at Zabar’s, 2245 Broadway, at 80th St.; 212-787-2000).

Photo: Courtesy of Brooks Brothers

Replace the Inevitable
Brooks Brothers dress socks ($15; 666 Fifth Ave., at 53rd St.; 212-261-9440).

Photo: Mark Viker/Getty Images

DIY vs. Outsourcing
If it’s just two loads of laundry (10 pounds, say), paying for wash ’n’ fold service (roughly $12) can cost only a few dollars more than doing it yourself (about $8). If you factor the cost of your time (at minimum wage) you’ll likely be saving money using a service.

Deluxe Service
Or splurge on Slate, which picks up a hamper’s worth of laundry and returns it two days later, cleaned to your specifications ($236 for four weeks, one hamper per week; 800-573-8459).

Coming Clean