Lingerie and delicate woollens– Wash by hand in the sink with specialist washing liquid, liquid hand soap or shampoo. Some lingerie can be put into washing machines in a net bag, if you are prepared to risk it.
Stains – There are many specialist products on the market to deal with stains, but if the item is white or very light coloured, and funds are tight, consider using a weak solution of bleach to get rid of things such as tea and puree stains. Otherwise just keep in stock two: one for organic stains (grass, juice, tea, coffee, baby food, sweat and so on) and one for non-organic stains (biro ink, nail varnish, etc).
Whites – These can be bleached by the sun. If you start your washing early in the day, when it promises to be fine weather, you will be able to hang it outside and allow it to be aired very thoroughly whilst benefiting from the sunshine in this way. Plus it always feels virtuous to have a row of sheets flapping in the breeze, and there is the added pleasure of burying your nose in the pile secretly and sniffing it after you’ve brought it indoors (or am I the only one who indulges in this?)
Pressing – Not all items can be ironed in a straightforward manner, or they will rapidly become shiny and shabby. Dark woollen and tailored items (such as formal trousers or a school blazer) should be ironed on the back, or if a crease is required down a sleeve or trouser leg, you should use a pressing cloth. This involves getting a clean tea towel or old cot sheet, soaking it in water and then wringing it out, and then placing it on top of what you want ironed, pressing onto that rather than the garment below. Also be careful with t-shirts with transfers on the front, as these tend to melt when a hot iron is applied.
Shoes – Many fabric shoes such as trainers and plimsolls can be washed in a normal domestic machine if they are placed in a pillowcase or specialist net. Again, there is an element of risk but they nearly always come out looking better than before. Leather shoes should not be washed in a machine, however, as they invariably shrink. Instead, try wiping them over and then using cheap handcream to bring them back to life. This also protects the leather.
Shoe care – Always keep a simple shoe cleaning kit to hand, and have a once-a-week shoe cleaning session. The best polish is the cheap wax in little tubs, and you should also have at least two brushes per colour (one for applying polish and one for removing it) plus a soft duster for buffing to a shine. If you don’t have shoe polish, you can use milk or even old hand cream. It makes sense to keep various pairs of spare laces at home as well, as annoyingly it will always be on days when you are in a hurry that your laces go just before you have to leave for work. If leather shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper and leave them in a warm room to dry. Do not put them near a direct source of heat, or they will crack and shrink.
Home dry cleaning – If you have a tumble drier, dry clean only clothes can be refreshed and simple spot stain removal can be carried out using special kits available in supermarkets.
Sewing box – At the very least, this should contain white and black thread, a packet of pins, a packet of needles, some safety pins, buttons saved from old outfits, some sewing scissors, and some iron on hemming tape for emergency trouser repairs. Keep one in your clothes cupboard as welll to do simple running repairs upstairs.
Name tapes – If you want to protect your investment in your children’s school uniform, it is vitally important to label everything, and woven name tapes are the best option. Fold each end underneath, oversew with little stitches all the way round, and make sure you do a double stitch at each corner.