For most of us, doing laundry is just another thankless task we find ourselves spending hours performing on a weekly, or even daily, basis. However, in many cases, tossing our clothing in the wash isn’t actually the best way to keep it clean. In fact, washing can, in many cases, do more harm than good: according to research published in Frontiers in Microbiology, our washing machines tend to harbor significant numbers of harmful bacteria and other bugs, from staph to yeast, further contaminating our clothes with every cycle.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix. There’s another household appliance that can freshen up your clothes faster and keep them looking like new in the long-run: your freezer. We’ve rounded up the 20 surprising ways your freezer can save your favorite clothes and accessories, saving you time, money, and monotonous trips to the laundromat along the way. And to find out what items other than your washer could be teeming with nasty bugs, check out these 20 Items in Your Home Making You Sick.
Keeping Your Jeans Clean Without Shrinking
If your jeans are so perfectly broken-in that the thought of them becoming misshapen or shrinking in a wash-and-dry cycle breaks you out in a cold sweat, there’s a simple solution: popping them in the freezer instead. Fortunately, if the thought of not washing your jeans grosses you out, don’t fear: a recent study conducted at the University of Alberta reveals that, even after 15 months without washing, regularly-worn jeans didn’t actually harbor any harmful bacteria. Better yet, popping them in the freezer did the trick when it came to curbing the potent smell they’d acquired. And when you want to take your usual jeans-and-t-shirt game to the next level, discover the 30 Best Tips for Dressing Well in Your 30s.
Reducing Moth Infestations in Wool
Few things ruin a beautiful wool sweater faster than moth holes. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that their home is serving as a temporary residence to moths and their larvae until it’s too late. The good news? According to the Department of Entomology at Cornell University, temperatures below 40 degrees can inactivate moth larvae, and leaving a garment at zero degrees for more than 72 hours can kill them completely. And when you’re ready to fend off bugs for good this summer, start with these 20 Genius Tricks to Avoid Getting Bitten by Mosquitos.
Refreshing Your Workout Accessories
Not every just-worn-to-the-gym accessory merits a full load of laundry, but that doesn’t mean those stinky sweatbands shouldn’t be freshened up before you wear them. The solution? Instead of leaving potentially-sweated-upon accessories, like headbands, sweat bands, and hair elastics in your hamper until you do laundry, you can just pop them in the freezer to make them less stinky.
Killing Off Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are one of the most persistent pests out there, and one that can strike fear into the hearts of even the most intrepid amateur entomologists. Worse yet, according to one poll, 47 percent of individuals polled admitted they’d come in contact with bed bugs at one point or another while traveling. The good news? Your freezer is the easiest way to get rid of them before they infest your home. According to the Entomological Society of America, placing potentially-infested clothing or bedding in a plastic bag and leaving it in a freezer on its coldest setting for two to four days can help get rid of them. However, if you want to obliterate them without question, a chest freezer is your best bet: researchers found that 80 hours at negative 16 degrees Celsius killed all bed bugs and their larvae. And for more ways to stave off these creepy-crawlies, start with the 20 Ways to Eliminate Bed Bugs Forever.
Keeping Leather Fresh
Leather is one of those tricky fabrics: it looks great, but it’s next-to-impossible to clean at home, and expensive to have freshened up professionally. The good news? When you want to make that pair of leather shoes (or pants, or skirt, if that’s your thing), feel a whole lot fresher in no time at all, pop the offending item in your freezer. Just make sure that you’ve contained your leather goods in a sealed plastic bag or you risk ice crystals staining them. If you think leather goods are too pricey, it’s time to discover these 10 Reasons Why Italian Craftsmanship Is Worth Every Penny.
Removing Dust Mites From Bedding
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, dust mites are likely the single largest trigger of allergies and asthma worldwide. And scarier still, there are likely upwards of 1.5 million of them hiding out in your bed already. Luckily, there’s hope: research published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology reveals that freezing bedding is even more effective than washing when it comes to killing dust mites, reducing 95.1 percent of their numbers after an overnight stay in a freezer. And for more ways to make your bed a happier and healthier place to be, check out these 70 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.
Getting Gum Off Your Shoes
Stepping in gum is one of those “why me?” moments that can ruin an otherwise enjoyable day. And while trying to scrape something that’s been in a stranger’s mouth off your shoes is never a pleasant experience, per se, freezing your afflicted footwear can make it a whole lot less arduous. Simply put the offending shoe in a sealed bag, freeze it for 12 hours, and when you take it out, the gum will have hardened to the point where it can be easily removed.
Protecting Against Germy New Clothes
While it’s nice to imagine that everything we buy off the rack is clean as a whistle, the truth is that our new clothes are still teeming with bacteria. According to research conducted by Philip Tierno, a professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU, everything from strep to staph to norovirus to fecal bacteria has been discovered in unwashed “new” clothing. The good news? Research suggests that freezing is capable of killing or incapacitating certain bacteria, making it a good first step when you bring clothes home—just make sure to put them in a sealed bag first to avoid contaminating the rest of your fridge.
Firming Up Droopy Tights
Anyone who’s ever worn a pair of tights knows that feeling of dread you get when they stretch out at the knees or waist, making them virtually unwearable in the process. The good news? Placing them in your freezer can help. Simply dampen the tights in questions, remove any excess water, place them in a sealed bag, and freeze them. According to one MIT bioengineer, elasticity can actually be improved by the freezing process, And when you want to revamp your wardrobe, start by ditching these 40 Things No Woman Should Ever Wear to Work.
Removing Perfume Smells
If you’ve ever purchased a perfect vintage item only to discover that it’s still bearing the flowery scent of its previous owner, there’s still hope. Perfume is best stored at a consistent temperature, meaning that major fluctuations, whether hot or cold, can make it the scent deteriorate faster. However, if you’re trying to remove a persistent perfume scent from an item of clothing, make sure you’re not sealing the bag first, says Carolyn Mix, co-owner of 2Note, a perfumery based in Hudson, New York. “Oxygen is a great destroyer of fragrance molecules,” she says.
Having a fur coat—or even just fur add-ons, like cuffs or a collar—can be seriously cost-prohibitive. Even worse, fur is a particularly attractive fabric for all kinds of pests, like mites, moths, and carpet beetles. Luckily, you don’t have to spend half your paycheck to refresh your fur items: just pop them in the freezer for up to 72 hours to kill off anything that could be calling your clothes home. Just make sure that the fur is in good condition before doing so; fur with a cracked hide underneath can tear if exposed to freezing temperatures.
Maintaining a New Outfit’s Color
There are few things that fade new clothes faster than a trip through a hot wash-and-dry cycle. To preserve the vibrant hues in your new clothes, try alternating between wash and freeze cycles. Since your freezer isn’t exposing your clothing to any water or chemicals, the dye will hold fast for far longer than it would if you were washing it every time.
Reducing Sweater Pilling
Pills—those little nubbly bits on your sweater—are one of the fastest ways to ruin the look of a beautiful piece. Worse yet, many of the tools designed to remove them, like clothing razors, can stretch your garments or even cause holes in them with repeated use. To limit piling on your clothes, put your sweaters in the freezer to get rid of any musty smells, and make sure to fold them instead of hanging to reduce additional pill-causing friction in your closet.
Reducing Pollen on Clothing
Allergies are the sixth-most-common illness in the United States, affecting millions of individuals each and every year, with pollen numbering among the most common allergies out there. The good news? All it takes is your freezer to reduce some of the pollen count on your clothing. According to research published in Cryptobiology, rapid freezing and subsequent thawing reduces pollen’s viability, potentially providing some relief for allergy sufferers.
Keeping Cashmere Soft
Many people disagree on the best means of caring for cashmere. Some argue that dry cleaning chemicals break down cashmere faster, while others claim that hand-washing will cause it to lose its softness and shape. One thing is for sure, however: popping your favorite cashmere sweater in the freezer will help refresh it fast and without the wear and tear associated with traditional cleaning methods.
De-Stinking Gym Shoes
There are few things more offensive than a stinky gym shoe, but for most people without unlimited utility budgets, washing and drying your sneakers after every trip to the gym just isn’t in the cards. Luckily, freezing your sneakers in between washes can weed out some of the more pungent bacteria hanging out in them—an olfactory boon to you and your fellow gym-goers.
Removing Sticky Stains
If you’ve ever spilled something sticky on your clothing, you know how difficult that mess can be to remove. The good news? Your freezer can help you fix this sticky situation in no time. Sugary substances, like honey and maple syrup, harden at cooler temperatures, making them easier to remove them after they’ve been frozen. So, if you happen to miss your teacup and accidentally get a drizzle of honey on your clothes instead, popping them in the freezer immediately can help the substance solidify rather than set into a stain.
Stretching Out Tight Shoes
Whether your feet have swelled from pregnancy or you accidentally bought those perfect shoes a little bit too small, your freezer can help fix that in just a few hours. Simply place a plastic bag in your shoe and fill it with water until it’s pressing on the shoe’s edges. Seal the bag and freeze; the block of ice will slightly stretch your shoe, making it a more comfortable fit when you’re ready to wear it.
Getting Cigarette Odors Out
Cigarette odors in clothing are unpleasant enough as it is, but the combination of cigarettes and another person’s bodily bacteria on certain vintage items can make them particularly tough to remove. However, popping your clothing in the freezer can help kill off some of the bacteria those cigarette odors may be clinging to, helping you mitigate them in a hurry. Just make sure you also wash your clothes afterward, as well; a recent study reveals that even thirdhand smoke—the kind that might be lingering on your clothes—can have a detrimental effect on your health.
Keeping Cool On Hot Days
There are few things more unpleasant than putting on a pair of jeans right out of the dryer on a hot day. Luckily, misting your clothing with just a little bit of cool water and freezing it before you wear it on a warm day can help keep you cool and out of harm’s way. In fact, research presented at the 7th European Conference on Protective Clothing reveals that wearing slightly wet clothing, thanks to its cooling effect as the water evaporates, is a particularly effective at keeping the human body cool and at low risk for heat stroke. And for more ways to beat the heat, discover these 20 Tips for a Less Sweaty Summer.
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