Laundry practices in India have evolved with time, from hand washing and washing machines to professional services like cloud laundry. Along with tier one cities, tier 2 and tier 3, cities have also witnessed an increasing demand for laundry services. However, many Indians are still dealing with common problems faced during laundry in India on a daily basis. According to research, as of 2021, only 18% of Indian households own a washing machine, while a majority of households still practise handwashing techniques.
While doing laundry at home is cost-effective there are several problems like stain removal challenges and lack of expertise to treat the clothes correctly, which can result in piling, smelling, fading, wear and tear on clothes and reducing their lifespan. India is constantly facing an extreme water shortage crisis, which is one of many challenges a large population faces. It has led to 60-70% of India using hard water for various purposes, including washing clothes.
Water Quality and Hardness Issues
Water is an excellent solvent for laundry as it contains minerals it absorbs from soils and rocks. However hard water contains high concentrations of calcium and magnesium salts, metal salts, bicarbonates, silicates and sulphates. While soft and softened water contains less than 20 ppm of minerals, hard water may contain more than 300 ppm. When the detergent is used with hard water, the majority of the soap in the product is used to neutralize the salts present in the water. It results in more use of detergent that leaves residue on the worst clothes making them dirtier.
Effects Of Hard Water On Clothes – Common Problems Faced During Laundry In India
- Residue Build-up: The extra concentration of minerals in the water leaves deposits on clothes after they are washed and dried. The chalky residue clogs the waves and fibres of the fabric. The weakened detergent soap cannot go through these weaves, leading to the clothes appearing dirtier, foul-smelling and harsh texture.
- Stiff Clothes Texture: Unremoved soil deposits on clothes lead to build-up on the fabric fibres. The mineral deposits also react with the fibres making them harsh and starchy. Such stiff fabric is less likely to be flexible, reducing the garment’s wear life.
- Discolouration and Dull Appearance: The chemical reaction between soap and salts causes more dirt to attract and produces grey scum. Over time the built-up residue turns white clothes into grey or yellow and a noticeable appearance of grey or white streaks on coloured clothes. It can also cause reddish-brown stains after washing. The hard water causes dark clothes to fade quicker than soft water.
- Skin Irritation: the contact between the skin and clothes and linens carrying the build-up residue can irritate the skin. It can cause redness, chafing and dryness, especially for sensitive skin. It can also make you more susceptible to various skin conditions. The excess minerals strip away natural oils from the skin, making it dry and acne prone.
- Reduced Clothes Lifespan: The stiffness of the fabric makes it more prone to friction. It leads to a faster deterioration of the fibres in the fabric, causing piling, fading and thinning. The hard water reduces the life of a garment by up to 40%
Solutions And Tips For Dealing With It
- Hard Water Detergent: A majority of soaps and ingredients of a regular detergent are attracted by the minerals in hard water resulting in more requirements for the detergent. Laundry detergents that are resistant to hard water provide better and cleaner results. Such detergents are specifically designed with the required ingredients and low pH to dissolve the minerals in the water. It also breaks down stains and removes the residual minerals from the clothes thoroughly.
- Avoid Fabric Softener: A fabric softener deposits moisturising oils to soften the fabric. It adds a layer over the mineral deposits on the fibre leading to more build-up. It is recommended to use natural fabric softeners like vinegar.
- Water Softener: Soft water is ideal for washing clothes. It deactivates the excess minerals in the water and replaces them with softer minerals like sodium or potassium ions. It is more likely to remove stains from clothes and clean them better, as compared to, when washed with hard water.
- Water Filter: Water filters can effectively remove the excess minerals in water making it soft and clean for washing clothes. It can improve the performance of detergent, leading to better cleaning and longer lifespan of the clothes and protecting it from the harmful effects of hard water.
Common Types Of Stains In Indian Households
- Oil and Grease Stains: One of the most common types of stains on clothes is oil and grease. They are also the most stubborn type of stains. The most common reason for its appearance is cooking or cleaning vehicles. They can be removed using colourless liquid dish soap or diluted colour dish soap, cold water and a toothbrush, and later rinsed off with white vinegar.
- Ink Stains: Pens often leak and spill ink over the clothes causing stains. Smaller stains might come off at home however large stains require professional health but they come off with proper care. Use rubbing alcohol with 70% isopropyl to soak the stain and blot the stain using tissue after a few seconds.
- Spices and Masala Stains: Indian households are known for their food and spices. Stains caused by turmeric and other spices can be difficult to remove, however, specific methods can be effective. Cleaning the residue and covering the stained area with white vinegar water and dishwashing liquid can be helpful.
- Other Food Stains: Stains from juices, ketchup, or tea and coffee can be difficult to remove, once they are dried. Although, immediate treatment can effectively remove them.
- Sweat Stains: Sweat patches are highly common in any household. Clean the stain spot with a specific stain remover suitable for the fabric. Pour it directly over the stain before rinsing it off with hot water cycles.
Effective Stain Removal Techniques And Products
- Pre-treat Stain: Pre-treating a stain is one of the most popular techniques for stain removal. The effectiveness of this technique will depend upon the type of stain, product, and lifespan of the stain. Spray and rub the stain remover on the stain directly before giving it a regular wash.
- Cold Water: Using cold water is more effective for cleaning watercolour paint, blood, food and beverage and most food stains. It is necessary to determine the type of stain to ensure effective results using cold water to flush the stain.
- Pre-Soaking: This technique is often used in busy households. It only requires you to add stain remover or other cleaning product along with the detergent in the water and soak the stained fabric for an hour to overnight’s time. It is recommended to be cautious with this technique as it may cause damage to the fabric.
- Bleach: Bleach is a highly effective stain remover, however, it can cause damage, depending on the fabric. Chlorine and oxygen bleach are often used for whites. It is recommended to perform a patch test and precisely follow the instructions on the product to avoid damage.
- Cleaning Solvents: Stubborn stains caused by grease, oil, and ink can be efficiently cleaned using solvents. Certain solvents are specifically designed for stain removal. Follow the provided instructions for best results and to avoid damage.
- Seeking Professional Help: Some stains are extremely stubborn and difficult to remove at home. It is recommended to see professional help for such stains. Experienced professionals have tools and industry-grade products to remove the most difficult stains without damaging the fabric.
Washing Machine-Related Issues – Common Problems Faced During Laundry In India
Power fluctuations and voltage spikes: Power fluctuations have a negative impact on the functioning of a washing machine. The spike in voltage can damage delicate parts of the washing machine by frying circuits, nodes and melting its components.
In areas where voltage fluctuation is a frequent occurrence, you can unplug the washing machine after every use for precautionary measures. However, failure to unplug or a spike in voltage when the machine is in use can damage the washing machine.
Installing a voltage stabiliser can maintain a constant load despite the fluctuations of power. It will safeguard the washing machine.
Proper loading and balancing of clothes: Overloading extra clothes can cause them to remain unclean, and wrinkled and cause higher friction of buttons, hooks, and zippers resulting in tearing. It can reduce water circulation and its impactful cleaning effects. It can also damage the machine due to extra weight and strain that might be irreparable. The strain on the washing machine can also deteriorate its speed and performance
Tips to load the washing machine properly:
- Distribute clothes evenly balanced.
- Maintain a 6 inches gap between the top of the load and the top of the drum.
- Place lighter items on top of heavier ones.
- Avoid twisting large items like bed sheets and towels.
Drying Challenges During Laundry
Lack of outdoor space for line drying
Line drying is one of the oldest and most common drying practices in India. It has various benefits like sunlight’s sanitising effects and fresh air, allowing laundry to smell clean. But the ever-increasing population has rendered no outdoor space for line-drying clothes. It limits the volume of laundry and the weight of certain clothes that can be dried on the line.
Using a drying rack or clothesline indoors is an effective and alternative solution to the lack of outdoor space.
Monsoon season and drying limitations
The weather and season play a crucial role to dry clothes naturally. Areas with frequent rainfalls and high humidity can experience extended drawing time, lack of sunlight and mould growth. Dealing with these challenges can be difficult however, there are solutions like increasing ventilation in the house can allow the air to move instead of remaining stagnant and keeping the moisture trapped in the clothes. Using dehumidifier air purifiers or natural moisture control can curb the potential growth of mould, bacteria and fungus.
Every Indian household is facing its own set of laundry problems from water quality to lack of space and time, and power fluctuation. These challenges often affect the effectiveness of the laundry process. However, the ever-evolving India has also developed various effective alternatives and solutions to these problems, catering to every social-economic stratum.
Laundry in India is no stranger to a plethora of challenges. From the scarcity of water to frequent power outages, poor detergent quality to limited space, the laundry industry is constantly grappling with a host of issues. To add to the woes, affordability, time constraints, and dependence on manual labor only exacerbate the situation. However, if these issues are addressed, it could revolutionize the laundry experience and enhance efficiency across the country.