So you've been doing laundry for years without ever thinking twice about it. What is there to think about, after all? You've got a hamper. You know to use detergent. You have common sense. But there are a few things your laundry room might be missing that could make this chore way easier -- and help make your clothes last as long as possible. Here's what you should be adding to your shopping list, stat:
Dryer balls 2-pack, $4.59, from Target
What they are: Rubber balls with little nubs.
Why you need them: The main selling point of dryer balls is that they reduce drying time (which is debatable). However, the bigger reason to buy a set, is that they keep static at bay. They also help keep comforters and pillows fluffy. And in desperate times, we've also thrown a few in with dry clothes as a lazy alternative to ironing.
How to use them: Toss a couple in the dryer with wet laundry. They'll gently bop around during the cycle, lifting and separating items.
Lingerie bag, $5, from Bed Bath & Beyond
What it is: A lightweight mesh bag with a zipper.
Why you need it: What goes into a washing cycle as underwear often comes out a tangled mess (especially with thongs). By keeping delicate items in a washable bag, they get nice and clean without intertwining.
How to use it: Throw dainty items into the bag, zip it up, then toss it into the washing machine.
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, $9 for 55 ounces, from Amazon.com
What it is: Also known as sodium carbonate, washing soda is a powdery substance that's often billed as a laundry booster. (It does not contain detergent or soap.)
Why you need it: Washing soda helps your detergent work better by acting as a solvent to remove stains. It also has a temporary softening effect on hard water, which also improves detergent performance.
How to use it: Generally, you'll add a scoopful to the water in your washing machine after adding detergent.
Shout Color Catcher Dye-Catching In-Wash Cloths, $4.50, from Drugstore.com
What they are: Individual sheets that help "catch" any leaching dye during a wash cycle.
Why you need it: Even if you're not committing the worst laundry sin (mixing red and white items in a load), you might have noticed that, after a few washings, lighter clothes can look a little dingy. A dye catcher can help you avoid such a fate, by absorbing any errant dye before it soaks into other clothing items.
How to use it: Usually, you'll simply toss a sheet in the washing machine after adding detergent, but check the package instructions.
Editor's note: Product suggestions are independently researched by our editorial team.