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Here’s a tip for all you furry-animal lovers who also own clothing, bedding, towels and all manner of items that you throw, willy-nilly, into your washing machine. Don’t.

I have two cats and a dog, but from the amount of animal hair in my laundry you’d think I run a kennel. I thought this was just an issue in terms of endless sweeping, black clothing that’s never really black and random hairs in everything I’m cooking; then my washing machine stopped draining.

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Now, this wasn’t an immediate thing. It was a slow, gradual, months-long process, at the end of which clothes came out of my washer soaking wet and not particularly clean. Drying the barely clean clothes took an eternity. And they still smelled stale.

I finally called a repair person (hey, I’m cheap and a procrastinator, sue me). Yes, there were two toonies, any number of dimes and a couple of underwires in the washer’s drain hose, but the bulk of the matter clogging things up was a disgusting, hairy sludge. Pet hair.

That’s life, right? I’m not going to get rid of my pets, so I assumed I was just going to see the repair guy every 2 years and suck up the costs. Wrong. The unselfish repairman—foregoing his guaranteed biennial fee–gave me a tip that I’ll make use of for the rest of my pet-owning life: Before you toss your clothes into the washer, toss them into the dryer first. A five-minute spin will fill your lint trap with most of the hair you didn’t even know was there, sparing your poor washing machine and ensuring better drainage and a better overall wash. Five minutes. That’s all. If only I’d known before I was faced with a gross cup of sludge and a $250 bill. But now I can share with you, so, win. For one of us anyway.