Whether you’ve washed laundry for years, or are about to wash your clothes for the first time, we could all probably stand to learn a thing or two about how to launder our clothes the correct way. In fact, everyone likely has a funny story to tell about turning their white socks pink at their first go at the whole thing! Most of us get the general idea, but what follows is a guide that will have you washing your clothes like a pro.
1. Avoid Potential Laundry Mishaps
Laundry mishaps can potentially harm your clothing. Naturally, it seems to always happen to our favorite garments. To save you from those “Oh No!” moments, here are some common laundry mistakes to consider, along with laundry routines that prevent damage to your treasured pieces of clothing:
Check your pockets: Bubble gum and fountain pens left in pockets by kiddies have messed up many a solid outfit when doing a load of laundry. To prevent headaches like this from happening, check pockets and remove any unwelcome hitchhikers before putting clothes in the load.
Prep your garments: Fabric can stretch or distort if you don’t prep your garments. To prevent that and rips, be sure to zip up zippers, tie drawstrings, fasten hooks, turn all the pockets inside out and unroll cuffs. To offset fading, turn dark clothing, such as jeans, inside out. Unbutton all the buttons on your shirt and other clothing items.
Read the care labels: Care labels and tags on clothing guide us on the correct way to wash our clothes. In fact, ignoring your tags can mean you’ll be shopping for a new wardrobe sooner than you need to (which aren’t great for your purse or the planet). Follow all laundering directions that read “dry clean only,” “wash cold with like items” and others like them for the best success.
Sorting when it matters: Sorting before washing can be a bit pedestrian, but you need to do it sometimes (remember the pink sock debacle?). Many clothes and linens are color safe and can be mixed in laundry washing. However, we don’t know until accidents happen! Special caution should be given to newly acquired dark/colored clothes because they may bleed. Washing them separately and mixing them with an old white shower towel should help determine if they are color fast or not. You should also sort them based on their materials. Additionally, be sure to separate heavy clothes like denim from lighter ones such as sheer blouses and shirts.
Care for your delicates: For more delicate fabrics, set the washer at “delicate”, “Hand-wash” or “Speedy Wash” cycle, and use cold water for washing and rinsing. Those measures will be equivalent to hand wash in the sink and help prolong the use life for the clothes.For additional safeguarding, you may want to consider placing these items in a mesh bag.
Use bleach alternatives:
Chlorine bleach is harsh on fabrics and will keep them from lasting very long. There are alternatives to it that you can use such as an oxygen-based bleach and hydrogen peroxide – and they work just as well to brighten your whites without damaging fabric or irritating your skin.
Be Green where you can: The average household does approximately 400 loads
of laundry every year. If you want to be a good environmental steward do the following:
• Switch to an Energy Star horizontal-axis machine. It can save as much as 7,000 gallons of water annually.
• Hang clothes out to dry. Dryers are energy hogs and they emit CO2.
• Use a plant or biobased laundry detergent. Conventional detergents are made from petrochemicals that can pollute our soil and water supply.
• Head to the laundromat since commercial washers & dryers tend to be more efficient than the ones in your home.
2. Know the Proper Load Size
Overloading the washing machine is a common mistake that even people who have washed clothes for years tend to make. Unfortunately, what you are doing when overloading is leaving no space for clothes to tumble in the washer. Also important...if you are overloading, water doesn’t properly fill up in the drum. In that case, cleansers in the detergent won’t circulate as thoroughly through your laundry. In a nutshell, your clothes aren’t getting clean.
For the machine to effectively clean your clothes, they should be loosely distributed within. Don’t fill the washing tub more than three quarters of the way, even when it comes to large loads of laundry. For front-loading washing machines, you can pile up your clothes pretty high. Take care that you don’t load them past the last row of holes toward the front, though (that’s the row closest to the machine’s door). For conventional top-loading machines, don't cram in clothes to the point of sitting above the agitator.
3. Use the Correct Water Temperature
Knowing how to use the correct water temperature helps keep your laundry items clean, while also maintaining their quality. We recommend washing in cold water most of the time since excessive heat can denature fabric fibers. As an added bonus, it’s also more energy efficient to use cold water. Use a cold water optimized formula, which should allow for sufficient cleaning. Additionally, use warmer temperatures for harder to remove stains and hot water for sanitizing.
4. Know How Much Detergent to Use
Most of us are guilty of putting too much detergent in our washing machines. Overdosing can lead to yucky residue on your clothes and washers, which can lead to skin irritations and damage to the washers themselves. Also important: Never, ever pour liquid detergent into your washing machine without measuring first.
So, what is the skinny on how much detergent do you really need? The dosage depends on the size of the load (typically, a medium-size load is considered to be about 6 lbs and a large load is about 10 lbs), the type of washer, and the concentration of the detergent. With that in mind, follow the instructions on each respective detergent.
5. Follow the Proper Loading Order
Using the correct loading order in the laundry process prevents excess soap suds and waste. The correct loading order also minimizes fabric damage that can happen when concentrated detergent sits atop clothing.
Your washing machine lid is typically your first resource for loading laundry properly, so check the instructions there before adding your clothes. If there are no instructions, a good rule of thumb is to add laundry detergent first and then the clothing items. Once you’ve added the detergent and clothing, make sure you start the water cycle immediately.
Special Case: Pretreating a Stain
Before washing laundry loads, it’s best to learn how to pretreat properly since mud or red wine stains on an outfit can get pretty ugly come wash time. To have the best chance at eliminating a stain, time is of the essence. Try pretreating the fabric with detergent right away. And if you don’t have detergent nearby you can try some of your favorite DIY stain removal tricks. The longer a stain hangs around on fabric, the higher the likelihood of it setting in permanently.
That’s a lot to soak in, but we know you’ve got this!