Doing your laundry the right way is easier on your clothes
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Did you ever watch somebody doing their laundry the wrong way? Even a non-expert can recognize that packing a hamper full of dirty clothes into a washing machine, and selecting a hot water cycle might not be the best idea. In fact, it’s a recipe for shrunken, shredding clothes–and they won't even be all that clean when you're done. But lots of people still do it.
Doing laundry can be expensive, so it's easy to see why people take shortcuts. But ruining your favorite clothes will cost you, too, if you have to replace them. Do your laundry the right way, and your clothes will look better and last longer. Here are our top tips for doing laundry the right way.
To get your laundry clean, here are some best practices.
Yes, you need to sort your laundry.
This annoying but necessary step can protect your clothes. Dye from dark clothes can run, leaving lighter colors dingy. If you use the laundromat, at least wash your lights and darks in separate machines.
If you have a washer at home, you can be more picky about sorting. Separate whites, colors, darks and delicates, and wash them in separate loads. If you're not sure of the best way to wash your clothes, check the tags on the inside.
Check the pockets.
If you do laundry for your family, check for anything that might cause damage—like a pen that might explode. Washing money doesn’t seem to hurt it. But finders keepers, am I right?
Try running a spot under cold water to remove it. Bad stains need more aggressive pre-treatment. Pour a little liquid detergent on the stain and rub it gently.
Load the dirty laundry into the washer.
Don’t overload the machine. Your laundry won’t get clean if there isn’t enough room for it to move around. If there isn’t enough room to stick your hand into the tub, there’s too much laundry in it.
Add the right detergent.
Make sure you’re using the right type of detergent for the washer. High-efficiency (HE) washers don't usually use enough water to wash out all the suds that regular detergents produce, so they need HE detergents.
Pods almost always go directly into the tub. If you’re using liquid laundry detergent, measure it carefully, and pour it into the dispenser. Adding too much detergent actually makes your clothes dirtier, and can leave spots on your clothes.
If you use chlorine bleach or liquid fabric softener, add them to the dispenser.
These additives can help get your laundry just the way you want it, and these dispensers are positioned where they will be the most effective. Let your washer handle this part for you.
Select the right cycle and a water temperature.
Commercial washing machines don’t usually offer as many choices as home washers. You can stick with the Normal cycle. But if you have a choice, and your laundry requires it, you can get more custom results from some of the other cycles.
To wash bedding, you can use a Heavy cycle with hot water, which will help get body oils out. The Sportswear cycle is good for sweaty gym clothes. If you’re not sure which temperature to use, go with cold. Modern detergents have enzymes that clean in cold water. And using cold water can save money.
Start the washer.
When the cycle ends, empty the washer as soon as you can. And don't leave the laundry in there for too long—it can start to smell bad, and then, you'll have to wash it again. When you take it out, shake out each item before putting it in the dryer. This will help cut down on wrinkles.
Once you’ve washed the clothes, these steps will help you dry your clothes without frying them.
Clean out the lint trap.
If you don’t do this, the dryer has to work harder to dry the clothes. Plus, leaving lint in the filter can start a fire. Just don't do it.
Hang up anything that shouldn’t go in the dryer.
Not everything you own is dryer safe. A tumble in the dryer may shrink some of your favorite things. Just hang those up and let them air dry. Also, eyeball the clothes to see if any stains remain. Don’t put those in the dryer—the heat can bake stains on. Re-treat them, and wash them again.
Load the clothes.
Again, don’t overload. Wet clothes need room to toss around.
Throw in a dryer sheet or a couple of dryer balls.
Either of these will give you softer, fluffier clothes. Dryer sheets can make fabric less absorbent, though, so don't use it on your towels. Plus, if you use wool dryer balls like these instead, you may get your clothes dry faster, without chemicals.
Select a cycle.
Most home dryers have four major cycles. While the Normal cycle will get a regular load of laundry dry, you might choose Bulky for your comforter, or Delicates for lingerie. If your dryer has a Quick cycle, you can use it when you're in a hurry. At the laundromat, choose a medium setting, because it's usually easier on your clothes.
"Remove promptly" is more than a polite suggestion.
When the signal sounds, empty the dryer promptly. Fold the clothes as soon as you can. It probably won't eliminate wrinkles, but may reduce the need for ironing.
It’s no fun to do laundry. But since you’ll probably end up doing it every week for the rest of your life, it’s a good idea to do it the right way. You’ll get all your stuff cleaner, and extend the life of your clothes.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real advice from real experts.