Learning how to do laundry is not difficult. Today’s fabrics, detergents, and machines take most of the mystery and mistakes out of the process. Follow these ten basic steps for washable clothes and you'll have clean laundry to wear and use tomorrow. But, first determine if your clothes really need to be washed. You'll save time and money if you follow these guidelines for cleaning men's and women's clothes.
Step One - Read the Labels
Check the care labels on your garments and linens. They will tell you whether an item can be machine washed. Every type of fabric has properties that determine how it reacts to heat, water and cleaning solvents.
Place all clothes that are labeled “wash separately” or “hand wash” into separate piles. As a novice launderer, if it says, “dry clean only,” believe the label and place in a bag to take to the dry cleaners.
Step Two - Sort
Start by sorting the laundry by color. Whites, pastels, light gray and white background prints will go in one pile. Deep colored clothes – black, red, navy, brown, dark gray – go in another pile.
Step Three - Sort Again
Sort each pile one more time by type of fabric. For instance, in the whites pile separate towels and sheets from apparel. In the dark colors, separate t-shirts and jeans from lighter weight items like blouses and dress shirts.
Washing by fabric type allows you to use different water temperatures and keeps drying cycles simple. To reduce lint, never wash lint producing fabrics and lint attracting fabrics together!
If there are not enough items for a full washer load of each type of fabric and you are in a hurry, you can wash all of each color together.
Just be sure to choose the washer cycle to fit the most delicate garments in the load.
Step Four - Pick a Detergent
Select an all-purpose laundry detergent and read the directions to determine how much to use. If clothes have stains, pre-treat them before washing by using a stain remover or a bit of the laundry detergent. Add the detergent to the washer drum or dispenser before loading to prevent residue on clothing.
Step Five - Pick a Washer Water Temperature & Cycle
Unless your clothing is caked with dirt and heavily stained, washing in cold water will serve your needs and prevent most laundry disasters. The exception is cotton underwear and bed sheets that need hot water to remove body oil. Bed linens and towels need to be washed at the highest recommended temperature at least every other wash to sanitize. Always rinse in cold water. Choose the best washer cycle for the fabrics in the load.
Step Six - Final Check
Look for any stains and pretreat them. If you don't know how to treat stains, take the time to read one of the following articles.
Check that all pockets are empty – no tissues or paper - to prevent disasters.
Remove any accessories such as belts and jewelry. Close all zippers and buttons.
Step Seven - Load the Washer
Load items into the washer one at a time, making sure they are not in a wad. Do not cram the washer too full. The clothes need room to move about in the water. To protect fabric finishes and reduce the “washed out” look, turn knitted items, corduroy, textured fabric and dark colors inside out.
Step Eight - Unload the Washer
Promptly remove wet laundry from washer to lessen wrinkles and prevent mildew. Hang items to air dry, lay flat to dry or place in dryer.
Step Nine - Load the Dryer
If you did not separate loads by fabric type when washing, do it now before placing items in the dryer and dry all lightweight items together and then all heavy fabric items at the correct dryer temperature.
This will help prevent shrinking and protect your clothing.
If you choose to line dry, follow these tips.
Step Ten - Hang or Fold
Hang or fold each piece as it comes out of the dryer to prevent wrinkling.
And, of course, iron if you must.
Final Tips for Laundry Success
Mistakes happen. We've all made them but here's some help to save the day...or your favorite shirt.
Laundry is much less overwhelming if you do it frequently. If you let a mountain of dirty laundry accumulate, it is scary. Even if it is a hassle to go to the laundry room or laundromat, try to use the time to read or relax and enjoy the scent of your newly cleaned laundry.