Laundry Basics

For Starters

The key to great laundry starts with sorting your laundry by fabric type, color and water temperature. To save time, sort clothes as you put them in the hamper or laundry basket-maybe even use separate bins or rolling carts. Or, if you're like most folks, you can dump out the pile on the laundry room floor and do your sorting there. Either way, here's what you need to know to get started:
  • Read the labels – All garments include labeling that outlines proper fabric care. Start here for the best advice.
  • Sort all laundry into five main groups:
    • Whites – everything white, like underwear, t-shirts, handkerchiefs, etc.
    • Lights – including striped whites, off-whites and pastels
    • Darks – everything dark, like blacks, blues, browns
    • Brights – reds, yellows, oranges, fluorescents
    • Delicates – fine linens, lingerie, some synthetic fabrics
  • Keep your piles on the small side. Machines operate better when clothes are evenly distributed and balanced. When you lay your dry clothes in the washer, keep them loose (don't stuff), and never fill the tub more than 3/4 of the way up the sides.
  • Separate heavily soiled items from lightly soiled garments, and shake out loose dirt.
  • Create another pile for hand-wash-only items.
  • Keep dry clean only clothes separate. Take them to a professional dry cleaner.

Advanced Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve got your basic piles assembled, take it to the next level with these easy steps:
  • Wash reds or new, colored garments separately the first few times. These items can bleed and stain other laundry if you're not careful. To test an item for colorfastness, dampen it with water in a discreet spot and blot with an old white cloth. If color transfers to the white, the item will bleed. To be sure, add an old white handkerchief or sock in with the possible offenders until it comes out clear-then you can wash those items with other like colors without fear of bleeding.
  • Remember that shredded tissue? Carefully check all pockets and pant cuffs for things you don't want to wash. Even check the inside of the machine for the same.
  • Check zippers, buttons, snaps and buckles and secure them to prevent snagging. Unroll shirt cuffs, tie drawstrings. Pin irremovable shoulder pads.
  • Use mesh bags to separate washable delicates from rougher fabrics – or to designate items you can't transfer to the dryer.
  • Watch that you don't mix lint generators and lint magnets. Some lint generators include towels, sweatshirts and flannel. Lint magnets include corduroy, velvets, and permanent-press clothes. When in doubt, turn the lint-magnet items inside out as you sort them.
  • Empty the lint tray after every use to maximize efficiency.