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How To Properly Wash A Load Of Laundry

April 19th, 2013

Your favorite white t-shirt comes out pink. You find mystery oil stains on your pants. And, to ice the cake, your favorite bright, colorful top has faded into oblivion. So, what went wrong?

Chances are, through some minor mis-education during the domestication process, or perhaps a bit of laziness (hey, no judgment!), you didn’t do your wash properly. Sure, it seems bulletproof: throw the clothes in, pour a little detergent over the mound, and then press the big shiny button. But if you want to avoid the risk of your clothing coming out discolored, faded, or stained, a little session of Laundry 101 couldn’t hurt, right?

The Basics

Prepping Clothes: Is there anything worse than finding a soggy, shredded $100 bill or an exploded ballpoint pen in your washing machine? No, we didn’t think so. Save yourself a world of grief by checking those pockets prior to loading the wash! Loose items (especially change and electronics) can damage your machine, while others can damage your clothes. Also, take the time to turn your clothing inside out and fasten all the buttons, toggles, and zippers on your clothing to avoid having them ripped off or damaged mid-cycle.

Separate Whites & Colors: You probably already know this one… but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t take it seriously. Separating your whites from your colors is crucial to doing a proper load of wash, one that will safely see to it that your whites stay white and your colors stay bright. Colors can bleed onto your white clothes, especially reds, so unless you were planning on dyeing your white t-shirts pink, keep ’em separated.

Separate Brights & Darks: Now that you’ve done the first step of separating the colored clothing from the white clothing, it’s time to further organize the colors into “lights” and “darks.” Dark colors can bleed and tint your light colors, so it’s best to keep them in separate loads.

Adding Detergent: When most people start their wash, they tend to add the clothes, then the detergent, and then turn the water on. What most people don’t know, however, is that many concentrated detergents contain oils that, if undiluted, can create oil stains on many fabrics. Your best bet to avoid catastrophe is to let the water run over the clothing first before adding in the detergent.

Water Temperature

Warm Wash Whites: There’s really no way to fade a white t-shirt – after all, it’s white! And since white is the easiest to stain – as well as the most unforgiving if stained – this is the one wash where it’s suggested to use a warm-to-hot water temperature. The warmer water will better penetrate and remove stains on white fabric. (Tip:  Unless your clothes are heavily soiled, try to avoid very hot water as it may cause some fabrics to shrink or wrinkle.)

Cold Wash Colors: Hot water fades colors quickly, so if you want to keep your colored clothing bright and true, it’s best to wash your colors cold. Cold water is more gentle on fabrics, and won’t run or fade dyes, keeping your colors fresh and bright. Cold water is also ideal for delicates and printed clothing, too.

Extra Tips

Towels: Many people like to wash their towels with their whites (well, so long as the towels are white, that is). But towel terrycloth is normally a bit rougher than most fabrics, and ideally towels should be washed with warm-to-hot water for a penetrating deep clean. Plus, the terrycloth fibers can shed during the drying process, getting all over your other clothing, so it’s best to set aside a separate load for towels if you can. (Tip: Save energy by reusing your towel after your bath, and also air-drying it it the sun after you’ve washed it.)

Pre-Treating: If one of your colored or delicate items is suffering from a pesky stain that looks like it’s going to need a little bit of work, but you don’t want to risk a hot wash, why not pre-treat the individual stain(s)? Pre-treating and soaking will give your article of clothing a fighting chance and the extra TLC it just might need – tender loving cleaning, that is. (PS: Check out this stain-removal index for tips on how to remove stains of all types, from oils to alcohol.)

Drying: If you dry your clothing for too long or too hot, the fibers in your clothes can wear down. To lengthen the lives of your favorite articles of clothing, only dry as long as needed. If your clothes are taking forever and a day to dry, you might have some lint build-up that is obstructing the airflow, and therefore might need a dryer vent cleaning.  (Tip: For delicates, and to save on energy and decrease your environmental impact, try hang-drying for a natural, energy-free dry.)

Labels: If all else fails and you’re just not sure, don’t chance it! Just check the label to see the recommended washing instructions. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

If you have any other secret tips and tricks to doing your laundry, tweet us at @immediaterepair!