Doing your laundry is easier than you think. But you need to know how to avoid some disastrous mistakes. It's one of the best ways to be more sustainable with clothes and make sure they last longer.
You might a few questions such as what kind of detergent to use, what can you wash together, what clothes need to be hand-washed, and more.
Many types of fabrics are very delicate and require special attention. Some aren't chemical-resistant and can also melt under high temperatures.
Let's break it down for you in very simple steps to make sure you make no mistakes when doing laundry.
1. Check the care labels for instructions
Before washing any garment, read the care instructions that can be found on the care tag. This way, you can easily determine if each fabric is washable.
You can even find instructions on a preferred temperature for both the washing and rinse cycle.
The washing instructions may vary depending on the fabric’s blend. Pure fabrics generally need more care and sometimes need to be hand washed.
Most clothes are safe to wash. But don't wash items that need to be dry cleaned.
2. Check the pockets and remove any objects
Small objects are easily forgotten in clothing pockets. Make sure to check every pocket to see if you have left something there.
You don't want to soak anything fragile, especially a watch, phone, or wallet.
Small objects can even damage your washing machine if you let them. Take the extra time to ensure that you aren't missing anything.
3. Remove stains from clothes before washing
One important step of doing laundry is to treat stains. Prefer cold or moderately warm water and try to remove any stain on your garments by hand.
Wash it without any chlorine-based detergent. Cleanse and rinse the fibers in cold water.
Don't use acetone or organic solvents to remove stains either. They will dissolve many fibers and cause irreversible damage to the garment.
Don't scrub stains vigorously either. You could spread stains and even damage the fabric permanently. Instead, work from the outside in gently dabbing the stain.
4. Sort your clothes into fabrics and color
Many fabrics are machine washable while others aren't.
Separate fabrics that can go into the washing machine from those that can't.
You can usually place the following fabrics in the washer:
You should avoid using a washing machine to laundry the following fabrics:
- Viscose rayon
Natural, organic, and semi-synthetic fabrics made with blends of various fibers are usually easier to wash. They can be washed in the washing machine on the cool wash setting.
Garments 100% made of a delicate fiber should be cleaned by hand, with cold water, and air-dried.
To avoid dye bleeding, make sure to separate light from dark colors. Wash them separately.
Before washing, you can also test if they would bleed by dampening a hidden spot and blotting it with a white cloth.
5. Turn garments inside out
Turn garments inside out before doing laundry to avoid color fading and odor retention.
Especially jeans, workout clothes, and dark colors, in general, should be all washed inside out.
Make sure to fasten zippers that could snag delicate clothing. Open buttoned shirts, cuff, and collars as well. Fastened buttons can cause damage and rip the buttonholes.
6. Fill the washing machine
Now it's time to fill the washer. Fill it between two thirds and three quarters.
If the washing machine is almost empty, it can be damaged. You lower its durability considerably if you only wash a few clothes at a time.
On the other hand, a full washer won't give you the best results. To ensure a better wash, fill the washing machine the right amount. Not too little, not too much.
Make sure your clothes aren't tangled together. It's best to place each item one at a time in the washer.
7. Add detergent but not too much
You can add detergent now but not too much.
To do so, open the washer lid. Measure the right amount of detergent, liquid, or solid. Add the detergent to the washer.
Many washing machines have a specific place for pouring the detergent.
The amount of detergent you need depends on how many clothes you plan to wash.
You will need more detergent for heavier loads.
Avoid any chlorine-based detergent as it can melt fibers, dyes, and also damage fabrics.
You can also add a fabric softener if you feel the need to. They soften fabrics quite a lot and reduce static cling. Some even add a scent to your laundry. It's optional though.
In general, you should avoid fabric softeners for towels, and fragile, synthetic, and semi-synthetic fabrics, such as those used in athletic sportswear.
8. Select the right temperature
Prefer cold water. Many fabrics are washable but don't resist heat very well.
Doing laundry at high temperatures not only consumes an unnecessarily high amount of energy but also can melt and damage many fabrics.
Fabrics with light colors generally support heat better. Choose lower temperatures for dark colors.
9. Choose a passable washing cycle
Use a gentle cycle and avoid high spin speeds as much as possible. Otherwise, many fabrics may become very creased.
Make sure to soak your clothes for the least amount of time to avoid dye bleeding.
Many washing machines allow you to select between whites and colors, sometimes called casuals.
Another setting could exist to adjust the washing cycle to light or heavy fabrics (cotton or wool).
10. Start the washing machine
Now you can turn on the washer and wait until the washing program is finished.
You can either press a start button or pull out the dial that chooses load types.
In the meantime, prepare space to dry your clothes.
You can also make room in your closet. Why not take a few minutes to organize your wardrobe and separate the essentials from what is superfluous?
Now might also be a great time to prepare in advance your next outfits for the week.
11. Time to dry your clothes
Once the washing is done, it's time to dry your clothes.
Many fabrics don't support a tumble drier very well. They have very low thermal resistance and will melt under high temperatures.
Cotton blends can usually support higher temperatures. Choose medium heat for easy care clothes such as polyester and nylon blends. Delicate fabrics require the lowest temperature setting.
Just like when adding clothing to the washing machine, make sure your clothes aren't tangled when you place them in the dryer. Tangled clothes won't dry easily.
The dryer isn't the most environmentally friendly device in your home. It consumes an absurd amount of energy and can damage your clothes.
And clothes that go into the dryer are more prone to wrinkling.
If you decide to use the dryer, don't leave clothes unattended. It's a dangerous device that can cause fires if not properly maintained or used inappropriately.
To save money on electrical bills, reduce carbon emissions, and ensure your clothes last longer, air-dry your clothes whenever you can.
You can lay your garments down on a towel for a while, then flip them over.
Or you can hang them up on a hanger to help them dry naturally.
12. Clean the dryer lint trap
The lint trap should be cleaned out after each dryer use.
It's used to catch the majority of the mint from your laundry before it gets into your dryer vent.
This is an important step to not skip. The lint trap should be cleaned out between each use of the dryer.
You can usually find it on the inside of the dryer. It's marked and easily accessible.
13. Iron clothing that needs it
After completing a drying cycle, you can iron your clothes. But it's optional.
You need an iron, a spray bottle with water, and an ironing board to remove wrinkles from your clothes if you so desire.
Use the lowest temperature setting to iron your clothes. Many types of fibers can easily dissolve under high temperatures.
Iron fragile fabrics through a damp cloth if possible.
Many fabrics don't like being ironed altogether. Don't iron clothes that don't need it.
Too much ironing will eventually damage fabrics. And many kinds of items may don't need to be ironed after drying.
Place the ironing board near an electric outlet. Place the iron face up on the board. Plug in the iron and give it time to heat up.
Put the piece of clothing you wish to iron flat on the ironing board. Spray the garment with water slightly. Grab the iron by the handle and apply firm pressure on the fabric with the iron face.
Move the iron up and down on wrinkles until they flatten out. repeat as needed but make sure to not leave the iron face on any surface for too long. Otherwise, you may cause irreversible damage and even start a fire.
14. Fold and store your garments
Once the laundry is done, you can fold and store your clothes away from sunlight and humidity.
Many fabrics don't resist UV and sunlight well. Colors can fade and fibers lose their strength and shape in direct sunlight.
Avoid humid places as well. Clothes moths love a humid room. So do molds, insects, and fungi.
Many don't resist chemicals very well. Store your garments far away from chemical-based glues, perfume, and nail polish remover, and alcohol-based solvents.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.