1. Home
Send to a Friend via Email

Laundry Basics - From Sorting to Drying

How to Do Laundry For Great Results


Laundry Basics - From Sorting to Drying
Photo: © Mifflin
We spend a lot of money every year on clothing and the time taken to carefully launder them can go a long way to increasing their lifespan and helping them retain their shape and good looks.

Thanks to advancements in washer designs and delicate cycles, we don't have to spend as much time handwashing clothes these days, but there are still some items that require special care.

Clothing manufacturers have taken the guesswork out of fabric care by providing small symbols which denote specific washing instructions for best results. This laundry symbols list can serve as a refresher on how to read these symbols.

Proper laundry sorting and selecting the correct washing cycle are crucial for a perfect wash. To complete the laundry, how you dry it can have as much impact on the results as the washing cycle. Your operating manuals can also provide some valuable information as to special features, cycles and fabric care options for your particular washer and dryer.

Sorting For Best Results
  • Check all pockets for tissues and other pocket debris, remove belts and accessories, and unbundle socks.
  • Items that are labeled 'Dry Clean Only' - usually mean just that, and trying to even handwash these will likely not produce positive results. Remove from the pile and deliver to your local dry cleaning depot.
  • Turn all clothing inside right ensuring sleeves and pant legs are fully extended. Some people prefer to turn good clothing inside out - this is usually a matter of preference, but with certain dark clothing, inside-out can prevent pilling from other items. See Clothes Shavers for more information on why pilling occurs and what to do to restore your clothing.
  • Small items like baby socks and mitts should be placed in a mesh laundry wash bag, to prevent them from becoming trapped in the discharge hose or in the washer screen.
  • Pile 1: Whites - Items that can be washed in a long wash cycle and full spin with hot water and bleach, such as socks, underwear, face cloths, towels and sheets.
  • Pile 2: Light colors - Warm or cold short wash cycle, for t-shirts, linens, tops, and shorts. If these are very soiled, you may want to consider a bleach specially made for colors.
  • Pile 3: Dark colors - These can be washed in warm water or cold depending on the type of material. Items like jeans and dark socks should be washed on a long cycle with a full spin. Permanent-press trousers and dark t-shirts should be washed on a shorter wash cycle with a low spin to reduce the possibility of wrinkles.
  • Pile 4: Delicates - Items such as dress clothing, polyester or lycra blends, sweaters and fine wearables, these will require individual sorting and washing depending on the fabric and color, and should be either handwashed, or washed on a delicate cycle in cold water, with a mild laundry detergent.
  • This is a great time to add stain or spot remover as you sort your wash, it will allow time for the solution to work on the soiled area.
  • You will probably have more piles as you divide into loads, such as a dark towel load that would be washed in hot or warm water, on a long wash cycle with a full spin.
Washing Cycles & Special Options

Basic washers will generally have at least two cycles, a long regular cycle with a full spin - for the whites, jeans or a towel/linen load. And a shorter cycle with a low spin especially for permanent press fabrics such as dress clothing and t-shirts.

A delicate cycle is usually very short with little agitation and is perfect for fine wearables, dress clothing and sweaters. Learn more about special detergents for fine and delicate clothing in Zero by Woolite

Presoak options are terrific for reducing the need to rewash items that are heavily soiled and this feature will usually proceed into the wash cycle.

A bleach dispenser is a great feature, but care should be taken to ensure that there is sufficient water in the tub to allow the bleach to dilute, before you start adding your washload. There also could be a small residue of the bleach that leeches back out into your next load. I've found adding the bleach directly to the water and allowing it to mix, has provided better results. It should be noted that this only works with top-load washers; with front-load models, the bleach and detergent must be added to the dispensers.

Drying Features & Options

Basic dryers usually have a long timed cycle for heavier loads and a shorter cycle that has a lower heat and a cooling down period, for permanent press clothing. This cool-down period reduces the presence of wrinkles and is ideal for clothing that has a polyester content, or for lighter fabrics.

The lint filter should be cleaned prior to drying all loads to ensure safe operation and to enable your dryer to operate efficiently. See Dryer Lint Filter Safety for an important safety precaution. Use care to not overload your dryer. Just because there is room left in the tub, it doesn't mean the dryer belt can handle an extra large load. This will only make your dryer work harder and take longer to dry a huge load if your dryer is not designed for oversize washloads.

Promotional Feature: View this video series to learn how to take good care of your house.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.