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If you’re like most young people, you’ve definitely either Googled “how to do laundry”… either that or someone taught you to do your laundry (a parent, a sibling, a roommate) and then you never wavered from that method.
Turns out it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks (or a young dog old tricks… whatever). These tips can save you heartache and hassle. You’ll never ruin your favorite sweater again once you learn how to do your laundry the right way!
Know your machines
Your washing machine should include three different functions: length of cycle, speed of cycle, and water temperature.
Your cycle length is how long your clothes will be in the wash. Choose a longer cycle for more soiled clothes and a shorter cycle for general everyday wear.
Your cycle speed is how fast or slow your washer will agitate your clothes. For bulky items, like bedding and towels, go with fast/fast. For most of your clothes, go with fast/slow. And for your delicates, go with slow/slow to prevent the items from becoming damaged.
Water temperature is how hot or cold your water will be for each part of the cycle. When in doubt, go with cold water for the energy-saving and clothing-protecting advantages. But for heavily soiled items, hot water is the way to go.
Your dryer likely has three settings: regular, permanent press, delicate, and no heat/tumble dry. Regular is the highest heat setting and should only be used on large, sturdy items like jeans and towels. Permanent press offers a medium amount of heat with a cool-down cycle at the end to prevent wrinkles. This is perfect for most of your laundry. Delicate is ideal for spandex, wool and linen, and other shrinkable materials that you do not want to see shrink. No heat/tumble dry will help you prevent materials that are especially delicate or prone to shrinking.
Keep in mind air and line drying, which is the most energy efficient and cost-effective option.
Read your clothing labels
Doing laundry is a little like going grocery shopping as a vegan – if you don’t read your labels, you’ll break the rules and break your own heart. Your tags will tell you material types, but they will also usually provide wash recommendations. Pay attention to your labels to avoid ruining your clothes in the washer or dryer.
Keep an eye out for that “Do not tumble dry” or “Do not machine wash” callout, unless you like to live dangerously.
Sort once. Then sort again.
On laundry day, you’ll want to sort your laundry twice. First, sort by color. Put whites and light-colored clothing in one pile, and then put brights and darks together in another pile.
TBH, we’ve found that it might not reaaaallly matter if you sort your clothes by color, but this is a best practice if you don’t want your whites to come out as a different shade.
Once you’ve sorted your piles, you’ll want to split each of those piles into two more piles: one pile of heavy-weight, durable items like towels, sheets, jeans, and sweatshirts, and another pile of delicates like blouses, dress shirts, socks, and underwear. On a major laundry day, you’ll do four loads.
If you’re in a rush, you can wash all items of each color together. Make sure you choose the setting that’s appropriate for the most delicate items in the load.
Add detergent, load, unload, load, and unload.
An all-purpose laundry detergent will never do you wrong. Read the directions to know how much to use – most of us overuse our detergent.
Load your clothes into the washer, and check all of your pockets so you don’t accidentally send money or gum wrappers though the wash. Unload as soon as the load finishes and transfer your items into your dryer. Set your dryer timer, set a timer on your phone, and return as soon as the load finishes to unload your dryer.
If you leave your load sitting in the washer too long without moving it to dry, it could leave you smelling *not good* (or just like mildew).
Put it all away
Folding and putting away your clothes is probably either your favorite or your least favorite part of doing laundry. Make sure you fold or hang your clothes as soon as you take them out of the dryer so they don’t wrinkle.
So next time you’re ready to type “how to do laundry” into your search bar, remember that now you have no excuse for doing your laundry the wrong way. By following the directions listed on your garments and keeping in mind these general rules of thumb, you’ll keep your clothes looking (and smelling) wonderful for years to come.
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