Skip to main content

Laundry 101: A how-to guide even beginners can’t mess up

Doing laundry is a necessary part of life, but it’s a task that many people dread. Even though clothing comes with straightforward instructions and washers and dryers are relatively easy to operate, there is still some confusion when it comes to the finer points and tips and tricks of laundry day. Is it still necessary to sort your laundry? Is it better to wash clothes with warm or cool water? Do my sweaters need to air dry? If you’ve had any of these questions running through your mind, take a deep breath. Next time your basket is filled with dirty clothes, follow these few steps for a simple and easy laundry day.

person putting detergent in washer
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Sort laundry

Before you wash any clothing, check the labels. Most items can go in a washing machine, but some have to be washed separately or by hand, while others must be dry cleaned. If you toss them into the washer along with everything else, those delicate fabrics can get damaged.

Once you have your pile of machine-washable clothes, divide them into two groups: one group with light colors, such as white, light gray, and pastels, and another group with dark colors like black, dark gray, brown, navy, and red. While dark colors won’t always ruin lighter fabrics, it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep them separate.

Know which clothes you should separate out. If you have any clothes that are especially dirty, wash them separately. If you have several lightweight garments, wash them in one load and wash heavier items, such as jeans and sweatshirts, in another. Wash towels and sheets separately. This ensures all of these materials of different sizes and thicknesses will wash efficiently.

If you have enough space in your bedroom or laundry room for several laundry baskets, sort laundry as you use it. That will help you avoid this step and will also make it easy to tell when it’s time to do a load of laundry.

Prepare to wash clothes

Before you put clothing in the washer, check each garment for stains. If you find any, pre-treat them with a stain remover or follow a procedure to remove that specific type of stain.

Check all pockets and remove any belts, zip pants, and button shirts so that nothing gets caught on other clothes. Doing this before you put clothes in the hamper can save you time on laundry day.

man doing laundry

Choose a detergent, temperature, and cycle

Wash your laundry with an all-purpose detergent, following the directions on the package to make sure you use the right amount for each load. Depending on the type of washing machine you’re using, you may have to add detergent to the drum or to the dispenser.

Make sure the washer is on the appropriate setting. With modern washing machines and detergents, most clothes will become soft and clean if you wash them in cold water. Heavily soiled clothes as well as towels and bedsheets, need a higher temperature to remove body oil and sanitize the articles.

After washing the items with detergent and fabric softener, the washer normally goes through a spin cycle to remove water from the clothes. On a permanent press setting, the wash cycle is fast, but the spin cycle is slow to prevent wrinkles. If you choose the delicate setting, both the wash and spin cycles are slow to decrease the risk of the garments snagging on the basin or each other. If you’re not sure which cycle to use, check the labels on individual articles of clothing.

Load the washer

When you load clothes, towels, or sheets into the washer, put them in one at a time. If you throw them in all at once, the pieces can get wrapped up within each other and they won’t soak evenly.

If necessary, split your laundry into two or more loads to avoid overloading the washer. If you’re washing textured fabrics, corduroy, knitted garments, or clothes with dark colors, turn them inside out to prevent damage.

laundry on clothesline

Dry your laundry

Some clothes must air dry, but most can go in the dryer. Before you put clothes in the dryer, check the tags to make sure you’re using an appropriate amount of heat.

Use the appropriate dryer setting. The permanent press dryer setting uses less heat than a regular cycle and incorporates a cooldown period to prevent wrinkles. A delicate cycle also uses low heat and dries gentle garments without shrinking them.  If you have any articles of clothing that are very delicate or that have embellishments that aren’t heat-safe, use the tumble dry setting, which may also be labeled “no heat” or “air dry.”

When the dryer is finished, hang or fold them right away to prevent wrinkles. If you would like to save energy, hang your items on a clothesline to dry. Just be sure to check the weather forecast first.

Washing your clothes isn’t as complicated as you may think. Although clothes are made with a variety of materials and washers and dryers have several settings, doing laundry is actually pretty simple once you understand the steps and the technology involved.

Editors' Recommendations

Jennifer Supernaw
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jennifer Supernaw is a freelance writer who has produced home-related content for RISMedia, as well as blogs and articles for…
Can you grow bamboo from seeds? Yes — if you follow this handy guide
Lucky bamboo plant on a wooden table

Indoor plants are a great way to give a nice boost to the decor and feel of your home. Whether you're planting a windowsill garden or just want to have a few plants on tabletops around your home, plants are great for mood-boosting and even for air purification. Bamboo is a popular indoor plant for its modern, minimalist appearance, and in some cultures, it's even said to bring its owner good fortune. We're going to discuss how to grow bamboo seeds into flourishing plants with the right soil, conditions, and care.

Is it easy to grow bamboo?
The process for growing bamboo plants from seeds is specific, but it isn't all that taxing. The difficulty comes in obtaining viable bamboo seeds. Many bamboo varieties don't flower for long periods of time, and when they do, the plant dies soon after. Furthermore, finding bamboo seeds to ship from overseas is made even more difficult with border regulations on such products. The best way to get viable bamboo seeds is to find someone local who is selling seeds.
What conditions do bamboo seeds need to grow?

Read more
How to make Swedish meatballs even tastier than IKEA’s
Swedish meatballs and light colored gravy in a silver pan

When we think about meatballs, we most often think of Italian meatballs, served in tangy tomato sauce and served with spaghetti. But there’s another popular meatball that’s every bit as tasty but with a milder flavor, and it’s surprisingly easy to make.

So, what makes Swedish meatballs different? For starters, Swedish meatballs tend to be made smaller than Italian meatballs and are typically made using equal portions of ground pork and ground beef. Rather than the parmesan cheese and garlic flavoring used for Italian meatballs, Swedish meatballs include fragrant allspice and nutmeg, and the meatballs are often paired with a creamy white sauce rather than a tomato-based sauce.

Read more
8 handy tips for buying secondhand furniture (so you don’t end up buying junk)
Secondhand furniture shop with unique pieces

Looking for one-of-a-kind furniture to match your eclectic style? Secondhand shopping is the way to go! Whether you’re exploring a giant flea market or your local thrift store, it’s easy and fun to find vintage pieces that fit your unique style and will look great in your home. But shopping for used items is slightly different than going to a furniture store; it requires more research and effort. That extra work pays off, though, when you score a deal on the piece of furniture you’ve been dreaming of. Here are a few tips to help you find secondhand furniture that’s stylish, functional, and affordable.

Know what you’re looking for before you go
Whether you’re at a secondhand shop, yard sale, or flea market, the sheer volume of available pieces can be overwhelming. Especially for thrift shopping beginners, it helps to have a plan. Decide what type of furniture you’re looking for and what design styles would look best in your home. You should also take measurements ahead of time so you don’t purchase a piece that doesn’t fit your space.
Check tags and labels
When you find a piece you like, the first thing you should do is check the price tag, as well as the label or stamp on the furniture. This will let you know who manufactured the furniture. If you’re not familiar with the maker, do a quick online search to learn more about the manufacturer, the piece, and its value. This information is crucial to determining whether you’re getting a good deal or if you should keep on walking.
Look for signs of damage
Before taking furniture home, inspect it carefully for irreparable damage and unpleasant odors. Avoid pieces with pest-damaged or rotting wood, as this kind of structural damage is difficult and usually not financially worthwhile to fix. Water damage and burn marks can also be challenging to handle without the help of a professional. With fabrics, look for tears, stains, and unpleasant odors. Some smells, like smoke or pet messes, can linger. And while upholstery can be replaced, stuffing and filling can also be impacted by scents.

Read more