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how to wash clothes

How to wash clothes, so they get clean the first time?

How to wash clothes

It's not as easy as it seems, as anyone who's ever pulled a pink shirt out of the washing machine when a white one went in knows.

There are three key things you should always do to ensure your clothes clean and help them retain their original color and texture.

They are: sorting your laundry by color, matching the right wash water temperature to each load, and treating stains on clothes before they go into the washing machine.

If you take the time to do each of these three steps, you'll be rewarded with clothes that last longer, and they'll look better, too. Here's how to wash clothes, step by step. 

How to Wash Clothes: Sorting Made Simple

The secret to washing clothes successfully and getting everything cleaned safely is to sort your laundry into load of similar colors, wash cycles, and water temperature.

A hamper with separated sections can help simplify and organize the job.

Look to the clothing care labels on your garments for guidance. They make selecting the right machine settings simple.

As you sort, be on the lookout for items that have spills or stains, or that are dirty. (Filthy clothes can transfer dirt in the wash to lightly soiled clothes).

Set these items aside for pretreating before you wash. (See the Stain Removal Guide for tips on removing 9 common clothing stains.)

How to Sort Clothes by Wash Temperature

Clothing labels are your best guide to choosing the right wash water temperature. If a label is not legible, here's a quick guide to help you choose the best temperature:

  • Hot water works well on ground-in and hard-to-remove dirt on sturdy fabrics. Use it to clean seriously soiled clothes (gardening or children's clothes), and to disinfect dish towels and bedding regularly.
  • Warm water minimizes color fading and wrinkling. Choose it for washing synthetic fibers, natural and synthetic blends, and moderately soiled fabrics.
  • Cold water will protect most dark or bright-colored clothing from running and minimizes shrinkage of washable woolens. Use it for lightly-soiled clothes and those with blood, wine, or coffee stains (which may set if washed in warm or hot water), regardless of fabric. 

Always Chill on the Rinse Cycle

But for the rinse cycle, cold water is excellent for all types of loads. Another benefit: A cold-water rinse can reduce the energy used per load by up to one-third, and it helps minimize wrinkling in synthetic and permanent-press fabrics.

Don't Overload the Washing Machine

Place clothes loosely in the washer, taking care not to wrap items around the agitator, where they could become tangled during the cycle.

Clothes should move freely through the water for optimal cleaning. If you're not sure, lift the lid during the cycle. Properly loaded clothes should sink and then reappear on the surface.

Overloading causes clothes to rub together - breaking down the fibers - and reduces the effectiveness of your laundry detergent. It also allows dirt to be redeposited on clothes instead of heading down the drain with the rinse water.

Dry Small Loads Together

If you have several small loads, dry them together to protect your clothes from heat damage and to hasten the drying process.

Drying small loads reduces the tumbling effect produced by a pile of clothes rotating all together, and therefore actually prolongs the amount of time it can take to dry the clothes.

Set the dryer cycle to Regular or High if your load is all cotton (and preshrunk) fabrics; choose Permanent Press if the load consists of polyester or other synthetic fabrics; select the Low, Gentle, Delicate, or Air-Dry setting for fragile or sheer fabrics.

› How to Wash Clothes