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Laundry Basics

Whether you’re a laundry novice or a professional (a.k.a. Mom), here are the basics to help you brush up on your skills in the laundry room. This informative resource will help you solve just about every laundry mystery . . . except for where the missing socks are.


Sorting Your Laundry

Start by reading the care labels on your clothes.
  1. Sort by color (separating whites from colors and pastels from dark colors).
  2. Wash heavily soiled garments separately as soils can travel from one garment to another.
  3. Separate delicate fabrics, which require a gentle cycle, from heavier items.
  4. Wash lint-producing fabrics, like terry robes, towels and chenille spreads, by themselves.
  5. Finally, while sorting, close all zippers, hooks and other devices and remember to check pockets for “surprises.”


Pretreating Stubborn Stains

According to the severity of soils/stains on your garments, you may want to pretreat, presoak or prewash.


Used for a few small spots. Apply undiluted laundry detergent such as Liquid Tide with Bleach Alternative; undiluted liquid dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn


; or rub Ivory bar soap, or suds from an Ivory bar, directly on the stained area. Launder immediately.


Used for deep-set soils, old stains, extensive staining or protein stains like blood, grass or body soils. Soak stained item(s) in a plastic bucket or laundry tub with the warmest water safe for the fabric and a good heavy-duty laundry detergent like Tide for a maximum of 30 minutes.


Bleach-sensitive stains like fruit juice or drink mixes should be rinsed in cold water, then washed with a non-chlorine bleach product such as Tide with Bleach. If stains remain, color safe items may be laundered with a colorfast bleach like Biz®


 and bleachable items may be laundered with chlorine bleach.


Used for heavily soiled garments like work clothes, gardening clothes or play clothes. (Cloth diapers should be rinsed in cold water, and placed in a soak solution of a non-chlorine bleach and water until they can be laundered). Run through a prewash cycle with a recommended amount of detergent. When the wash cycle is complete, drain the prewash solution and launder in the hottest water recommended by the manufacturer.


Choosing the Right Water Temperature

Wash water temperature directly affects cleaning and wrinkling. Proper choice of water temperature can also minimize dye transfer from unstable colors. Check your garment care labels for recommended wash temperature. If care label advice isn’t available, use the following as a guide:

Hot Water 

provides the quickest and best cleaning. Use it for sturdy whites; colorfast pastels and light prints, cloth diapers and similarly soiled baby items; heavily-soiled work and play clothes.

Warm Water 

cleans while minimizing dye loss, removes wear wrinkles and help reduce wrinkling in the washer. Use it for permanent press, all colorfast dark or bright colors, synthetics made of nylon, polyester, acrylic, and washable woolens.

Cold Water

 may help protect sensitive dyes, minimize washer wrinkling and save hot water. However, it doesn’t clean as well as warmer temperatures. Use it for bright red and orange dyes that release color without losing intensity; lightly-soiled fabrics, removal of some protein stains such as blood. COLD WATER IS EXCELLENT FOR RINSING ALL LOADS, REGARDLESS OF THE WASHING TEMPERATURE.

Note: Laundry detergents are formulated to clean well at temperatures above 60°F/16°C.


Laundry Products: Finding What’s Right for You

What to Use:

Choose the product that is right for the job. Other products you may need for removing tough stains include laundry rust removers, fabric ink removers, dry cleaning solvents (for greasy/oily stains; also helpful with certain inks such as ballpoint,) and bleach (chlorine and non-chlorine). These products should all be available in the cleaning section of your favorite grocery, drug, or hardware store. Your washing machine care and use manual should also contain helpful hints.

How Much to Use:

Follow package directions carefully. The most common reason for unsatisfactory laundering results is not using the correct amount of detergent. For this reason, it is important that you ALWAYS measure your detergent.

Product Usage Instructions:

Instructions are usually based on average washing conditions: A 5-7 pound (2-2.3 kg) load of clothes; average soil; average wash water temperature (warm); medium water hardness (3.6 to 7.0 grains per gallon); average water volume (17 gallons (65L) to a top-loading washer); and regular agitation.
You may need to use MORE detergent if:
  • clothes are heavily soiled
  • you’re washing a large load or water is set on “high” fill
  • the water is very hard
  • a gentle or short cycle is being used
  • cold water is being used for the wash cycle
You may be able to use LESS detergent if:
  • clothes are lightly soiled
  • you’re washing a small load
  • the water is soft
  • a partial water fill is used in the washer

Filling the Machine: 

Many common laundry problems can be prevented by filling your washer in the following way:
  • turn the washing machine on
  • MEASURE your detergent and pour it into the machine as it fills
  • add your clothing

If using chlorine bleach, we recommend diluting it with 2 cups of water and adding to your washer after the load has agitated about 5 minutes.


Back when laundry was done with soap flakes, suds level was an indicator of cleaning performance. So, many people today think that a good rich level of suds is necessary for clean laundry. However, this is no longer true. Today’s detergents are formulated to have any suds level desired without affecting cleaning performance.
Factors that may affect suds levels:
  • product selected – there are products with a variety of suds levels available
  • hard water – may lower suds level
  • soft water – may increase suds level
  • lightly soiled items – may increase suds levels
  • machine agitation – level of agitation is determined by the make of the washer and cycle selected
  • improper use of detergent – using more or less than laundry conditions require
  • chlorine bleach – increases the creamy appearance of suds
Front-loading washers may require lower-sudsing products (like Tide HE) because they tumble the clothing rather than agitate it. The low water volume in these machines contributes to higher sudsing.


A light layer of suds on top of the rinse water is not unusual. However, excessive suds in the rinse water indicates a need to review the above factors. Another possible source of excessive suds in the rinse water could be overloading the washer, which causes suds to become trapped in the clothing.


If you have excessive suds in the rinse water, spray the suds with rubbing alcohol or add a small piece of Ivory bar to cut the suds. (Do not add fabric conditioner when a lot of suds are present.)


Finally, fabrics washed with a liquid detergent may have a spongy feel that makes a squeaky sound. This is sometimes mistaken for a residue of suds in the fabric.

Additional Hints for Good Cleaning:

Load your machine carefully and select the proper wash cycle and water level for the load you are doing.


Be sure not to overload your washer as the clothing needs room to circulate to obtain maximum cleaning.


Use the gentle cycle when the care tag recommends it. However, keep in mind that a decrease in agitation, like a decrease in water temperature, reduces cleaning performance.


Large items such as bedspreads, comforters and king size blankets should be washed alone or laundered and dried in oversized machines. These are available in most Laundromats.

Fabric Conditioners:

Dryer-added fabric conditioner sheets are excellent for reducing static which develops in the drying cycle and providing softening benefits as well. These are generally one-use products which will not provide completely satisfactory performance if reused.


Rinse-added fabric conditioners offer excellent softening benefits. Do not use any other additive in the rinse cycle with your fabric conditioner. Adding packaged water softener, bleach, etc. to the same cycle can result in fabric staining and reduce softening benefits.


Using more than the recommended amount of fabric conditioner can cause towels and other items to lose their absorbency. Again, it is important to MEASURE the recommended amount and follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding dilution.


While some fabric conditioners are added to the washing machine, the dryer’s tumbling action aids their softening performance. Often, line-dried clothing isn’t as soft as machine-dried clothing; nevertheless, it will be softer if a conditioner is used than it would have been without it.


Getting to Know Your Washing Machine

Appliance Compatibility: Familiarize yourself with your washer. Most of us know how to load and start the machine, but it is also important that we know how to clean and maintain it.


Special dispensers can help ensure that products are added at the proper time in the wash cycle. Bleach added at the wrong time can result in damaged clothing or can reduce the whitening and other cleaning benefits offered by your detergent. Product dispensers and lint filters generally require cleaning after each load.


For best results, take advantage of the special cycles provided on your washer. For example, the permanent press cycle has a cool-down period which helps minimize wrinkling of permanent press or synthetic items. Gentle cycles can protect delicate items.


Information about the use of your specific machine and the features it offers can be found in your washing machine owner’s manual.

Links to Washing Machine Manufacturers





Drying Hints

Using proper drying procedures protects garments and minimizes wrinkling. Most dryers have delicate permanent press cycles, which have lower heat settings to protect fabrics which might be damaged by high heat.


Check care labels carefully for proper drying temperatures.


Remove clothing from the dryer as soon as the cycle ends. Hang or fold immediately to help reduce wrinkling.


Load your dryer so clothes can circulate. Overloading can result in excessive wrinkling. Heat damage to clothing can also result if the dryer vent becomes blocked.

Drying Hint: 

Drying a small load reduces the tumbling effect and prolongs the drying period. Add 3 to 4 already clean and dry white towels to speed up drying of small loads.

*Available in U.S. only.



Laundry Tips For Beginners

Okay, so you confess to being a little wet behind the ears when it comes to doing laundry. You probably have questions on your mind like, “Should I wash this shirt in hot or cold water?” or, “Can I wash these clothes together in the same load?” (And of course, there’s the eternal question on all of our minds: “Where did my other sock go?”)

Well, not to worry. You’ve come to the right place for a quick laundry primer. Just scroll down for a step-by-step instruction guide to doing laundry for the first time…

Ready . . . 

Just like everything else in life, laundry works best with a little PREPARATION. Here then, are a few simple tips to remember as you toss your dirty clothes in the hamper…
  • Empty your pockets. (You might find something cool.)
  • Turn down cuffs on your pants and shirts.
  • Turn your jeans inside out if you don’t want them to fade as quickly.
  • Close all zippers, snaps, and hooks, and tie strings together.



Set . . . 

In case your mother never told you, this next tip is perhaps the most important step toward successful laundering. (Hint, it rhymes with quart.) You guessed it — the answer is SORT. And here are a few helpful hints to help you sort your laundry:

  • Read labels! Consider these nifty little tags your own personal laundry cheat sheets. Apparel care labels make sorting fool-proof.
  • Separate dark colors from light colors from whites.
  • Sort delicate fabrics from heavier ones.
  • Keep lint-producing fabrics separate. (That means wash your favorite terry robe alone.)
  • Wash very dirty clothes separately (as dirt can pass on to less soiled clothes in the washing machine).



Okay, the hard part’s over — you’re almost ready to run a load. Here are the last few tips (in sequential order) to keep in mind before you pull that ‘start’ knob on your washer.

  1. Choose temperature and cycle settings on your washing machine. (This will vary – but a simple rule of thumb to follow is: Hot = whites and very dirty clothes. Cold = darks and colors that run. Use warm water for everything else!)
  2. Empty filters.
  3. Turn on the washer, then add detergent.
  4. When the basket is about 1/4 full with water, start adding dirty clothes. (Remember not to overload or cram the washer!)

As a final tip (and little-known fact), it helps to take your clothes out of the washing machine as soon as the cycle is over to avoid wrinkling. So here you have it — now go get dirty.

If you have any ‘Tips for Beginners’ ideas to add, please let us know by leaving your comment below.



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