Laundry 101: How To Wash and Dry Clothes

How do you wash and dry clothes correctly? Don't worry — we'll explain. Read important tips for doing laundry without harming clothes and linens.

Doing Laundry: How to Wash and Dry Clothes

Everyone comes to a point in their lives when they need to learn how to wash and dry clothes. Luckily, it’s not too complicated a process. Whether you’re using a front load or top load washing machine, it’s important to know how much detergent to use, how to separate colors from whites, and how to choose the correct wash cycle. Similarly, while drying clothes may be a simpler process, there are still quite a few noteworthy steps everybody should know about how to keep their clothes from shrinking or wearing out during the drying process.

Whether you’re new to doing laundry or simply in need of a few tips, here is a crash course in how to wash and dry your clothes.

Step 1: Separate Your Dirty Clothes

When it comes to washing your clothes, the very first step has nothing to do with working a washing machine. Rather, the first place you should start when doing laundry is to separate your dirty clothes into different load piles. While you can wash all your clothes together, this can lead to color-bleeding, shrinking, and improper wash settings. Not all clothes are made equally, and for that reason, not all clothes should be washed together.

When separating your clothes pre-wash, you’ll want to create five piles: denim, whites, light colors, dark colors, and delicates. From there, you’ll be washing each load separately from one another to ensure the most efficient, safe washing cycle for each type of clothing.

Step 2: Select the Proper Wash Cycle for Each Laundry Load

There are three main water temperatures that are used for washing clothing: hot, warm, and cold. The hotter the water, the more bacteria the wash will kill off, however, the more wear the clothing will get and the more likely it is that the color will bleed. On the flip side of this, the colder the water, the less likely it is that bright colors will fade or clothing shrink during the washing process.

Hot water should be used on whites; however, hot water can shrink clothing, so you’ll want to take that into consideration when deciding your water temperature.

Warm water is ideal for manmade fibers, knits, and jeans. Most clothing can be safely washed in warm water to get a decent clean out the wash without having to worry about shortening your clothing’s lifespan.

Cold water should be your pick when it comes to bright colors and delicate fabrics. Because cold water is the gentlest on clothes, it’s the safest choice when it comes to cleaning more temperamental clothing.

Step 3: Apply Detergent and Bleach, If Necessary

Detergent should be added to every wash load. If you’re using a high efficiency-detergent, you only need to use a small amount of detergent in your washing machine. Always read the fill directions on your detergent bottle and never go past the fill line when pouring in detergent, as too much detergent can cause an excess of suds and be harmful to both your clothes and the washing machine.

Bleach should only be used with whites. Bleach works to brighten white clothing; however, if it’s ever used with colored clothing it can leave behind bleach marks which are impossible to remove. Because bleach is a highly-chemical substance, you always want to handle it with care when doing your laundry.

Step 4: Separate Your Clothes for Drying

Just as you did pre-wash, you’ll also want to separate your clothing post-wash. This is because different material types respond differently to heat. Generally speaking, heavy cotton items, such as towels and jeans, can be dried with a high heat setting. For most other everyday items, a medium heat setting works best. Spandex and other stretchy materials should be dried at a lower heat. Finally, delicate items, such as knits and silk, should never enter the dryer, but instead be dried flat or on a drying rack.

Pro Tip for how to do laundry without harming clothes

Finally, if there’s one pro tip you should know about before attempting to do laundry for the first time, always read the care instructions for your articles of clothing to learn the suggested wash and dry treatment for them. All clothing comes with care tags attached to their inseams, so if you’re ever at a loss for what settings are best for your clothes, that is a great place to start.

Resources— Tips Bulletin, WASH, Bounce