Worry-Free Washing

Got your clothes into sorted piles? Good! Because of that, you’re now less likely to commit the common laundry sin of overcrowding your washer by trying to wash all your clothes in one load. Overfilling your machine doesn’t give your clothes room to circulate through the water, and they need that action of the water pushing through them to get clean, advises Queen of Clean Linda Cobb.

1. Set your dials. We know – each one poses a bevy of confusing choices. Hot, cold, or warm? Gentle, regular, permanent press? The combinations are like a math riddle. Use these guidelines:

  • Hot wash, regular cycle: sheets and white towels. The regular cycle will agitate your clothes the most, so you want to use this cycle mostly for heavy-duty fabrics.
  • Warm wash, regular cycle: Colored towels. They need the heavy washing from the regular cycle, but hot water might fade them, so stick with warm.
  • Hot wash, permanent press or gentle cycle: Think kids’ clothing that is heavily soiled but isn’t a thick fabric to warrant a regular cycle. Permanent press is a notch down from the regular cycle in terms of flipping your clothes around, while gentle is, well, the most gentle.
  • Warm wash, permanent press: The bulk of your whites can go this way. Warm enough to get clothes clean but not too hot that it’ll wear out the fabric.
  • Cold wash, permanent press: Here’s the ticket for all of your dark loads. Keep in mind that except for sheets and towels, you can opt to wash all your clothes this way, especially if they aren’t that dirty and have no stains. Cold water doesn’t break down fibers and fade clothes the way warmer water does.
  • Extended spin: Will it get more water out of your clothing to cut down on drying time? This is true mostly just for sheets, towels, and comforters, so skip it for everything else to save time.

2. Add soap. Don’t even go a smidge over the recommended line on your detergent cap. Washing machines are made to use far less water now than older models, and detergents have also become increasingly concentrated. (If you just can’t stand to be such a rule-follower, then go a bit below the recommended line.) Want to know if you’ve been using too much soap? Fill your washer with water and start the spin cycle. Open it up a few minutes later. Is the water sudsy? If so, that’s leftover soap coming out – a sign you need to ease up on your pour.

3. Pause before tossing in clothes. To make sure your detergent has first mixed well with the water, let the washer fill up about a fourth of the way before adding your clothes. This way none of your clothes will come into too much contact with that glug of detergent, thus preventing any discoloration or spotting.

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