There is one question everyone faces at some point in their life: how do you wash clothes? It might seem easy if you're a seasoned pro but there's actually quite a lot of handy tips and tricks thaat can make help you put this chore in its place. After all, get it wrong and you could end up permanently shrinking a jumper or turning a white shirt pink!
How to wash laundry in 10 steps
Looking for the best way to wash clothes? Just follow these 10 simple steps:
Do you use powder, capsules or liquid to wash your clothes?
1. Check the care labels
Every item of clothing you buy should have a small label sewn into the seam that tells you the correct way to care for it. This will include what types of washing and drying it is suitable for and the maximum temperatures it can be washed at. If you don’t follow the care tag instructions, you can easily ruin your clothing so make sure you brush up on what clothing labels and symbols mean. Be particularly watchful for items that need to be washed on a delicate cycle, require hand washing, or are dry clean only. These items may not be suitable for machine-washing at home.
2. Sort your laundry
One of the biggest risks when washing clothes is that colours can bleed together: mix non-colourfast red clothing with white garments they could come out looking pink. To avoid this, always wash clothes in similar colours together. Most people sort their laundry into three groups: lights, darks, and colours. Once you have your piles of clothes by colour, you should also sort them according to fabric type and how dirty they are.
If a red sock manages to sneak into your wash even after sorting through the clothes, don't panic. Our laundry hacks can help you with colour run and even dye stains.
3. Pre-treat stains before you wash clothes
Not sure how to get clothes really clean when doing the laundry? The secret is pre-treating stains. Most clothing stains are easier to remove if you treat them while they're fresh but if that's not possible then even rubbing a little stain-fighting liquid detergent like Persil into the fabric immediately before washing can help. Really tough stains can even be soaked in a bowl of water and detergent.
For help on tackling specific stains, take a look at our stain removal laundry hacks or browse our laundry articles and remember that while most stains respond best to hot water, some need cold water.
4. Prepare your clothes for machine-washing
Although easier and less time-consuming than washing clothes by hand, there are still a few rules you need to follow when learning how to wash clothes using a washing machine:
- Empty all pockets. Remove coins, pebbles, tissues, and any other loose material. Some of these can damage your washing machine or even the clothes themselves if put in the wash.
- Place delicates in a mesh bag. This protects them from the rough-and-tumble of the spinning drum. If you don't have a delicates bag then you can use an old pillowcase.
- Turn embellished items inside out. This will help protect the item from damage and also prevent any of the embellishments getting caught on other items.
Read our laundry tips on how to wash your clothes in a washing machine to avoid other common pitfalls.
5. Choose the right wash temperature and setting to wash clothes
Not sure what temperature to wash clothes on? Your clothing labels should tell you the maximum temperature you can use for each item but you also need to consider what your detergent recommends. Many detergents, such as Persil, offer powerful stain removal even at 30°C so choosing a temperature above this will simply waste energy. Learn more about washing at 30°C here.
Similarly, you need to choose the right wash cycle for your clothes. Check your washing machine's manual for details on what cycle is best for your laundry based on how delicate and dirty the fabrics are.
6. Add the correct dose of laundry detergent
Adding too much or too little detergent is a common problem: too little won’t clean your clothes properly but too much will leave your clothes stiff and damage your machine. To avoid these problems, read the instructions on your detergent's packaging or switch to capsules which come in pre-measured doses. Always handle detergent safely and store it out of reach of children and pets. Read our article on detergent capsule safety for more tips.
7. Remove clothes from the washing machine as soon as the cycle stops
Failure to do so means your clothes may develop that very unpleasant mouldy and musty smell - even if you only leave them in the drum for one hour after the cycle ends. If you don't want to feel stuck at home by the washing machine then you can delay the start of a wash cycle on most modern machines instead. Check your instruction manual to see if that's an option for you.
If all else fails, try our laundry tips for getting rid of musty smells on clothes or use a perfumed fabric softener, like Comfort, in your wash for an extra boost of fragrance. Learn more about how to use fabric conditioner here.
9. Dry and iron your clothes before storing
Many garments can be ruined if you tumble-dry them so always check the care label and dry flat (for wool fabric) or hang dry (for all other fabrics) if in doubt. If your clothes were heavily stained before washing then check for any lingering marks and put them back in the wash before they dry if necessary. Allowing residual stains to dry will only make them harder to remove.
Once your laundry is clean and dry, it's time to get the iron out. Most dresses, shirts and trousers look best once ironed but check the care label and the type of fabric first to prevent damage.
Read our 7-step method to ironing a shirt or watch our video below for more help and guidance on ironing:
10. Fold or hang clothes properly for storage
Finally, it's time to put your clean clothes away. Hang dresses, shirts and trousers in the wardrobe to prevent wrinkling and fold all other items neatly, trying to avoid making creases. Make sure clothes are fully dry before storing them or you could end up with a mould problem. If your home suffers from high humidity, try using an electric dehumidifier when drying laundry or hanging dehumidifier bags in the wardrobe to protect your clothes.
Hopefully this guide has helped teach a few of the basics to doing laundry - including tips on how to sort clothing and what is the best temperature to wash clothes at. If you want more specific advice on laundry appliances, try our articles on how to use a washing machine and how to use a tumble dryer.