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Here's how to sort your laundry so you don't ruin your clothes

Don't ruin your clothes!

Credit: Getty Images / Martin Poole
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It takes only 5 minutes to sort through your laundry to ensure that items are washed more effectively. That being said, many people (myself included) tend to just throw everything into the washing machine. Once I threw a red towel in the washer along with my nice white t-shirts and ended up with a slew of unflattering pink shirts—lesson learned! This taught me that taking those crucial 5 minutes to sort can save you a lot of disappointment—and money. Here's how to do it right.

Dry clean only hero 2

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What you need

Dirty laundry!
A little patience

Prep Time Needed: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Step-by-Step

  1. Carefully look over each piece of landry and notice things like color and see if articles have special laundering instructions. Read the care instructions on each article of clothing the first time you wash it. Different fabrics have different instructions–this is not a case where “one size fits all” applies.

  2. First, sort items by color by making piles for white, light, and dark clothing. Your white pile should be for articles like socks, underwear, t-shirts and other sturdy white cotton items. The light-colored pile should include colors like pink, lavender, light blue, light green, and yellow. Lastly, your dark pile should have gray, black, navy, red, and purple items.
    Separating these colors from one another will prevent dye transfer issues during washing that often ruin or damage white or lighter colored clothing.

  3. Next, sort by fabric weight. Different fabrics and textures require different wash cycles. Place delicates in piles by color. Typically, delicates are items such as lingerie, pantyhose, washable silks and anything that you want to keep from harsh agitation in the washing machine. Make sure to separate items that are “lint-givers” and “lint-receivers.” For example, you shouldn’t put towels with corduroy pants. Take care to separate out lighter and heavier-weight clothing items as well. For instance, you don't want to have heavier cotton pants in the same load as thin t-shirts. The heavier fabric will damage lighter and more delicate articles by scratching during washing.

  4. Designate a pile for particularly soiled clothes. These are items which may require pre-treating stains or washing on a specialty cycle that is too harsh for other items. Pre-treat any stains or soils with a stain remover before putting these soiled items in the washing machine. This will prevent further transfer of stains.

  5. One last step to consider: creating sub-categories as separate cycles. For instance, items such as bedding or towels are often heavier than articles of clothing, while newborn or baby clothes are often light colors. Creating sub-categories can further ensure longer life span of your item.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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