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How to Wash Clothes in 3 Easy Steps

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Knowing how to wash clothes is an important life skill. At first glance it may seem incredibly simple, but when your whites turn pink, you quickly learn that there are a few basic steps that can make a big difference. If you've ever wondered how to wash towels or other items? This article will provide you with the "how-to's" you'll need to become a laundry pro! 

Washing your laundry can be done in 3 easy steps. We'll look at each step individually, but it's important to note, that your road map to success is listed on the garment's Fabric Care Label. By taking a few minutes to read this label, you'll have a road map to the best laundry results for each individual garment. 

Fabric Care Label

How to Wash Clothes

Fabric Care Label

Your garment will tell you everything you need to know. Inside your clothes is a Fabric Care Label with several symbols. These laundry symbols will tell you which cycle to use, the temperature of the water, and even your iron heat settings.

Reading and following the Fabric Care Label will not only ensure your garment is washed appropriately, but it will also extend it's life. Check out this handy cheat sheet.

Step 1: Separate Your Clothes

Learning how to separate laundry is critical, and it is one of the most important steps in washing your clothes. Here are some helpful ways to sort your laundry:

Sort by Color

When clothes are laundered, some of the dye can bleed into the wash. This is especially true with new clothes. Have you ever washed a new red shirt and found that your entire load now has a pink tint?  Separating your clothes by color can help keep your whites, white and all the other clothes their intended shade.

  • The darker the fabric color, the more likely it will bleed into the other garments during the wash cycle
  • Sort your laundry into 3 piles: WHITE - DARK - LIGHT
  • For the first few washings, clothes with deep colors, such as indigo jeans, should be washed by themselves
  • To brighten whites, use a detergent with bleach
  • For bright color fabrics, use a detergent without bleach

Sort by Fabric

Different fabrics require different washing cycles. Heavy fabrics, such as towels and jeans require a heavy-duty wash cycle, where  delicates such as lingerie use a lighter wash cycle. 
  • Heavier fabrics can damage light weight fabrics
  • Garments with buttons and zippers should be washed separately from knits and lingerie
  • Identify lint producers, such as towels and blankets; and lint magnets, such as corduroy, fleece  and microfibers. Washing these items separately can prevent frustration and save time
  • Separate synthetic fibers from natural fibers. They may wash fine together, but they dry at different rates
  • Items such as towels or jeans should be washed separately from lighter fabric clothing. This not only will protect your light weight fabrics during the wash cycle, but it will also help the load dry evenly since fabrics that are heavier take longer to dry.
  • Use a gentle cycle and a mesh bag to wash hosiery and lingerie  and other delicates to keep stockings and straps from tangling
  • Turning clothes inside out protects them during the wash cycle

Sort by Dirtiness

By washing clothes that are stained or dirty separately, you'll be able to use a heavy-duty cleaning cycle.

  • Use a heavy-duty wash cycle and pre-treat heavy stains. Pre-treating helps "lift" the stain and dirt from the fabric

Step 2: Detergent

Detergent is a critical ingredient when it comes to getting your clothes clean. Here's what you need to know;

Type of Detergent

Laundry detergent comes in several different forms and each has it's own set of strengths and weaknesses when it comes to results and usage. If you own a HE Washing Machine, be sure to use a specially formulated HE detergent.

Common Detergent Types

There are three types of detergent that are most commonly used:


  • Most cost effective of all detergents
  • Excellent everyday detergent
  • Best for clay or dirt stains
  • Effective at removing stains and odors
  • Using the correct amount is critical. If too much is used, or the drum is overloaded with clothes, the powder may not completely dissolve 


  • The cap can be used to measure the correct amount
  • Excellent for grease and oil stains
  • Great for food stains
  • Can be used to pre-treat stains such as oil and make-up
  • Easily dissolves in most conditions


  • Provides all the benefits of a liquid detergent in a handy, pre-measured package
  • Most expensive option
  • Not all washing machines work well with each brand of pod
  • Handle with dry hands. If a pod gets wet it will begin to dissolve
  • Pods tend to stick together if they become wet in the packaging. This may make them impossible to break apart
  • Pods can pose a serious health issue for young children since they are bright and eye-catching. They can easily be mistaken for candy. Click HERE for more details

Powder vs. Liquid Detergent

Today, more people use liquid detergents, but in truth, both liquid and powder are more than capable of giving you excellent cleaning results. Keep in mind, that each has it's individual strengths and weaknesses, which means that one will likely better meet your laundry needs than the other.

Amount of Detergent to Use

Using the right amount of detergent is a critical factor to getting great laundry results. Always check your detergent packaging for the correct amount to use. However, you should keep in mind that it isn't necessarily a black and white issue. There are several other factors that can influence the amount of detergent needed.

These three factors should be considered when determining how much detergent to use:

  1. Drum Size - The size of your washer's drum will determine the size of the laundry load. Large washing machines are capable of handling larger loads, and since more clothes are being washed there will also be more dirt within the drum. In this situation, more detergent is needed to deliver the expected cleaning results. The detergent's packaging should be able to provide the proper amount.
  2. Amount of Dirt - Since the dirt level of your clothes determines the amount of detergent needed. If your laundry load is heavily soiled you'll need to use more detergent. The additional detergent will not only help remove dirt from the fabric, but it will also help prevent the dirt from redepositing itself back onto your clothes. 
  3. Water Hardness - If you live in an area with hard water you'll need to use more detergent. Keep in mind that hard water will also impact how bleach works. This handy test kit will let you check the hardness of your water. 
  • Never overload an HE washing machine. HE Washers use far less water than standard washers, and if the drum is overloaded your clothes will most likely absorb the majority of the water. With little water left, the detergent may not fully dissolve. 
  • Never put powder or liquid detergent on top of dirty laundry. Either use the detergent drawer on the washer, or add the detergent into the water before your clothes.

Step 3: Washer Settings

In order to get your clothes as clean as possible it's important to select the correct washer setting for the load of laundry you're washing. The wash cycle selected determines the agitation speed and water temperature your washing machine will use.

Be sure to check the Fabric Care Label before washing your sorted laundry. These labels are your road map to success and provide you with the proper wash settings as well as details on how to dry the garment. 

Wash Cycles

Here are a few things to know about the most common wash cycles:


  • Best used for cottons, mixed fabrics and colored clothing
  • With a fast agitation and a fast spin cycle, the Normal Setting excels in washing whites, towels, sheets and other heavily soiled items such as socks
  • Uses warm water to wash and cold water to rinse
  • The Normal Setting will save energy and lower utility bills since it uses a lower water temperature

Permanent Press

  • With a mild agitation and spin cycle, the Permanent Press setting excels at cleaning clothes that are prone to wrinkling
  • Warm water is used to wash the clothes, while cool water is used to rinse
  • The warm water helps relax wrinkles and creases; the slow spin keeps new wrinkles from developing
  • Designed for synthetic fibers such as knits, polyesters, rayons and acetates
  • Gentler than the Normal Cycle
  • Helps reduce color fading and shrinking since hot water is not used


  • Designed for fragile garments that need a gentle wash
  • Uses a slow agitation and a slow rinse
  • Uses cold water
  • Well suited for fabrics such as silk and wool
  • It's a best practice to use a gentle detergent when washing delicate garments

Water Temperature

The water temperature is generally selected by the cycle you choose. But here are a few things to keep in mind:


  • Deep cleans your laundry and removes the toughest, most stubborn stains
  • Excellent for whites, cotton, sheets and heavily soiled items such as baby clothes and socks


  • A nice balance between color preservation and cleaning power
  • Color fading and fabric shrinkage is minimized
  • Works great on towels, as well as synthetic and permanent press fabrics


  • Gentle on clothes
  • Provides the most energy savings
  • Excellent on dark and bright colors, as well as delicate fabrics
  • Great at washing lightly soiled fabrics and colors that may fade or run
  • Minimizes shrinkage

Load Size

Use this rule of thumb to select the load size setting:

  • Small Load: 1/3 of the tub is filled with laundry
  • Medium Load: 1/2 of the tub is filled with laundry
  • Large Load: 3/4 of the tub is filled with laundry

Never overload your washing machine. Overloading will reduce the efficiency of the machine, as well as negatively impact the cleanliness of your clothes

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