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10 Laundry Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

Even if you've been washing your clothes for years without a problem, the best way to do laundry is to avoid these common slip-ups. Learn how to do laundry the right way, from how to wash clothes to the best way to sort laundry.

How to do laundryEvgeny Atamanenko/shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 1: Don’t just sort lights and darks

According to Martha Stewart Living, the more you sort the laundry, the fresher your clothes. Separate very dirty or muddy clothes apart from lightly soiled pieces, and heavy or abrasive fabrics like denim from more delicate ones. (For denim, turn inside out, wash in cold water on a gentle cycle, and dry at a low temperature to prevent fading.) To prevent sheets from twisting, wash each set separately instead of the whole family’s at once, and include smaller items like underwear in the load. According to Donna Smallin Kuper, author of The One-Minute Cleaner, the items help prevent twisting because they have different tumble patterns. Here are some other surprising facts you never knew about laundry.

How to do laundry detergentAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 2: Don’t put detergent directly on your clothes

Believe it or not, there’s a right and wrong way to load the washing machine. Real Simple says that for best detergent distribution (read: cleaner clothes), place laundry in first, then add water, and lastly add soap. Make sure you also use a safe laundry detergent and avoid the worst laundry detergents.

However, if you’re using bleach, add water first, then clothes, and then soap. Make sure you’re checking the tags on your clothing and following the meanings of those mysterious laundry symbols.

How to do laundry dryerBurAnd/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 3: Don’t abuse your dryer

If you have time to air dry, do it. Not only do you save energy by not running the dryer, but it’s also gentler on delicate items and helps stretchy clothing, like yoga pants, to keep their shape. Whenever you do tumble-dry, don’t overload the dryer, or over-dry fabrics. Then fold or hang them immediately to prevent wrinkles.

Best way to sort laundrySia James/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 4: Don’t mix socks with clothes

Tired of losing one less sock every time you do a load? Try placing socks in the washer first, then adding everything else. This makes them less likely to attach to other garments, which often causes them to go missing.

How to wash clothes zipperWeerachai Khamfu/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 5: Don’t leave zippers open

Loose zippers can snag delicate clothing, as well as scratch the doors of front-loading washers. Make sure they’re all the way up before you toss in the machine. Also, unclipped bras can pull fabrics or damage the drum if they fly around loose. Invest in lingerie bags or an old pillowcase as a solution.

Best way to do laundry dress shirtGargantiopa/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 6: Don’t leave dress shirts buttoned

Yes, zippers should be fastened, but buttons should not. Washing a button-down shirt with the buttons fastened can damage the buttons and rip the buttonholes. And don’t forget about the cuff and collar buttons either! Here are some other tips that make laundry day easier.

Best way to do laundry bleeding color testAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 7: Don’t forget a quick “bleeding” test

If you’re worried about that new red shirt the first time you wash it, do this easy test to find out before a mess happens. “Dampen a discreet spot, then blot it with a white cloth to see if the dye bleeds. If so, wash the item on its own until the color stops running,” according to Martha Stewart Living. You can also include an old white sock in the wash to check.  Here are some other ways you’re ruining your clothes in the laundry.

Best way to do laundry dryer linttab62/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 8: Don’t skip the filter and hose when clearing the lint trap

Empty the lint filter after every cycle, because lint buildup can clog the duct and become a fire hazard. It’s also important to actually clean the filter about once a year. Scrub with a toothbrush dipped in detergent, then rinse and air-dry. Also, detach the hose from the back of the dryer about once a year (you’ll know it’s time when it takes more than an hour to dry a load), then snake a long brush through and push out lingering lint.

Best way to do laundry scrub stainsnamtipStudio/Shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 9: Don’t scrub stains

You may think the best way to treat a stain is to give it elbow grease, vigorously scrubbing the stain with detergent. But that’s not the best course of action, and it could even result in the stain spreading. Instead, gently dab the stain, working from the outside in. And, of course, the earlier you treat it, the more likely it is to go away. If you got a stain on your white shirt, some bleach alternatives may be even better for getting your clothes back to their brightest. Speaking of stains, here’s a guide for how to remove stains, which includes tips on getting ink out of fabric, removing sweat stains, and much more!

Best way to sort laundry Dry-cleanAfrica Studio/shutterstock

How to do laundry tip 10: Don’t wash items that should be dry cleaned

If clothing has a “dry clean” label, proceed with caution. Some items don’t actually need to be dry cleaned; if you’re dealing with natural fibers, like linens and silks, it’s probably safe to hand-wash them and let them air-dry. But for items like leather, suede, and “structured pieces” (like blazers and suits), you’ll probably want to obey that label. Here are some other tips you should know about dry cleaning.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest