A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

14 Laundry Myths That Are Ruining Your Clothes

Your clothes and appliances will thank you!

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

1 / 15
Clean washing in three plastic laundry baskets
Howard Shooter/Getty Images

Laundry myths

Doing laundry is always a learning experience. Should you wash your clothes in warm water? Do all-purpose cleaners work for all stains? Read on to hear from laundry experts on what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing to your clothes. Follow this helpful guide to make sure you know how to do laundry the right way.

2 / 15
Pouring detergent into laundry
Getty Images, rd.com

More detergent means cleaner clothes

One popular myth you’ve probably heard is that using more detergent means cleaner clothes. However, the truth may be a bit different. “Using more detergent doesn’t make it work extra hard. Instead, it can leave residue on your clothes,” Brian Sansoni, Senior Vice President, Communications, Outreach & Membership, American Cleaning Institute, tells Reader’s Digest. “You’ll probably just need to wash them again and over time these extra washings can make them wear out faster. Check the detergent label for how much detergent to use for your size load and washer, especially since many these days are concentrated.” If you’re not sure, be on the lookout for some of these tell-tale signs you’re using too much laundry detergent.

3 / 15
water temperature knob on laundry machine
Alaina DiGiacomo/rd.com

The hotter the water, the better the cleaning power

Surely, the temperature of the water would have a profound effect. However, hot water may not have as much of an impact as you might think. “Hot water won’t necessarily get clothes cleaner. In fact, it can damage some fabrics or cause some stains to become permanent instead of being removed,” Sansoni says. “This is the case of a myth that may have been true in the past but detergents these days have been designed to work just as well, if not better, in cold water. Always follow the fabric care label.”

4 / 15
dryer sheets
Alaina DiGiacomo/rd.com

The more dryer sheets, the better

Too much of a good thing can actually, well, sometimes be a bad thing. “There is such thing as too many dryer sheets,” Laura Johnson, Research and Development at LG Electronics, tells Reader’s Digest. “Overuse of dryer sheets can reduce the efficiency of your machine by leaving behind a sweet-smelling residue and congesting your lint screen.”

5 / 15
overflowing laundry basket behind bathroom door
Getty Images, rd.com

Wash clothes after every wear

Sometimes, you may not need to wash your clothes every single time you wear them. “If you throw clothes in the hamper to be washed after every wear, you may be over-washing some items and causing them to wear out prematurely,” Sansoni says. “Unless there’s a stain, it may not need to be washed.” This might be one of the 13 bad cleaning habits you didn’t realize you had.

6 / 15
Bulky clothes items in washing machine
Getty Images, rd.com

Overloading your washer with too many bulky items can damage your machine

“Any larger items must be placed in the washer in a balanced manner to prevent laundry casualties,” explains Johnson.

7 / 15
clothes fabric label
Getty Images, rd.com

You can ignore the fabric care label

As with everything, always read the instructions—and that includes the fabric care label. “There are times when it’s tempting to throw all the clothes in the washer and be done with it,” Sansoni says. “However, every piece of commercial clothing has a tag with care instructions from the manufacturer designed to keep the item looking its best. Learn what the symbols mean and follow those instructions to extend the life of your favorite clothes.”

8 / 15
Stained jeans
Getty Images, rd.com

All stains are created equal

If you think you can use the same laundry detergent for coffee stains as baby formula, you might need to rethink that plan. “The stain’s type actually determines how you can remove it,” the laundry experts at Carbona tell Reader’s Digest. They take stain removal seriously. In fact, Carbona has a stain scrubber that can get anything from chocolate to blood stains out of any t-shirt, as well as a collection of nine different stain removers called Stain Devils that are specially formulated to remove tough stains each and every time. Here’s a quick guide on how you can remove every type of stain.

9 / 15
Hand soap for laundry
Getty Images, rd.com

You can use hand soap to thoroughly wash clothes

It’s happened to the best of us. You put in a load of laundry and then realize that you’re out of laundry detergent. As a last resort, would hand soap do the job? “While hand soap will, to some extent, clean your clothes, it will not do an effective job since soap for the body has more gentle chemicals,” Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority, tells Reader’s Digest. “It is best to use items that have the right amount of stronger chemicals to provide a deep clean.” These are some of the safest laundry detergents you can buy.

10 / 15
Hand washed bras hanging to dry
Getty Images, rd.com

You can only hand wash your bras

Who here has hand-washed their bras and then found out there’s an easier way to wash them? “There is a myth that you can only hand wash your bras which is not true,” Jené Luciani Sena, intimate apparel and lifestyle influencer, tells Reader’s Digest. “You can put them in a mesh garment bag zip it up, and put on a cool water gentle cycle with a gentle detergent in the washing machine.”

11 / 15
hairspray can spraying
Getty Images, rd.com

Using hairspray to remove cloth stains

“This is untrue of course,” Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, tells Reader’s Digest, “as hairspray worsens stains, especially the ink ones by spreading it out more. Instead, blot some water to the stain and to make it more effective, use a versatile stain remover powder.” Add these secret ingredients to your next load of laundry.

12 / 15
Washing machine full of water soap and laundry
Getty Images, rd.com

Filling the machine conserves water and energy

What is a full machine, anyway? “Your definition of a full machine may be different from the manufacturer’s definition,” Melanie Musson, an insurance expert with USInsuranceAgents.com, tells Reader’s Digest. “Washing machines are designed to work optimally with a two-thirds full maximum. If you pack the machine to the top, the detergent won’t be able to spread around and clean all the clothes and you’ll have to wash them again, saving neither water nor energy.”

13 / 15
stained shirt
Getty Images, rd.com

Visible stains are the only types of dirt you need to worry about on clothes

You might think that a shirt is dirty when you see a stain, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. “Your clothes might be dirtier than you think. In fact, only 30 percent of the soils in your laundry are visible—things like food, dirt, and grass stains,” Jennifer Ahoni, Tide Senior Scientist, tells Reader’s Digest. “The other 70 percent include invisible soils made up of body soils like sweat and body oils, which if not removed by a deep cleaning laundry detergent will build up over time and cause odors, dinginess, and dullness. Deep clean provides removal of both visible and invisible dirt.” Looking for cleaning products to use around your home? Here are 18 cleaning products professional house cleaners always buy. And if you have unsightly oil stains on your clothes, here’s how to get oil stains out of clothes.

14 / 15
sort laundry by colors
Getty Images, rd.com

You only need to sort laundry by colors

This might be good news for people who may not have time to sort through their clothes by color. While sorting by colors is always a good idea, you also need to consider sorting by fabric type,” says Ahoni. “Heavier fabrics such as denim can damage finer and more delicate fabrics. Make sure to always check the care label for the best guidance on washing and recommendations on other fabrics to wash with.” Find out the things that should never end up in your washing machine.

15 / 15
fastened button on a shirt
Getty Images, rd.com

You should fasten buttons before washing

How many times have you buttoned up your shirt before placing it in the washer? In fact, you may not need to do this at all. “Fastening buttons before washing can lead to the buttons falling off due to the stress the washing machine puts on the clothes,” Musson says. “It can also lead to the article of clothing getting stretched out because of the uneven pressure the place of the button on the clothes when compared to a seam.” Ready to get started washing your clothes the right way? You’ll need one of these best washer and dryer combos.


Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a former associate editor and writer at RD.com whose work has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, Golf Channel and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her writing can be found on her website, madelinehwahl.com.