How to wash clothes in washing machine

Doing laundry is a never-ending chore, but one that’s essential for keeping your clothes fresh, bright and long-lasting. While it may seem like a simple task, properly washing clothes requires more than just tossing them in the machine and hitting start. From sorting to soil levels, water temperature to cycle selection – there are numerous factors that can impact your laundering results. In this ultimate guide, we’ll walk through how to expertly wash clothes in a washing machine to keep your wardrobe looking its best.

wash clothes in washing machine

Step 1: Sort Clothes Before Washing

Proper sorting is key to ensuring optimal cleaning and preventing colors from bleeding or fabrics from becoming damaged. Always sort clothes into separate loads based on:

  • Colors (whites, lights, brights, darks)
  • Fabric type (cottons, linens, synthetics, delicates)
  • Soil level (heavily soiled, lightly soiled)

Keeping like colors and fabrics together prevents dye transfer between garments and allows you to select the most suitable wash cycle and temperature. It’s also wise to turn items inside out before washing to further protect colors from fading.

Sorting by Color

When sorting by color, group items into the following categories:

  • Whites: White shirts, socks, towels, sheets
  • Lights: Pale colors like pastels, tans, light grays
  • Brights: Vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, greens, etc.
  • Darks: Blacks, navies, deep purples, forest greens

Washing like colors together prevents dye bleeding and transfer. For example, never wash a new red shirt with your whites or lights.

Sorting by Fabric Type

Sort fabrics into these groups:

  • Cottons: T-shirts, towels, jeans, sheets
  • Linens: Clothing and household linens
  • Synthetics: Polyester, nylon, spandex, athletic wear
  • Delicates: Lace, silk, sheer fabrics

Laundering fabric types together ensures they get the ideal water temperature, cycle and cleaning solution for that material.

Step 2: Check Clothing Care Labels

Next, check the care labels on your clothing before tossing items into the wash. Clothing tags provide important instructions on things like:

  • Recommended water temperature (hot, warm, cold)
  • Cycles to use or avoid (delicate, permanent press, etc.)
  • Whether to machine wash or hand wash only
  • If the item is dryer safe

Following these guidelines helps extend the lifespan of your clothes and prevents shrinkage, fading or other damage from occurring.

Here are some common care symbols to look for:

🔴Hot water
🔵Warm water
💚Cold water
Do not wash
🧽Hand wash only

Always refer to the instructions rather than guessing based on fabric type.

Step 3: Choose the Right Detergent

Using the correct detergent for the job is a must for effective stain removal and bright, fresh laundry. Consider:

  • Standard detergents for regular washable fabrics
  • Gentle detergents for delicates and hand washables
  • Oxygenated formulas for tackling tough stains
  • Single-use detergent pacs for easy measuring

Always check your detergent’s instructions and only use the recommended amount to avoid residue build-up.

Detergent Dosage

Using too little detergent can leave clothes dingy, while overdoing it leads to soap residue and dinginess. As a general guideline:

  • Top loader: 1-2 tablespoons for normal load
  • Front loader: 1-2 teaspoons for normal load
  • Single-dose pac: One pac per load

Adjust the dosage up or down based on your machine’s capacity and the size of your load. Heavily soiled loads require more detergent.

Eco-Friendly Detergents

To reduce your environmental impact, consider using eco-friendly, plant-based detergents that are free of phosphates, chlorine and other harsh chemicals. Brands like Seventh Generation, Method, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day offer “green” options.

Step 4: Use Optimal Water Temperature

Water temperature affects how well your clothes get cleaned. Check your clothing labels, but in general:

  • Use hot water (60°C+) for whites, heavily soiled loads and sanitizing
  • Warm water (40-60°C) is ideal for most cottons and colored items
  • Cold water (below 40°C) works for delicates and light stains

Cooler temperatures are more eco-friendly but hot water provides deeper cleaning.

Benefits of Cold Water Washing

While hot water cleans better, washing in cold water is becoming more popular for several reasons:

  • Saves energy and money on utility bills
  • Reduces fading and shrinkage of fabrics
  • Gentler on delicate garments
  • Environmentally friendlier

Modern detergents are formulated to work well in cold water, though you’ll still need hot water periodically for sanitizing and whitening.

Step 5: Select the Right Wash Cycle

Modern washing machines typically offer a variety of specialty cycles designed for different fabric types and soil levels, including:

  • Normal/casual for cottons, linens and mixed loads
  • Permanent press for synthetics and no-iron items
  • Delicate for lingerie, sheer fabrics and handwashables
  • Heavy duty or sanitize for heavily stained clothes
  • Express or quick wash for lightly soiled loads

Always choose the most appropriate cycle for your particular load. Using the wrong setting could lead to excessive wear, shrinkage, wrinkling or ineffective cleaning.

Some washers also have specialty cycles like:

  • Whites – For whitening and brightening
  • Bulky/Bedding – For laundering comforters and bulkier items
  • Steam – Uses steam for deep sanitization and stain removal

Refer to your washer’s manual to understand what each cycle is designed for. When in doubt, use the normal or casual cycle.

Step 6: Pretreat Stains Before Washing

To increase your odds of removing tough stains, pretreat affected areas before washing. Apply a stain remover, stick or spray directly to the stain and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to allow it to penetrate the fabric. This step helps loosen and lift stains so they rinse away more easily in the wash. Be sure to check that the stain remover is designed to be used on the particular fabric type and color.

Common Stain Removal Tricks

Here are some DIY stain removers to try:

  • For grease/oil: Rub dish soap into the stain
  • For red wine: Pour salt on the stain and let sit before washing
  • For mud/dirt: Let the stain dry and brush off excess before treating
  • For sweat: Make a paste with baking soda and water and scrub into armpits

You can also try soaking particularly stubborn stains in an oxygen-based bleach solution before washing.

Step 7: Load the Washing Machine Properly

Overloading the washing machine can inhibit proper cleaning and cause excessive wear. Follow your appliance’s capacity guidelines and leave enough room for clothes to move freely during the cycle. Here are some loading tips:

  • Put larger, heavier items in first
  • Evenly distribute the clothing around the tub
  • Don’t compact or cram garments together
  • Place delicates like bras in a small washbag

Loading clothes loosely allows for maximum water and detergent penetration.

How to Load a Top vs Front Loader

Top loading machines should be loaded from the top in a loose, evenly distributed manner. Front loaders require a different loading approach:

  1. Spread clothing around the outer drum opening
  2. Fill loosely leaving space in the center for agitating
  3. Don’t load above the top row of portholes

Overloading front loaders can cause excess vibration and noise during spin cycles.

Step 8: Use Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets

While not required, fabric softeners and dryer sheets can help reduce static cling, add a light fragrance, and leave fabrics feeling super soft and fluffy. Add them per the product’s instructions, usually to the rinse dispenser or dryer. Avoid using these products on towels or microfiber though, as they can reduce absorbency.

Natural Fabric Softener Options

Instead of conventional fabric softeners with artificial fragrances, try one of these more natural options:

  • Vinegar in the rinse dispenser
  • Hair conditioner diluted in water
  • Wool dryer balls to soften in the dryer
  • Baking soda to help remove odors

You can also make your own fabric softener with simple ingredients like hair conditioner and essential oils.

Step 9: Run the Wash Cycle

Once all your settings and added are selected, it’s time to start the wash cycle. Check that the washer’s door is securely latched before hitting start. Avoid pausing or interrupting the cycle as this can impact cleaning performance.

High Efficiency Washers

If you have a high efficiency (HE) washing machine, be sure to:

  • Use only HE detergents to prevent over-sudsing
  • Go low on detergent amounts since HE loads use less water
  • Remove loads promptly after washing to prevent odors

HE washers are designed to get clothes just as clean using less water and energy.

Step 10: Promptly Unload After Washing

When the cycle completes, promptly transfer clothes to the dryer or hang/flat-dry. Leaving damp items sitting can lead to mold, mildew and odor issues. For items going into the dryer, give them a quick shake first to help prevent wrinkling and add a dryer sheet if desired.

Air Drying Tips

To prolong the life of clothes, air drying when possible is best. Tips for air drying:

  • Use drying racks or hang items from hangers
  • Reshape before drying to help clothing keep its form
  • Use the high spin cycle first to extract more moisture
  • Dry indoors or out, avoiding direct sunlight
  • Give sweaters a gentle stretch periodically as they dry

Drying clothes outdoors can help sanitize them naturally with UV rays from the sun.

Bonus Tips for Better Laundry Results

  • Clean washers regularly to prevent odor and residue build-up
  • Pre-soak heavily soiled items for deeper cleaning
  • Use chlorine bleach safely only in diluted amounts on white cottons
  • Air-dry clothes when possible to prolong their lifespan
  • Upgrade to high-efficiency detergents for HE washers
  • Check pockets and treat grease stains with dish soap

By following these guidelines on how to properly load, wash, dry and care for your clothes, you’ll be able to keep both your wardrobe and washing machine operating at peak performance for years to come. Commit to doing laundry the right way and you’ll notice brighter colors, softer fabrics and less pilling, fading or shrinkage.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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