Read the care labels.
Those instructions on the tags of your clothes are there for a reason. Follow water temperature guidelines for washing to help prevent items from shrinking. “Also check fiber content,” says Mary Gagliardi, the resident “Dr. Laundry” at Clorox. “Watch out for white cotton items that have a small amount of spandex because they can’t be washed with any sodium hypochlorite based bleach products.” And avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair and leather items—even if they’re white.
Properly sort your laundry.
We know this extra step can be a little annoying, but properly sorting laundry is the simplest thing you can do to improve results. Start by sorting into basic color groups: dark colors, mixed light colors and bleachable whites. Wash them cold, warm, and warm with bleach, respectively (after following the previous step), and you’ll notice they retain their vivid color much longer.
Empty your pockets.
Prevent a laundry-related disaster by emptying your pockets as you sort. You need to avoid accidentally washing pens, gum, money, lip balm, and whatever else you happen to be carrying around.
Pre-treat stains before washing.
We’re looking at you, Mr. Ring Around the Collar. Tackle spills and streaks with a sturdy-yet-gentle spot remover prior to wash.
Select the right detergent for your washer.
If you have a “High Efficiency” clothes washer, use a High Efficiency detergent. Gagliardi explains: “Traditional detergents are great for standard deep-fill clothes washers, but they can cause over-sudsing in a HE washer, which reduces cleaning because the excess foam ‘cushions’ the load.” Unsure if you have a High Efficency detergent? Look for the HE logo on the package.
Don’t overload the washer.
“A packed washer doesn’t allow the clothes to agitate freely, reducing mechanical action and cleaning,” Gagliardi says.
Don’t throw everything into the dryer.
“Generally, the textile industry considers 5% shrinkage as acceptable for a garment, but that’s 1-1/2 in. on a pair of pants with a 30-in. inseam,” Gagliardi says. If that’s too much shrinkage for you, hang the pant legs by the hems using pants hangers with plastic clips. Screen-printed t-shirts will also last longer if they never enter the dryer.
If needed, ask for help.
Becoming a laundry master requires time and patience, and if you’re just too busy, you’re in luck: There are a couple of new apps offering pick-up and delivery, so you can hire the pros to handle your dirty laundry. (We’re still talking clothes here, FYI.) In LA, San Francisco and DC, there’s Washio while FlyCleaners recently launched in New York City. Both companies plan to expand to more cities soon.