How to Wash Your Laundry

How To Wash Laundry

There are so many laundry products available.

When you walk down the laundry aisle at the store, you’re probably overwhelmed.

Do you really need all of this stuff? Which are the products that actually work? You want your laundry to be as clean and fresh as possible, so here’s a guide to what products you should keep handy.


Detergents are a must, but there are so many different types. Most people choose detergents based on price, scent, and past experience.

The basic, store brand detergent might not get your clothes as clean as a more expensive brand, but the most expensive isn’t necessarily the best.

Watch for allergic reactions to detergents, as they happen fairly often. You might notice a rash or feel itchy after switching detergents. Helpful detergent tips:

  • Liquid detergents work better in cold water and on things like sweat and body oils
  • Powder detergents work best for basic dirt and soil
  • Detergents with color-safe bleach or fabric softener added can save you time and money
  • Use gentle detergents like Woolite for delicates, lace, and washable silks
  • There are now detergents for dark clothing that claim colors fade less
  • Try to choose detergents with clean, but not overwhelming scents

Boosters and Bleaches

Laundry boosters (like Borax or OxiClean) are designed to make your detergent more effective. It should be used in place of, not with, color-safe bleach. Color-safe bleaches can be used on colored clothing as well as whites. It’s safer than bleach and can be liquid or powder. If you do a lot of cold water washing, use liquid.

Chlorine bleach is great for whitening clothes and killing germs and bacteria, but it’s very harsh and can ruin your clothes. Only use chlorine bleach on whites (socks, towels, underwear), and never soak any clothing in bleach for more than 15 minutes or it will start to disintegrate. Scented bleaches and newer brands like All don’t have such a horrible smell when you’re pouring it.

Fabric Softeners

Fabric Softeners come in liquids or dryer sheets. If you hang a lot of clothes to dry, you should use liquid fabric softener. Many people think fabric softeners loosen the fibers on your clothes, which isn’t true.

They use a chemical (cationic) that actually bonds to the fibers of your clothing to change the electrical charge and act as a bit of a lubricant so you won’t have static cling.

Some fabric softeners do build up on your clothing, and this can cause towels not to be as absorbent.

To avoid build-up, you should use small amounts of fabric softener. Both fabric softener liquid and sheets can cause oily marks on some clothing. To avoid this, always use your fabric softener dispenser (or dispensing ball) diluted with water.

Use at least the same amount of water as you do fabric softener. Fabric softener sheets will often do their job without oily splotches the second time they are used. Save once-used sheets for colored clothing that could be splotched.

Washing Temperatures

Hot Water (usually around 120°F)

Hot water comes directly from your water heater, mixed with no cold water. NEVER wash protein-stained items (urine, grass, blood) in hot water. It will bake in the stain, and you’ll never get it out. Items that you should wash in hot water:

  • Whites – towels, underwear, cloth diapers
  • Bed Clothes – hot water will kill bacteria and mites
  • Washable Bath & Kitchen Rugs – check the label, but hot water is usually required to kill kitchen and bathroom bacteria
  • Bathrobes
  • Pet bedding to kill fleas and mites

Washing items in hot water will usually shrink and fade them. Keep this in mind when you are purchasing towels, underwear, and bedding.

Warm Water (usually 95° – 105°F)

Warm water mixes water from your water heater with cold water – usually half and half or just a little more hot water than cold. Items that you should wash in warm water:

  • Light colored clothing
  • Synthetic fabrics
  • Wrinkle-free pants and shirts
  • Blue jeans

Washing items in warm water is gentler on fabrics than cold, but you can still experience some shrinking and fading.

Cold water (usually around 75° – 85°F)

Cold water brings the water directly from your water source with no hot water from the water heater. In colder climates, this can mean a very cold wash in the winter, and you should probably use liquid detergents during that time do avoid powders not completely dissolving. Items that you should wash in cold water:

  • Dark colors, so they won’t fade
  • Washable silk and suede
  • Fragile lingerie and delicates
  • T-shirts that will definitely shrink (not undershirts)
  • Anything that is tight and you don’t want to shrink.

My advice is to wash the majority of your clothing in cold water (using the proper laundry detergent that will work in cold water).

It is the gentlest on the fabric. You won’t experience as much fading or shrinking.

Even if the label says warm, try washing in cold. It will probably get the item clean, and you’ll might add years of life to the garment.