The laundry's never really done, but you can enjoy more leisure time when you follow these tips to make getting laundry ready, washed, folded, and put away efficient and trouble-free.

By Jan Soults Walker
July 18, 2016

Laundry is one of those chores that's easy to put off. That is, until there are no towels or nothing to wear. Following a routine can help simplify wash days and make quick work of laundry piles. It all starts with smart and easy preparation.

Know thy clothing. Before you toss anything into your washing machine, make sure you know that it is, indeed, washable. Read the care label to find out if it's hand-washable, what water temperature to use, and whether it goes in the dryer. To understand care label symbols, check this handy chart.

To sort or not to sort. If you're wondering how to separate laundry, or if it's even necessary, there are two schools of thought. Some say, sort clothing into hand-washables and delicates, whites, lights, darks, and towels and linens. You may also want to sort especially dirty laundry into its own pile.

Others suggest that sorting isn't necessary. While delicates and hand-washables must be laundered separately, you can wash some lights and darks together as long as the fabrics are colorfast.

To find out if a new clothing item will bleed, hand wash it the first time in the sink with gentle detergent to see if any coloration is left behind in the water. Or, wet a cloth and rub it on the clothing item to see if any color comes off. If not, the item is safe to toss in the wash next time.

You'll also want to sort batches of blue jeans, towels, and other heavyweight fabrics to wash together to avoid harm to more delicate materials.

The pat down. Before anything goes into the wash tub, check pockets for items. Ink pens and gum, for example, spell disaster, and washing your cell phone is a nuisance. Zip up any zippers to avoid snags, but don't button garments so the holes won't stretch. Turn items inside out, as recommended by the clothing manufacturer to protect embellishments or prevent pilling.

Stain busters. Check each item for stains and pretreat with a product designed to lift stains. Or, if you use liquid detergent in the wash, apply a few drops of it directly to the stain as long as the fabric isn't too delicate.

Into the Washer

washer and dryer

As you handle each item to be laundered, add it to the machine and follow these steps:

1. Read the manufacturer's instructions for using your washing machine and read labels on laundry washing products to determine how much detergent, softener, and color-safe or chlorine bleach to add to the load. Some machines feature special dispensers, and washing products list suggested amounts to use. Most high-efficiency (HE) machines require minimal detergent, for example.

2. For best results, don't overload the machine by packing down soiled items. Keep the contents loosely piled so there's plenty of space for cleaning to happen.

3. Select the water temperature and other machine settings suggested on the label (such as gentle cycle versus permanent press). Most items can be washed in cold water to preserve color and save energy costs. Whites can be washed in warm to sanitize and get out stains. Wash towels and linens in hot water to sanitize and eliminate dust mites.

4. Turn the washing machine on and allow it to complete the desired cycles.

Time to Dry

washer dryer combo

Check the lint tray and clean it out before drying your next load of laundry. Take clothing out of the washing machine tub, untangle items as needed, and put them into the dryer.

Adjust the temperature setting and set the timer. Add a dryer sheet, if desired, close the door, and turn the dryer on.

For small loads, add a clean, dry towel or two to speed drying and prevent tangles.

Hang or Fold

Laundry room

To prevent wrinkles in shirts and other clothing items that hang, remove them one by one prior to the end of the cycle and hang them up immediately to cool.

Lay out other clothing items on a folding table and fold immediately to prevent wrinkling.

Put everything away, and enjoy the rest of your day!

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