Steer clear of these mishaps to get the best clean on laundry day.

By Jessica Bennett
August 28, 2020
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Doing laundry involves more than simply tossing clothes into the washing machine and pulling them out when they're clean. It requires proper prep work, detergent measuring, and cleanup to keep fabrics (and your washer and dryer) in top shape. If you're not careful, certain laundry mistakes can damage your clothing and impact the effectiveness of your washer. To avoid these issues, be sure to follow the best practices for washing and drying with each load. And always steer clear of these common laundry mistakes to get the best clean every time.

laundry room with modern tile and mint-green shaker cabinets
Credit: Jay Wilde

1. You use too much laundry detergent.

It might seem like using more detergent would help get your clothes cleaner, but in fact, the opposite is true. Adding too much detergent can create extra suds that don't completely rinse out of clothes, leaving behind a sticky residue that attracts more dirt, dust, and bacteria. Pay close attention to the fill line as you measure detergent into the cup and use only the amount recommended for the size of your laundry load.

2. You don't sort laundry by material.

You likely know that light-colored clothing should be washed separately from darks, but it's also a good idea to sort items by the material. Separate heavier items, such as jeans and sweaters, from lightweight blouses and dress shirts to prevent abrasion and damage to the more delicate fabrics. Always wash towels, bedding, and other bulky items separate from clothing. Grouping items by fabric also helps your laundry dry evenly, as heavy items take longer to dry. To avoid getting sweater fuzz on your dress pants, you can also sort laundry by items that shed lint and those that attract it.

stackable washer and dryer and counter space
Credit: David Tsay

3. You don't zip up garments before washing.

Zippers have jagged teeth that can snag other fabrics in the washer. To prevent damage to other garments, take the time to zip up all zippers before washing. You should also fasten clasps on bras and other items to avoid snags.

4. You button shirts before washing.

Unlike zippered items, button-down shirts should be left unbuttoned when laundered. This helps guard against tears in the buttonholes and protects the button threads from being pulled and loosened in the wash. And don't forget to unfasten buttons on shirt sleeves or collars as well.

Laundry room with geometric floors and white counters
Credit: Julie Soefer

5. You close your front-loader door after a wash cycle.

Front-loading washing machines are notorious for trapping moisture and bacteria around the door, which can lead to mold and unpleasant smells. To keep your washer free of bacteria and odors, leave the door open after each wash cycle to allow the area to dry out. You can close it again after a few hours, or when the rubber gasket and washer drum feel completely dry.

6. You forget to clean out dryer lint.

Lint buildup in your dryer can pose a serious fire hazard. After each laundry load, remove the lint screen or filter and use a brush to clean off as much lint as possible. It's also important to regularly clean the cavity that holds your lint filter. This area can house additional lint that blocks airflow and prevents your dryer from working as efficiently as it could. Use a long, skinny brush ($5, Target) to clear the area of lint every few months or as needed. Additionally, check your dryer duct annually to ensure it's not clogged. To clean the duct, detach the hose from the back of your dryer and clear out any lint or buildup.

7. You don't regularly clean your washing machine.

Your washer cleans your clothes and linens, but the machine itself needs to be washed occasionally, too. Grime from your dirty laundry, detergent residue, hard-water deposits, and mold or mildew can build up inside the washer over time. To clean your washing machine, use the self-clean cycle or run an empty hot-water cycle with vinegar instead of detergent. Be sure to scrub around the lid and rubber gasket, which can harbor moisture and bacteria and result in musty-smelling laundry.

Comments (3)

June 2, 2021
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April 20, 2021
I heard that bleach is hard on your washer. Is that true do you know?
September 17, 2020
I have always done all of the above four years. I had a top load washer and of course it didn’t have a rubber seal but I did run hot water with bleach about once every six months to kill anything that might be growing in there. I recently purchased a front and loader and pay particular attention to the rubber seal and make sure that it dries and stays clean. I never fully close the door on the washer when it is not in use. I can only imagine the amount of bacteria that is growing on just the rubber seal alone with the door closed. Hopefully people will pay attention to this article as it has great information and keeping your washer clean which cleans your clothes. I am a retired nurse so if anyone reads this comment please do what the article says to do. I give it five thumbs up!!!