Whether you have been doing your own laundry for years and think you are a pro, or you are a rookie who just moved out of your parents' house and recently started taking care of your own clothes, chances are you are making a few laundry mistakes that could be causing some damage.
There is more to doing laundry than just throwing everything into the washer, pouring some detergent, and pushing a button. It turns out, the different settings on the washer and dryer --- plus the directions on clothing labels --- are actually there to help us keep clothing items looking as good as they can, for as long as possible.
Here are 14 common laundry mistakes that you could be making that are ruining your clothes way too fast.
As Joan Crawford famously asked her daughter in the movie Mommie Dearest, "What are wire hangers doing in this closet?" If you are using wire hangers to hang your clothes, they are slowly destroying the shape of the shoulders on shirts and coats. Avoid them completely, and instead, opt for plastic or wooden ones.
If you have a major stain on an item of clothing, your first instinct may to aggressively scrub it with detergent. But, this can just make things worse by wearing away the fabric and spreading the stain. Instead, try methodically and gently dabbing the stain --- and work from the outside in to contain it. Also, treat it as early as possible, so it is more likely that you successfully remove it. Use a white cloth, so you don't transfer colors.
If you do have a difficult stain that the dryer has helped set, it still isn't completely impossible to get rid of it. Try dabbing in a product like Shout Advanced Gel and let it sit overnight. Then, apply a little more before washing it in color-safe bleach and in the warmest water possible for that clothing's fabric.
If you have a top-loading washer and are using liquid detergent, you should first load your clothes, then water, then soap to get the cleanest clothes. In the past, the order was water first, then soap and clothes, so you didn't leave residue on the machine or on the clothes. But now, detergents are phosphate-free, so there is no need to wait to add your clothes after the washer fills with water.
The only exception is if you are using bleach. If that's the case then add the water first, then your clothes and the soap.
If you have an item of clothing with a "dry clean" label, you might think that you can get away with handwashing it and then letting it air dry. But, that isn't always true. If you are dealing with natural fibers like silk and linen, handwashing is probably safe. However, for items that are suede, leather, anything with embellishments, or other "structured pieces," it is best to take them to the cleaners.
And, if you do have a dry clean only item that must go to the cleaners, be sure not to do it too often. Excessive dry cleaning can break down the fabric because of the heat and chemicals used in the process. This can cause suits to look shiny, and that is not the goal.
If you avoid laundry care symbols on the label, you could definitely be slowly ruining your clothes. All of those little shapes actually mean something. A clear circle means the item should be dry cleaned, a clear triangle means that you can safely use bleach while washing the item.
A circle inside of a square means it is okay to tumble dry, but if there is an x over it, then keep the item out of the dryer. One dot means to tumble on low, two dots medium, and three dots mean high.
The dots are similar for wash temperature. One dot means to wash the item in cold water, two dots is warm, and three dots for hot water.
Sometimes you might want to use more detergent than the package suggests, but all that does is leave your clothes covered in soap when the wash cycle ends. Too much soap can hold dirt from your clothes and get caught in areas that won't rinse clean.
There is an exception to this rule. If you have hard water, you might actually need more soap than you are currently using, so be sure to check the directions on the detergent bottle.
And, if you are thinking about using bleach, it isn't necessary if you are trying to get rid of protein stains like blood or sweat.
Tumble drying delicates or stretchy clothes like yoga pants or t-shirts can cause them to lose their shape and shrink. So, if you have the time to air dry them, do it. Also, when you do choose to tumble dry, be sure not to stuff clothes into the dryer or over-dry the fabrics.
A money-saving tip is to run the dryer back-to-back instead of resting in between loads. Running the dryer immediately after each load allows the dryer to retain the heat from the previous cycle, making it more efficient and cutting down on energy usage.
Also, be sure not to ignore Permanent Press. It is a medium-heat cycle on the dryer that also has a cool-down period which will reduce wrinkling.
As we mentioned before, stuffing your clothes into the dryer can cause them to wrinkle -- and if you over-stuff the washer you can prevent your clothes from getting clean. So, keep the loads at a reasonable level to give them optimum care.
And, it really does eliminate wrinkles if you fold your clothes when they are still hot and fresh out of the dryer. If you don't have time to fold them right away, shake out each piece and lay them flat on top of one another until you can get around to folding.
If you are tired of losing one sock from a pair every time you do a load of laundry, there is a way to make it happen less often. Instead of just throwing them in the washer willy-nilly with everything else, place your socks in the washer first before adding the rest of the load. This will make them less likely to attach to other items of clothing, which can cause them to go missing.
Be sure to empty the lint filter in the dryer after every cycle because buildup over time can clog the duct, making it a fire hazard. It is also important to clean the filter once a year with a toothbrush and a little detergent. After scrubbing the lint filter, be sure to rinse it and then let it air dry.
Also, if your dryer starts taking longer than an hour to dry a load, detach the hose from the back of the dryer and snake a long brush through and push out the excess lint. You shouldn't have to do this more than once a year.
Washing your denim clothing too much can cause them to lose their color and wear out much quicker. If you have invested in some premium jeans, the CEO of Levis says you should avoid the washer and dryer altogether.
If you really feel like your jeans need washed, use vinegar instead of soap. Or, hang them in the bathroom when you take a shower. And, if you want to eliminate odor, stick them in the freezer.
Washing a button-down shirt with the buttons still fastened (this includes the cuff and collar) can rip the buttonholes and damage the buttons. Stressing the threads can cause buttons to fall off, so take the time to unbutton your clothes before tossing them in the washer.
For zippers, you do the opposite. Instead of leaving your zippers loose, be sure that they are all the way up before you wash any item of clothing with a zipper. Whether it is jeans, hoodies, or dresses, make sure the zipper is zipped, so the teeth don't snag or tear the more delicate items in the load.
Doing laundry can be a time-consuming chore, so it is often tempting to just toss all of your dirty clothes together instead of sorting out colors and fabrics. But, this can lead to colors running from one garment to another. That red shirt can ruin the white one you are washing with it, so take the time to sort based on color, fabric, and water temperature.
Getting into this habit will help you do your laundry the way it is supposed to be done. And, if time is always an issue, invest in a three-bin laundry hamper so you can already have them sorted ahead of time.