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How to Wash Clothes: Your Step-by-Step Laundry Guide

How to Wash Clothes: Your Step-by-Step Laundry Guide

Washing clothes is something that everyone does, at least, we hope everyone does. Taking care of your garments can be tricky, especially when it comes to washing wool, removing coffee stains, or eradicating smells that won’t seem to come out no matter what washing machine temperature you use. However, learning how to properly wash all types of clothing will help your items keep their proper shape longer, as well as keep their original vibrant colors, crisp whiteness, or inky darkness for many washes to come.

The best way to wash each type of clothing depends on a variety of factors, including the garment’s material, shape, age and degree of stains. The following tips and tricks for how to properly do laundry will help you to get the smells and sweat stains out of those funky gym clothes, make your  musty, vintage-shop sweater look new again, and get rid of the tomato stain on that spaghetti-Bolognese splattered toddler onesie.

There are many avenues you can take when cleaning your stained clothing, but there is one tried and true method that seems to get the job done nearly every time.

Step 1: Pre-soak and pre-treat stains

We’ve all been there. We’ve worn our favorite white pants only to get chocolate on them, we’ve gotten marinara sauce on one of our brand new t-shirts, or taken a fall on a hike and gotten what feels like all the mud in the world smudged all over our hiking gear.

So perhaps you’re wondering how to properly wash specific types of clothes now they’ve been dirtied. Well, clothes that have been soiled with food or similar offenders need an extra step before throwing them into the laundry basket.

To prevent staining after an accident, the best thing you can do is to remove as much of the food or liquid as possible from your garment. The next step is to give your clothes a refreshing soak in the sink or in a clean bucket, adding a stain removal detergent or just allowing the water to loosen the stain from the clothes.

The type of substance you’ve spilled will determine whether you need to use warm or cold water when soaking. Sometimes warm water will set a stain, so make sure to check which washing machine temperature is best! Once your clothes have soaked for a while, wring them out and just pop them in the washing machine on the normal cycle you would regularly wash that garment in. So simple!

But not everything is that simple when it comes to proper laundry care. Some items need completely different treatment. 

Step 2: Determine whether to wash or not wash

A surprising laundry tip is to ask yourself a question that may seem counterintuitive: Does this item need a wash at all? You now know how to handle clothes that have been badly soiled (hint: as quickly as possible!), but some clothes that appear clean upon first sight might not actually need a wash after every wear.

Of course, there are clear-cut cases when a garment needs to be washed frequently. Your kid’s grass-stained sports clothing or your teenager’s gym clothes? Straight into the wash no matter what. Even if a garment may look clean, it might not smell clean, in which case you would want to use odor removal detergents.

However, sometimes clothes that have been stored for the summer and need unpacking when it gets chilly again (such as sweaters, coats, snow gear, etc.) don’t need a wash after they’ve been sitting for a few months. Particularly in the case of wool clothing, you can prolong the life of your garment by washing it infrequently (so long as you store it properly in a vacuum-sealed bag, cedar-lined drawer, or in a regular drawer or closet if it has been treated with moth balls beforehand).

But just because a garment doesn’t get washed between every wear doesn’t mean it won’t smell fresh! Hanging these types of garments in fresh air and in direct sunlight can work wonders on slightly musty smells. However, be warned, this method may be better served for light-colored garments, as sunlight can cause dark colors to fade very quickly. If a smell persists after being aired out, it needs a wash, but taking this step before resorting to a washing machine can keep your favorite delicates in their original shape and size.

But this isn’t where clothing care stops! The way you dry and store your garments can also affect their longevity and vibrancy.  

Step 3: Properly dry and fold your clothing

The key to successful laundry is learning how to dry your clothing appropriately. Some delicate items such as cashmere sweaters or any thick-knit garments can lose their shape quickly if hung up to dry like a shirt or t-shirt. Instead, we suggest draping them over chairs or hangers to prevent the weight of the water from stretching the fabric. That way, you’ll have a good-looking sweater for years to come!

Another important tip is to make sure that you don’t hang clothes right next to each other when they’re drying. This will help clothes air out properly and dry faster, meaning you’ll avoid any musty smells, and you’ll get your favorite top back in the closest and ready to wear faster!

There is one final tip to help all the bra-wearers out there prolong the life of their lingerie, regardless of whether you prefer an underwire bra or one with a lighter support. Folding bras with one cup inside out distort the cup shape, potentially reducing the support they can provide. It can also warp their shape, so the cups may not be uniform, which can become frustrating. Instead of twisting and folding your bras to save space on a drying rack or in a drawer, you can hang them or stack them up in a drawer. This might take up a little bit more space in your laundry room, closet or dresser, but it will maintain the shape of your lingerie for longer, helping you feel more supported for longer, too!

For more laundry tips on how to properly wash your favorite outfits, follow Henkel on its social media platforms.