Learn how to do laundry using a washing machine as we guide you through the complete process step by step. I'm sure you're already following certain steps you've learned from your parent/s, roommates, etc. However, learning the right washing process will ensure you keep your garments, curtains, towels, and any other items, especially delicates, in tip-top shape.
How to Do Laundry - The 4-Stage Washing Machine Process
Understandably, there are different ways to wash your fabrics: handwashing, dry cleaning, and machine-wash. Aptly named, handwashing is manually laundering your fabrics, while machine-wash involves using a washer.
On the other hand, dry cleaning is entirely different from the two other types. The main difference between washing vs. dry cleaning is the latter is a liquid-free process. Thus, it's ideal for delicate items or those with embellishments. When you read more about dry cleaning, you'll also find that the technique requires a different type of machine and "laundering" agents, known as solvents.
With that out of the way, here are the standard steps on how to do laundry using a washing machine:
1. The Preparation Stage
Involving several steps, the preparation stage is the most critical as any mistake will have a domino effect. With that said, here are the several steps involved:
- Check the Care Label
- Sort by Washing Techniques, Color, and Degree of Dirtiness
- Sort by Fabric Type and Weight
- Spot Treat Stains and Pre-Rinse or Soak Soiled Items
- Prepare the Fabrics
Prep 1 - Check the Care Label
The care tag or label will have symbols, words, or both (infographics) that will indicate how you will go about the laundering process. It usually includes the washing and/or dry cleaning, temperature, bleaching, drying, and ironing instructions. That said, make sure you understand their meaning by reading more about laundry symbols.
Prep 2 - Sort by Washing Technique, Color, and Degree of Dirtiness
Now that you have a general idea of how to care for your fabric-made items, it's time to sort them out to avoid damages, stains, and more.
First, prepare three baskets. Then, sort your items according to cleaning recommendations: handwash only, dry cleaning only, and machine-safe. Also, ensure that you separate delicate items that might not be able to withstand any of the laundering methods.
For instance, the process for the following will be partially or entirely different from other everyday items like t-shirts:
- how to clean leather or how to clean leather bags
- how to clean curtains
- how to wash bras
- how to wash tennis shoes
- how to wash ties
- how to wash jeans
- how to wash pillows
- how to wash blankets
- how to wash a quilt
Since this guide focuses on how to do laundry using a washing machine, take your machine-safe pile and prepare at least five baskets. Then, start sorting based on color:
- Basket 1: Plain and printed whites and light grays
- Basket 2: Light-colored
- Basket 3: Dark-colored
- Basket 4: Heavily soiled items
- Basket 5: Stained items
You can also have a sixth basket for items made of fabric whose color bleeds. Usually, these are the reds and newly tie-dyed clothing pieces.
Prep 3 - Sort by Fabric Type and Weight
Take one basket at a time, and sort the items based on their fabric type and weight. For example, separate white towels from white blouses since the former is heavier than the latter. Separate white silk from white cotton.
The reason? Every fabric type and weight will require different washing machine settings, such as wash cycle and temperature (cold water or hot water), to preserve their quality and/or maintain or prolong their lifespans.
Understandably, you might not have enough items for one load of laundry, which is impractical or non-economical. In this case, you can skip this step.
But when it's time to wash each pile, ensure you set the machine to a washer cycle recommended for the most delicate garments in each pile. Also, the cold washing technique is the most ideal.
Lastly, ensure you separate lint-shedding fabrics, such as cotton, from non-lint-producing ones, especially lint attractors like linen. Doing so ensures you don't end up with a pile of lint-laden fabrics.
Prep 4 - Spot Treat Stains and Pre-Rinse or Soak Soiled Items
This step in the preparation stage of how to do laundry might seem time-consuming or tedious, but it can actually save you time. Once they're stain- and/or dirt-free, you can wash them together with the pile they belong to. You won't have to wash them separately.
You'll find several types of stain removers, from natural like white vinegar to commercially made ones. Whichever you prefer, you need to choose a stain remover that will work for the specific stain you're working on. This how to remove stains guide has the essential information you need.
Next, pre-rinse your soiled fabrics and then soak them when needed or when the visible dirt isn't removed after pre-rinsing. For your whites, you may consider bleaching them using the effective and safe technique on how to bleach clothes. You can also consider other effective ways of washing whites, like using whiteners and optical brighteners.
Prep 5 - Prepare the Fabrics
Before throwing your fabrics in the washer, there are some steps that you need to take, such as emptying the pockets, fully zipping up zippers, and closing all buttons. It's also recommended to turn clothes or any similar items inside out. This step is especially beneficial for those prone to fading and odor-retention.
2. The Washing Stage
This stage is a bit shorter because, well, you'll be using a washer. Whether you have a front-load or top-load washing machine, here are the steps included in this stage:
Step 1 - Fill Washer With Water and Cleaning Agents
Before starting the process, note that there are many brands and types of detergents. Thus, we won't specify any amount because it would depend on the specific product.
With that out of the way, the steps you need to take are as follows:
- Fill your washing machine with the right amount of water.
- Measure the right amount of powder or liquid laundry detergent and place it in the washer's dispenser.
- If you want to use a fabric softener or the fabric allows its use, add the right amount in its corresponding compartment. Like detergents, you'll find several brands and types, so follow the manufacturer's instructions or familiarize yourself with how to use a fabric softener.
Step 2 - Set the Water Temperature and Wash Cycle
Depending on the care label instructions, turn the temperature knob to the correct setting: cold, warm, medium heat, and high heat, or press the corresponding button. Next, set the washing machine settings: delicate cycle, permanent press, and regular cycle.
Step 3 - Load the Washing Machine and Wash
Place your first batch of washable items in your washer one at a time while double-checking if you missed any buttons, zippers, and pockets. Make sure the items have enough room to breathe or move around the machine, so if you have a big batch, divide it into two or more batches.
Start the machine, and let the washer do its job.
Step 4 - Unload the Washing Machine
Once the cycle ends, remove the wet laundry immediately, but one at a time, to prevent mildew and wrinkles. Ensure you also place them in a clean basket or on a flat surface with care. Repeat steps 3 to 4 using the next batch of laundry, and proceed to the next stage while waiting.
3. The Drying Stage
Take your newly washed laundry and separate those that you can dry in the dryer, tumble dry, and air-dry only based on the care instructions.
For those that you can wash in the dryer, simply place the items in the machine one at a time, and set the correct temperature or cycle. Like in setting your washer, ensure that you set the dryer to the lowest setting if you're mixing laundry with different maximum drying temperature requirements.
However, never mix light and heavy fabrics because it can cause shrinking. Yes, there are hacks on unshrinking clothing and other fabric-made items, but as the adage goes, "prevention is better than cure."
Follow the same procedure for tumble drying or this expert-recommended step-by-step technique on how to tumble dry.
For air drying, hang each item on a clothes hanger and then hang them on a clothesline. Some items, like blankets and towels, would require that you directly hang them on the clotheslines. Either way, always spread them out correctly to prevent wrinkles and creases. Also, don't place colored items near the white ones.
4. The Finishing Touches
Once your laundry has dried, it's time to ensure they stay well kept, ready to be worn or used at any time. Here are the different processes involved, but not all of which apply to all your laundered items:
Finishing 1 - Remove Pilling
You might notice some loose strands of fibers or loose balls in some of your fabric-made items; these are called pilling. If there are, you can remove pilling using a razor, scissors, sandpaper, hair comb, duct tape, and more.
Finishing 2 - Iron or Steam
Some fabric-made items require either ironing or steaming to help get rid of wrinkles and creases. When it comes to how to iron a shirt or blouse and how to iron pants, it's best to use an ironing board.
Nonetheless, there are several ways to iron without an ironing board that you can consider if you don't have access to one. For instance, when you're on a business trip, wherein the hotel can only provide an iron or the only ironing appliance around are portable types of iron.
Overall, when it comes to ironing, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the iron settings. Using the wrong one can damage the fabric, especially if it's very delicate. Hence, there is a special way in terms of how to iron silk and other heat-sensitive fabrics. That said, you can opt for a clothes steamer when dealing with these fabrics. The technique on how to use a clothes steamer is different from using iron in two ways:
- You need to hang the material.
- The steamer shouldn't touch the item you're steaming.
Process 3 - Fold or Hang and Store
Once your fabrics are dry and/or ironed (or steamed), it's time to keep them safe from dirt, liquid, and other environmental elements. Doing so ensures you maintain their cleanliness and be free from wrinkles and creases.
You need to fold some items, so learning how to fold t-shirts and other fabrics is essential. Carefully and neatly place them in your cabinets or drawers. For other items, like blouses and dresses, allow them to hang using a clothes hanger. When you hang them on your closet rack, ensure there's enough space in between them to prevent wrinkling and creasing.
If you can't find enough space for all your fabrics, there are several ways to store clothes, such as using containers and garment bags.
Additional Tips on How to Do Laundry
Apart from following the proper steps and processes of washing laundry from start to finish, there are other things to keep in mind.
One is to ensure you maintain the appliances you use. Ensure you keep your washing machine, dryer, and steamer clean and dry after using them. For your iron, make sure you clean it regularly and follow the correct technique on how to clean an iron.
Also, regularly washing and drying your fabric in a machine can have some effects, especially in size. That is, even if you follow the cleaning instructions to the T. Thus, learning the techniques on how to shrink clothes, how to shrink a t-shirt, and how to unshrink clothing is also advisable. After all, you can use this knowledge to change your garment's size for fashion purposes.
How to Do Laundry - In Conclusion
Definitely, there is a lot of essential information to keep in mind when it comes to doing your laundry. After all, there are different types of fabrics and specific techniques to learn, such as:
- how to wash silk
- how to wash lace
- how to wash linen
- how to wash rayon
- how to wash nylon
- how to wash cashmere
- how to wash wool
- how to wash polyester
- how to wash faux fur
Likewise, you need to keep several fabric-made items clean, tidy, and damage-free. Follow the steps and tips discussed in this guide, and you'll never make any misstep.