Doing laundry is my least favorite chore. Every few weeks I find myself dragging my overflowing basket down to the communal laundry room before stuffing it to the brim. I mix my fabrics, I mix my colors and whites (sorry mom!), and just hope that adding extra detergent and hot water will solve all my problems.
But according to laundry experts, Kate Hanks from Hampr and Jenna Arkin from ECOS, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and I couldn’t be doing it more wrong. Below they break down the common laundry mistakes most people make. Wash, rinse, repeat.
1. Overloading your washer
When talking about laundry load sizes, the smaller the better. “If the drum is overloaded, it makes it harder for the detergent to penetrate each article of clothing and completely remove stains,” Arkin explains. “Doing smaller loads will reduce the need to rewash when stains don’t come out and even decreases drying time.”
Hanks adds that clothes need wiggle room to breathe during the cycle. “Loading the tub filled to the top, or even compressing clothes with the machine, will lessen the amount of room the laundry needs to properly soak and agitate to clean out the dirt.”
2. Using too much detergent
You may think that more detergent means a cleaner load. Turns out most of us are using way too much. We only need one to two tablespoons for a standard load. “Using excess detergent or excess scent beads causes build-up within the fibers of your clothing which hold onto dirt and bacteria,” shares Hanks, who suggests you use less than the manufacturer’s label.
3. Always opting for hot water
“Not only does hot water drastically increase the amount of energy consumed during washing, but it also puts unnecessary stress on certain types of fabric,” says Arkin. A combination of cold-water appropriate detergent, like the ECOS Stain Fighting Detergent, and choosing the right temperature of the water will improve the long-term quality of your garments, will help the planet, and save you money.
In general, “cold water works best for items that may shrink, and prevents dark colors from bleeding,” says Hanks. As for warm water, she says it’s best for “moderately-soiled clothing and manmade fabrics like polyester,” adding that hot water should be kept for “towels, heavy cotton, bedding, or items that are excessively soiled.”
4. Not prepping clothes properly
Definitely a lesser-known mistake I wasn’t aware of, but certainly an important one. Zip your zippers, close large buttons, and anything with a trim, wash it inside out. “This will prevent snags when zippers or trims get caught on other articles of clothing,” explains Arkin.
5. Leaving socks rolled up or inside out
We’re so quick to take off our rolled socks, toss them into the basket, and dump it in with the rest of the load. But as Hanks mentions, it’s a game-changer when you do it right, especially for those who play sports and may have excess dirt or grass stains on the soles. “When these items are washed while rolled up, the debris doesn’t have a chance to be washed out,” she shares.
6. Throwing all your clothes in together
We know sorting whites and colors ensures they don’t bleed into one another, but did you know you should also be separating your fabrics by their weights too? “Heavy items like jeans can harshly rub on delicate fabrics like lace, causing excess wear or even damage over some time,” Hanks explains.
7. Letting loads linger in the washer
Putting in a load of washing and forgetting about it happens to the best of us. But it can cause mold to grow—a telltale sign being that musty smell, according to Arkin. “While sometimes you can’t smell the mold if you used a detergent with high fragrance levels, it’s important to get clothes to the dryer or line as soon as the wash cycle is complete,” she says.
8. Always sticking with the same settings
While many of us have our standard machine setting we use, it’s time to learn what each does. “Permanent press works well for the standard load of household laundry,” says Hanks. “A speed wash is great for a small load of lightly soiled items that you want to wash in half regular time.” As for a heavy wash cycle, that’s best kept for towels or heavy items like jeans that “require more agitation and a higher-speed spin cycle than standard fabrics.”