Are you washing your clothes correctly?

Eleven expert tips to ensure you’re doing your laundry safely and economically.

Are you washing your clothes correctly?

Many of us have just been getting on with the laundry for years – but are we always doing it in the best possible way?

For example, new research shows clothes last longer and shed fewer microfibres in quicker, cooler washing cycles.

“Consumers claim their clothes can lose their fit, softness and colour after fewer than five washes. This means it’s more likely they will ditch them long before they are worn out. Using shorter, cooler washes is a simple way everyone can make their clothes last longer and keep them out of landfill,” says Lucy Cotton, who led the joint Leeds University/Procter & Gamble research.

A cooler wash is better for the planet too – separate research by the Energy Saving Trust found washing at 30°C rather than 40°C reduces energy consumption by 57 per cent per cycle.

But, as well as doing cooler washes, what else should we know about the best ways to wash and dry fabrics? Here are some tips.

1. Check the washing symbols
When you first wash clothes or bedding, check the washing symbols on the label – it could stop you from ruining your new items in the wash. The symbols tell you what temperature to wash fabrics at, whether they need dry cleaning or handwashing, and how they can be dried and ironed. Business Insider has a guide to washing symbols on its website here to help explain what they all mean.

2. Sort your colours
Sort your fabrics into whites, lights, deeper colours and darks, and delicates. This is necessary, explain the experts who make Ariel detergents, because some dyes can ‘bleed’ during the wash, especially if washed at a higher temperature, so white fabrics can get unintentionally dyed during a mixed colour wash. This can even happen in very cold water, depending on the garment. In addition, deeper colours may fade if washed in a detergent containing bleach, and wools and silks can be damaged if washed on the wrong cycle or in the wrong detergent.

3. Dirt alert
You can also sort fabrics into piles of extra-dirty clothes, if you really want to get the best results from your wash. Very dirty items can be pre-treated with a stain remover before being washed, advise the Ariel experts.

4. Handwash certain items
Silks, delicate woollens, and party clothes with embellishments can be damaged in a washing machine and may need to be handwashed, warns Persil. Use cold water – hot water could damage some fabrics – and a detergent designed for delicate fabrics (liquid detergent will help avoid residue). Let garments soak in the detergent water for around 10 minutes before giving them a little massage to clean, and rinse in clean water.

5. Use the right detergent
For whites, use detergents containing bleach, and use one without bleach for colours. As for choosing either biological or non-biological detergent, the makers of Persil explain that biological washing liquids and powders contain enzymes that help break down some fatty or protein-based stains, making them smaller and easier to wash out.

Biological detergents work best at lower temperatures, as their enzymes can become ineffective above 40°C. Non-biological detergents don’t contain enzymes and rely instead on powerful cleaning agents to remove stains. The enzymes that make biological detergents effective can sometimes irritate sensitive skin, so non-bio can be a good choice for those worried about the effect of washing powder enzymes on delicate or sensitive skin.

6. Correct detergent dosage
The amount of detergent needed will be stated on the packaging and is related to how dirty clothes are, the size of the load, and the hardness of the water in your area (you can usually find out online), explain the experts at Ariel.

It might seem like using more detergent would help get your clothes cleaner, but it doesn't actually work that way. Adding too much detergent can create extra suds that don't completely rinse out of clothes, leaving behind a sticky residue that can attract more dirt, dust, and bacteria.

7. Turn some clothes inside out
Turning clothes inside out protects them during the wash, say the Ariel experts. It’s also a good idea to turn clothes with embellishments like glitter inside out, as this will help stop it sticking to other garments.

8. Be careful with delicates
Pop delicate items, like underwear, tights, silks and lingerie, in a laundry bag to protect them, suggests Persil. Just use a pillowcase if you don’t have a laundry bag.

9. Use the correct wash cycle
Refer to the garment label for the required wash cycle, and to your washing machine manual to properly understand the different settings. Generally, the ‘Normal’ cycle uses warm water (3040°C) to wash, followed by a cold-water rinse, with moderate machine spin speeds. It can be used for cotton items and coloured or mixed fabrics. The ‘Whites’ cycle uses the hottest water (60 or 90°C) and fastest spin speeds to get the dirt out of white fabrics. ‘Delicates’ is a gentle cycle using cold water and slow spin speeds, for delicate fabrics that could get damaged by a vigorous wash. ‘Pre-wash’ can be used for very dirty loads.

10. Don’t overload
Never overload your washing machine, as it could mean your clothes don’t get cleaned as well because they won’t be able to move around enough. If your palm fits between the clothes and the machine, there should be enough space.

11. Leave the washing machine door open after use
This will allow the machine to air out and help prevent mould and mildew from growing, advises Persil. (Remember though, always be extra careful about this if you have curious pets or toddlers in the house, who could climb into the machine.)

How many loads of laundry do you do each week? Do you always follow these tips? Do you have anything else to add to the list?

With PA

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    22nd Nov 2020
    Who uses a front loader? I certainly don't. I always leave the bi-fold lid of my washing machine open. I usually put my foot mat that can't go in the dryer over the lid to dry naturally. I don't have the option of putting my clothes on the line as I have a disability that affects my back and can't do it. I've tried and it still doesn't work.

    The only front loader in my house is my dryer. When it's not in use it's closed. Can't leave it fully open otherwise I can't open the laundry door to get into the bathroom in a hurry. Just one of those little problems of renting :)
    22nd Nov 2020
    I use a front loader because it uses much less water, and as a bonus is much gentler on the fabric. However it does take much longer, and people washing lots, family etc. often prefer top loaders for this reason. Time is not really a problem for me - just washing for one.

    The best tip I can give is to swap to white vinegar in the final rinse, instead of softener. Put the same amount in the dispenser. Softener is usually needed to coat the fibres, which become hard and scratchy from the build up of soap/detergent remaining on them at the end of the wash cycle.

    It may take 3 or 4 washes to remove the build up of softener, but I haven't used any now for over 10 years. Clothes don't smell. This also has an added benefit in that all the hoses etc. are completely clean inside, with no build up of "gunk". I have to clean the seal of my door, but that's it, and my clothes seem to last forever. Also cheaper.
    22nd Nov 2020
    Of course anyone serious about saving the planet would dispense with ALL appliances
    powered by conventional energy sources - fancy toasting bread or boiling water over an open fire or dispensing with the clothes dryer. I am not an ecological zealot as such -
    however solar energy ( sunlight ) dries washing effectively when the sun is shining and
    better still when there is a breeze. Shirts and small items can be dried indoors providing
    you have well ventilated space.
    For what it's worth, my preference is for top loading washing machines, if for no other
    reason that they last longer than the front loading alternative. I'm into my third toploading unit over a period of nearly four decades, perhaps as a result of washing once
    a fortnight on average.
    Most of this stuff is ilttle more than applied common sense - strange how common sense
    solutions are becoming increasingly uncommon.........
    22nd Nov 2020
    Just curious where your info comes from re top loaders lasting longer. I bought my front loader in 1999 - average 3-4 washes a week - and it's still going strong. Maybe I was just lucky
    22nd Nov 2020
    Hello Tango 18 - re assertion of longevity of top loading washers

    Unfortunately i can't provide an exact source - from recollection it was a report
    which appeared on the net sometime ago, comparing relative advantages / disadvantages of using a toploader as opposed to a front loader.
    Perhaps it's a case of believe this stuff or not - inevitably the washer will cease to function
    and best of luck finding a suitable replacement when the time comes............
    22nd Nov 2020
    Using a front loader and have done for years, hose only connected to cold tap. All clothes sun dried as we have no dryer. Some of the delicates are hand washed but I do not have many of those. Good tips in this article for those who need them, follow these steps already and have done so forever. For washing powder we are using capsules.
    22nd Nov 2020
    So read the labels and use common sense then!
    After 30 years I did swap to a front loader because if the water savings. However most cycles do take longer (even over 2 hours but I don't use those). There is a short cycle of 20 minutes if laundry is not really dirty.
    I don't have a dryer either, the sun and wind works just fine all year round. But then I'm in metropolitan Sydney. May not be as convenient in Melbourne but certainly can be done.
    22nd Nov 2020
    Yep, I use the 30 min cycle, cold water only. And should it rain days on end I dry the clothes hanging in the garage (does not happen very often, when living in Melbourne it was different). Front loader requires you to think about your load as you cannot throw in any more because you have forgotten some. Only happens the first few times, LOL.
    Thai Traveller
    22nd Nov 2020
    When our family of four kids and 2 adults moved to a country house, we knew we'd be on tank water for a long time. We researched 'Choice' magazine carefully and bought a front loader washing machine and a dishwasher, plus some extra plates.

    The washing machine used very little water, cold setting only and dishes went through the dish washer each night.

    Way to go!
    22nd Nov 2020
    I have a front loader and it’s great. Most of my friends have them as well.
    My clothes never seem to deteriorate. My clothes always dry on the clothes line.
    If you don’t want things like jeans fading, then put a teaspoon in salt with the detergent.

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