Even if you’re terrified of pink shirts and stains that won’t come out, laundry is nothing to shrink from. And whether you’re a new college student, a young adult moving into your first place, or someone who has never conquered the wash before, fear not — we’ve got your back. Ahead of your first of many laundry days to come, let’s unravel the mysteries of doing a wash step by step, turning what might seem like a chore into a fun experience that leaves you with fresh, clean clothes. Here’s how to do laundry for total beginners.
Step 1: Sort your laundry
Gathering your dirty clothes and properly sorting them is the first step for a successful laundry day. Before you dive into the sorting spell, check the care labels on your garments. Separate them into three main categories: lights, darks, and delicates. You’ve heard the horror stories of one red shirt turning a batch of white clothes pink. Don’t let that be you (unless you want pink clothes — then go for it). Remember, knowledge is power — or in this case, the prevention of unintentional color transformations. Note: Once your clothes have been worn in and washed a few times, you can be more lenient with mixing colors in your load, but we suggest running these loads in cold water.
Step 2: Tackle stains in advance
If you’re dealing with stains, make sure to tackle them sooner rather than later. You can use a stain remover stick to spot treat stains. For a sustainable approach, rinsing stains under cold water can be a quick trick. Otherwise, you might need to use either white vinegar or baking soda to tackle peskier stains. Then, launder your clothes as usual (following the steps below). Just remember to check that the stain is completely gone before moving on to drying your clothes.
Step 3: Choose your detergent
Give your clothes the care they deserve by choosing the best detergent for the task. Opt for laundry detergent sheets— they’re like magical strips that dissolve in water, leaving no residue behind. Grab one sheet for a medium or large load, toss them into the machine, and watch the magic unfold. No measuring, no fuss. Plus, they’re a sustainable choice, as they reduce plastic waste from traditional detergent bottles. If you’re in a shared laundry room, your roomies might just think you’ve mastered laundry already! See our guide on how to use laundry detergent sheets for a deeper dive.
Step 4: Master laundry machine settings
You’ve conquered sorting and detergent — now it’s time for the spin cycle. Select the appropriate water temperature according to the label, and don’t be afraid to use the delicate setting for garments that require extra care such as silk, wool, or unique pieces.
As a rule of thumb, wash most clothes in cold or warm water for the best results. When it comes to washing your bedding, see our guide here. When in doubt, follow the care label on your clothes and you’ll have no trouble getting things right. However, cold water preserves the materials best and is a lot less risky compared to hot water which can shrink and damage clothing. Learning how to do laundry is largely about choosing the best wash setting for your clothes.
Step 5: Dry your clothes
Once they’ve finished the spin cycle and are all clean, they’ll likely be a bit wet. That’s where your dryer or clothesline will come into play. First, ensure that your garments are dryer friendly. Delicates and clothes with specific care instructions may just need a gentle breeze or a spot near the heater. When using the dryer, set it to the appropriate heat level to prevent clothes from shrinking. Use low heat for an eco-friendlier wash that protects your garments as well. If you don’t have a dryer or would like to take a more sustainable approach, you can always air dry your clothes. Hang them on the line outside, use a drying rack and place them by an open window, or dry them next to a heater. Plus, the sun provides some extra benefits your clothes will appreciate.
Step 6: Fold to prevent wrinkles
After the washing and drying is complete, it’s time to hang and fold. Fold your clothes neatly to prevent wrinkles. Tame those mischievous socks by folding them together as a pair. For shirts, try the KonMari method for crisp, wrinkle-free results.
Step 7: Iron as needed
Ironing or steaming can really make your clothes look fresh off the rack. Ironing gives that crisp, polished look, while steaming is like a gentle spa treatment that removes wrinkles without the direct touch of a hot iron. You can find small hand steamers online and at many supermarkets. They can be less of a hassle and easier to use than an iron. However, some wrinkles will need the extra heat of an iron. When doing so, use a low temperature for synthetic materials like acrylic and nylon. A medium temperature works well for polyester, silk, satin, and wool. A high temperature suits linen, cotton, and denim.
Now that you know how to approach laundry, you’re ready for your first wash! Just don’t think of laundry as only a chore — it’s a necessary skill for a self-sufficient life. So, let those clothes swirl and soak in the washing machine, and embrace the joy of seeing them transform from grungy to gleaming in no time. Happy laundry day!