Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful

One empowered woman's struggle against the world
Wednesday August 21st 2019

Laundry Basics for Clean Clothes that Last

I love my clothes, not clothes in general but my clothes.  When I find the perfect top for the perfect pants or a versatile piece that goes with anything, I want to be able to keep it around forever.  So imagine my disappointment when I pull that perfect piece of clothing out of the washer or dryer and it is ruined. 

We have all been there.  That red shirt that sneaks in with the white load and everything comes out pink, and not a pink that we can use or when your favorite white blouse goes in with a brand new pair of jeans and comes out yucky grey.  I have managed to avoid shrinking something beyond repair but I have had a few tighter fitting items coming out than they were going in.

Laundry experience comes from good old trial and error so to help you save on some of the error part, I have put together a few of the basics on laundry to save your favorite clothes from the washer and dryer and to make them last longer.     

The Basics of Sorting Laundry

First and foremost you need to sort your laundry.  In a time when people want to save money and do fewer loads we sometimes think we can throw it all in together.  That is a solution but it is also one of the quicker ways to ruin your clothes.  You don’t have to go crazy with the sorting but you need to use some basic rules of thumb for colors and fabric types. 


The simplest rule is separating the colors.  Not all colors mind you or you will be doing laundry forever.  In general you want to separate whites, darks and colors.  Now what does that mean especially when some pieces are both white and dark or both dark and colored? 

Here is a little help:

Whites are whites.  If you can’t use regular bleach on it then it isn’t a white.  That doesn’t mean you have to use bleach with every white load, in fact, I recommend not to which you will see later.  It just means ask yourself can I use regular bleach and if you can then into the whites it goes. 

Darks are any shade of color that is dark.  Reds, denim, black, dark blues, greens, purples and so on. 

Colors are the lighter shades of colors.  Pastels, yellows, baby blue, pinks light tans and so on.

Now when you have multi colored items such as a white shirt with red sleeves or a yellow shirt with black trim you can do two things.  You can guess, hope and pray and throw it in with your best guess or you can just soak it in some water first and see what happens.  Either way you are taking a risk. 

Take the white shirt with red sleeves, yes I own one don’t know what I was thinking but its cute.  I filled the sink with cold water and put the shirt in to see what would happen.  It is easier to salvage an item where the color has bled if you get to it before you put it in the dryer!  In my case the red didn’t bleed at all not even a little but the red couldn’t be bleached so into the color pile it went.  Had the red bled it would have become a hand wash only item and those are a pain.

A caveat to this is to consider the water temperature you will be using when testing out whether the color will bleed or not.  No since testing it in cold water if you are going to wash the load in hot water.  The water temperature does make a difference.  So test it first in the correct temperature water first and see what happens. 

So now you have 4 piles of clothes.  Whites, darks, colors and hand wash items.      

Fabric Types

I have found over time that delicates do need to be washed on a delicate cycle if you want them to last.  All other fabric types I mix together.  When I say delicates I mean any silks, satins, lacy undergarments or item that clearly labels itself as a delicate. 

You can put these items in with the regular loads and wash them on a regular cycle however, between the agitation of the regular wash cycle and rubbing up against the sturdier fabrics it will wear away at the delicate fabrics. 

Now I don’t seperate delicates by color.  You can if you choose to but most of the more delicate fabrics hold their color and don’t bleed.  If you are in doubt do the bleed test first and see if the item bleeds.  Remember it is easier to rinse out a color that has bled before the item dries.  I don’t know the science but once the fabric dries it is nearly impossible to get the bled color out. 

Cyles and Temperatures

Those little settings aren’t there just to make life difficult.  The basic settings for wash cycles are regular, permanent press and delicate.  The basic settings for temperature are hot, cold and warm and with some you have a choice of rinse settings. 


Regular wash is the most used and good for whites, darks and colors that are ready to wear right out of the dryer. 

Permanent press is for laundry that is prone to wrinking, I didn’t know that for years.  If your clothes always need ironing when coming out of the dryer or wrinkle very easily use the permanent press cycle. 

Delicate wash is, of course, for your delicates. 


Easiest rule of thumb – hot water gets stains out better but lends to shrinkage and color bleeding.  Cold water has a harder time cleaning stains but saves on shrinkage and color bleeding.

In general, whites are best done in hot water and darks in cold water.  I always use a cold water rinse as it removes the most soap residue so if you have an option for the rinse cycle go with cold.  Delicates need to be washed in cold water always.

If you have kids you will notice most of their clothes fit into the color category and have more stains.  Use a stain pre-treater and stick with the cold water setting.  Even though hot water gets the stains out better, a good pre-treater will do the same.  Hot water wash cycles can add up fast in electricty cost so to minimize that use a pre-treater and the cold setting.

Now you can use a stain remover or pre-treater even with your dark clothes but you run a high risk of missing stains that aren’t visible right off.  Using the hot water setting is the most effective way to keep your dark clothes clean and free of stains. 

Detergents, Pre-treaters and Bleach


Most people have a personal preference when it comes to the laundry detergent they use.  If you have found something that works, use it.  The majority of the brands on the market all do the same thing and will get your clothes clean.  The only time you have to be careful is when washing delicates. 

There are different detergents for delicates because although the regular detergent will get them clean, they aren’t great for the more delicate fabrics.  If you want your delicates to last longer invest in a detergent made for delicate fabrics.

There are tons of detergents on the market and the bottom line is they will all clean your clothes so you don’t need to pay tons for speciality detergents unless you want or need them.  If your family has sensitivites to chemcials get a detergent that is dye and/or fragrance free.  You don’t need a mild detergents for babies clothes but if you feel better having one then get one, as the mild detergents will work just as well.  Speciality detergents are a matter of personal choice, as long as you use some kind of detergent you will get your clothes clean.

On the market now a days are the detergents made especially for cold water washes.  These cold water wash detergents are aimed at dark clothes that you would normally wash in hot water.  Save your money and invest in a good stain pre-treater and use the hot water setting for darks.  There is nothing worse than pulling out a black t-shirt from the dryer and seeing little grease stains from the kids wiping their greasy chip fingers on their shirt.  Cold water even with the speciality detergent just doesn’t get those out well.  If you see them ahead of time then you can use a pre-treater on them but those types of stains are not always visible until it is too late.  With dark clothes hot water and regular detergent is your best bet.


I could do a whole article on different ways and treatments for specific kinds of stains and probably will but for now we are talking general laundry.  For general everyday ordinary stains, a stain pre-treater is your best friend.  Stain pre-treaters are wonderful and very effecitive.  I have used all different brands and they all have worked well.  Now I go with what is on sale and most cost effective.  I spray the pre-treater on the visible stains right before I throw it in the wash and the clothes come out stain free. 


There are some people who use bleach for every load of whites.  You certainly can but keep in mind that bleach is harsh on fabric.  You don’t need to use bleach for every wash.  A good stain pre-treater is safer for your clothes than using bleach every time.  Reserve the bleach for the worst stained loads.  It is great at getting out the stains but if you end up with clothes that thin out or fall apart quickly what is the point.  We want our clothes clean and to last so use the bleach sparingly.

Color safe bleach is no different it is just safe for colors.  I love color safe bleach for my bed sheets and pillow cases but for regular washing I go with the proper temperature, a good detergent and a good stain pre-treater instead.  Even with the bed sheets I use the color safe bleach every other wash as opposed to every wash. 

Bleach, whether it be the standard or color safe is great at getting clothes extra clean but really isn’t a necessity for every wash load.  If you always use bleach try doing a few loads using the proper settings and temperatures, a good detergent and a stain pre-treater while forgoing the bleach.  You will find your laundry comes out just as clean and the clothes have a longer life. 

The Dryer

Have you looked at the dryer settings lately?  There are so many different settings you begin to wonder what exactly you are suppose to be doing.  You just want dry clothes so why not put them and set the timer?  Well the dryer setting does make a difference.  Fabrics respond to heat and not always in a good way.

The higher the heat setting the higher chance you have of shrinking your clothes.  I don’t care if the label says it is pre-shrunk you can still shrink it some more.  The longer your clothes are exposed to the heat the more damage you can do to the fabric itself.  It takes a little trial and error but finding the proper dryer setting will not only save your clothes it will also save you money.  A good deal of people run their dryers much longer than they need to from the start. 

Whites and colors tend to be a lighter weight fabric and require less time to dry than darks.  I used to set the dryer for 30 minutes on the timed setting and walk away.  I have found I can dry a load of whites in 20 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes so there is no need to expose those whites to 10 more minutes of drying time and run up the electric bill.  It took some trial and error but the time you invest will save on the wear and tear of your clothes and your electric bill in the long run.            

People will adjust the load setting for the washer but not for the dryer.  A smaller load takes less time to dry so why set the timer to 30 or 45 minutes for every load.  Laundry is pretty consistent in most households.  Try out some different time settings instead of sticking with the routine.  You will find over time you can estimate the drying time by the type of load you are doing.  You are better off to open the dryer door and find things need a little more time than you are over heating and over drying your clothes.

If you have clothes that tend to wrinkle just like the permanent press cycle on the washer, the dryer can do the same.  If you use the permanent press cycle on the washer then use it on the dryer as well. 

The delicate cycle is the same.  If you use the delicate cycle while washing then definitely use the delicate cycle while drying.  Always check your delicates.  There are alot of delicates that shouldn’t go in the dryer in the first place.  Yes there are a lot of delicates that say not to put in the dryer that you can and they will come out ok but in the long run you are tearing down the fabric and they won’t last as long.

Reader Feedback

6 Responses to “Laundry Basics for Clean Clothes that Last”

  1. Elissa Reed says:
    I have been doing laundry for years and I never knew what the permanent press cycle was for until now. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Kim Neubauer says:
    I don’t feel so stupid now after reading Elissa comment. I never knew what permanent press was either and neither did my mom. My husband’s shirts all wrinkle easily so I am going to give that setting a try on the next load and see if it makes a difference.
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