A Laundry Expert’s 8 Biggest Dos and Don’ts

Put dirty duds into the hamper, lug hamper to the laundry room, wash, dry, repeat, repeat… repeat. Like it or hate it, this chore is unavoidable.

But what if you could do it more efficiently? To find out the answer, we asked Good Housekeeping Institute’s Carolyn Forte, director of the home appliance and cleaning products lab. As someone who’s done hundreds of loads in the name of research, she unsurprisingly had a lot of laundry wisdom to share.

Follow these eight easy dos and don’ts—from the best detergent to use to how not to deal with stubborn stains—to make laundry day more effective and (dare we say) enjoyable.

THE DOS

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Do: Stock up on quality detergent.

Not all detergents are created equal—to get the most bang for your buck, opt for an all-purpose pick. Forte recommends Persil ProClean because it works well in all water temps and helps keep clothes looking great. Plus, she says you can use it to pretreat stains and prep harder-to-reach spots likecollars and cuffs before washing.

Do: Always measure detergent.

It might be tempting to shave a few seconds off your routine, but this is a more important step than you think. “Using too much detergent isn’t any better than using too little,” says Forte. “Too much detergent can leave residue on your clothes and even trap soils.” Consider how big your load is and how dirty your clothes are, then follow the guidelines on the detergent’s packaging.

Do: Wash delicates inside out.

Turn items prone to pilling (leggings, sweaters) or fading (denim, black tees) inside out prior to washing them. This not only helps protect more delicate fabrics from abrasion and snagging on hardware, but shields dark colors from wear and tear that can cause fading, says Forte. Not to worry: Your clothes will still get plenty clean—most of the soil is on the inside anyway.

Do: Shake items before moving them to the dryer.

Making sure that no two items are clumped together or intertwined is key. “It takes a few more minutes, but if you shake everything out, it’s going to be less wrinkled and tumble better in the dryer,” says Forte. Plus, think of all the ironing time it could save!

THE DON’TS

Don’t: Let stains sit around.

“The faster you get to stains, the better chance you have of getting them out,” says Forte. When it comes to dealing with oil stains—think salad dressing or butter—Forte’s stain-fighting method includes three crucial steps:

  1. Spot clean the garment immediately with a little dish soap—wet the fabric, rub in a dollop, and rinse.
  2. Before washing, pretreat the stain again with a stain-fighting detergent, like Persil ProClean.
  3. Launder as usual.

Don’t: Overload the machine.

Knocking out an entire load in one cycle might sound nice in theory, but your clothes need to be able to circulate in order to get sufficiently cleaned. Consult your machine’s manual for specifics, or if you’re eyeballing it, filling it up three-quarters of the way is a good threshold. GETTY IMAGESVASILIKI

Don’t: Treat fluffy items the same way as clothes.

When drying anything fluffy or prone to clumping when wet—like down blankets, pillows, or jackets—add a tennis ball, clean sneaker, or dryer balls to the drum. This keeps the load tumbling and maintains the item’s ability to insulate, Forte explains.

For best results, Forte recommends going the extra mile: “Take the item out of the dryer and fluff it every once in a while. Feel around for clumps, and break them up before putting the item back in the machine.”

Don’t: Play the guessing game.

Have you ever wondered if patterns or stripes should go with darks or lights? Instead of taking a guess, test dark colors first. Before washing your brand new black-and-white striped shirt, put a few drops of water on it. If it’s colorfast it won’t bleed, so you can put it in with the whites, says Forte. If the color starts to bleed, put it in with other darks or wash it separately in cold water.

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