Have you ever bought a brand new shirt only to wash it once and have it come out looking like you’ve had it for years? Chances are, you’re not cleaning on the proper settings causing the quality of your clothing to be compromised. It may seem like a little extra work, but separating your clothes beforehand and washing accordingly can really make a difference and ultimately affect the longevity of your wardrobe.
When separating clothes, divide into four categories: darks, lights, whites, and delicates, while paying extra attention to fabrics. Materials that tend to be either very cheap (think polyester or nylon) or very expensive (silks and cashmere) should be either sent to the cleaners or washed by hand. These fabrics aren’t meant to be cleaned simultaneously with other pieces because they don’t stand up well to a vigorous washing cycle. All other clothing is usually fine as long as it’s kept within the same color group and cleaned on the proper cycle.
Darks – To help reduce fading, always turn darks inside out before washing. Always wash in a cold water cycle, and try to clean on the shortest cycle possible to get the job done. When choosing a detergent, it’s best to go with the most basic solution without additives, fabric softener and even color safe bleach. Using these chemicals may seem harmless but they actually strip dark pigment faster than basic detergent. Remember not to over dry as this not only causes fading but has a tendency to shrink clothing as well.
Lights- You can wash clothes in hot water, but make sure to avoid mixing in any light clothing with vibrantly colored or dark detailing as it can bleed into the wash causing light colored to be altered. Although hot water is acceptable for lighter shades it actually may be in your best interest to use warm water if your laundry can stand it since it preserves the quality of the fabric.
Delicates- Washing these pieces is just that; a delicate business. They require the most care and cannot stand up to normal wash cycles. To be honest, the best way to cleanse finer fabrics is by simply hand washing them. It may seem like an easy solution to throw them in with the rest of the laundry. You may even be safe the first time, but over several washing periods the fabrics will start to break down leaving your special pieces in less than ideal condition. To cleanse properly, fill a basin with lukewarm water and use a very mild detergent, you can even use baby shampoo. Swirl clothing gently around until the water is slightly sudsy. Rinse thoroughly and lay flat to dry. Your delicates will remain in tact and just as beautiful as when you first purchased them.
Whites- Hot water can be used with any kind of whites and is recommended to remove tough set in stains. Since white clothing tends to pick up stains easily it’s important to add a capful of bleach to each load to ensure they stay bright and maintain a true white shade. Washing whites without bleach can cause your clothes to harbor a yellow tinge over time even if you don’t notice it yourself. Spray all stains with stain remover and let sit prior to washing.
It’s important to remember to not only separate clothing by color but also by fabric. You should never be washing towels and jeans in the same load even if they’re of the same color family. It’s always better to break down piles into smaller loads to maintain the quality and longevity of your investments. After all, keeping clothes in good condition will ultimately save you money in the long run.