You’re in your twenties now. It’s time to learn how to do your laundry.
Even if you’re lazy or hurried or generally slapdash when it comes to chores, just take the time to do your laundry properly. It’s so easy once you get the hang of it, and you can do most of it mindlessly while listening to podcasts or the dulcet sounds of your neighbors fighting through the thin apartment walls.
For maximum laundry success, follow these steps. (Or just hire a service, you bougie b. We’re not gonna audit you.)
- Check your tags
Before washing anything, read the care and handling tag. It might seem tedious, but more than a few quality sweaters have been pilled into oblivion by overzealous machine-wash cycles. Save yourself both dollars and heartache by first separating out everything that is dry-clean or hand-wash only. Put those in a separate pile and measure your self-worth by how high that pile is.
- Sort your clothes
As a rule, you sort your clothes by colors and by fabrics.
First, divide your clothes into three piles: whites, lights, and darks.
Then, separate out your delicates and bulky items. Delicates are things like undergarments, washable silks, lacy tank tops, etc. Bulky items are bedding, towels, and denim.
Now you likely have around 4-6 piles. If you have a washing machine in your home, this means it’s time to start washing! However, If you don’t own a washing machine or yours doesn’t have water level settings, you may be reluctant to cash out on six individual loads of laundry.
If that’s the case, use your best judgment to combine loads without harming your clothing.
Remember to always keep whites and darks separated; bleeding dyes can ruin your light clothing and over time cause your whites to look dingy and yuck. Never wash your delicates with your bulkies, or with clothing items that have buttons or zippers or anything else that could snag.
- Choose your settings
Modern appliances are cool and shiny and make lots of neat noises that remind us of spaceships. Unfortunately, most are also complete mindfucks. Make sure you understand the settings on your washing machine before using it. There is no ‘one size fits all’ guide to cycles, but a quick Google of your washing machine model should help you sort out which cycles work for your clothing.
- Measure & add detergent
If you’re not accustomed to doing your own laundry yet, measure out your detergent! It is entirely too common for newbie grown-ups to ‘eyeball it’ and use wayyy more detergent than necessary, and that stuff is expensive. Don’t let Gain steal your weekend drinking money; measure your detergent appropriately and save your pennies for Thursday penny pitchers.
Also, smell your detergent before buying it. Trust me. This scent is going to basically define your existence as long as you’re using it, so make sure you’re a fan of Violently Tropical Berry Breeze before you commit.
- Fabric softener
Fabric softener is sort of a doozy, since it varies by machine. If you have an older washing machine (whatup, broke early 20-something’s), then it might not have a special fabric softener compartment. That means you add your fabric softener during the rinse cycle. You’ll have to pay attention to your laundry machine to see when the dial hits ‘rinse,’ and then pour in the appropriate amount. (Again, measure!)
If your machine is not an antique, then it likely has a designated compartment for the softener. This means you add it in immediately after pouring in the detergent and before starting the load. Consult the machine’s manual (or, again, Google) to make sure.
Before using fabric softener at all, though, make sure your clothes are okay with it. Some materials don’t do well with fabric softeners, so always check first!
- Start your washer!
My washing machine has a big power button that says START over it in huge, bold, idiot-proof letters. Hopefully yours does too, because then this is the easiest step.
However, my machine in college had a cracked, yellowing dial, and you had to push it in, twist it to the ‘start’ position, and then pull it out.
Figure out how to turn your washing machine on and then do it. … This should really be the easiest step regardless of machine.
- Dryer settings
Alright, so according to which load you’re washing, your dryer settings will differ. Some loads don’t require the dryer at all – I tend to drape my delicates over stuff to let them air-dry, which is why my infant son sometimes crawls around with a push-up wound around his torso.
Check the settings of your dryer before transferring loads from washer to dryer. For your bulkies (sheets, denim, comforter), you’ll need more heat. For your regular clothes, whatever the ‘moderate’ setting is should work just fine.
Never dry rayon, suede, or wool. You also shouldn’t dry lace or spandex, but I’m classifying those as ‘delicates.’
- Dry – and fold immediately
Don’t be a tool and let your clean clothes wrinkle up in your dryer. Plan laundry days for afternoons where you know you’ll be home so you can pluck them out as they finish and fold or hang up your clothes immediately. This saves you from being the girl in the wrinkly blouse in the office, aka my entire late-teenaged calling card.
- Put away your clothes, enjoy your life
Don’t do ninety percent of the job. Once you’ve got everything folded and on hangers, PUT IT ALL AWAY. Be kind to future you; don’t make her weave around stacks and stacks of clean laundry when it’s six a.m. and barely light outside and she still has to make coffee and catch the bus. Instead, take the twenty minutes to put your stuff where it goes. Then go treat yourself with something decadent and over-the-top, like a fancy soy candle or a bottle of wine. You earned it.