Sorting Laundry Tips

Before doing a wash, sort laundry into different piles. Generally, this divides along lines of different fabrics, different wash temperatures and different colors. Study the care labels that must by law be sewn into garments, which will tell you if a garment can be washed – or whether it should only be dry-cleaned – and, if so, at what temperature, and whether it can be bleached or tumble-dried, along with any other instructions, such as whether it should washed inside out, or whether it is better not to wash it with biological detergent.

Begin by setting aside any very dirty items, to be washed separately, as well as any items to be washed separately by hand.

With the remainder, sort first according to color – whites, light colored and darks. Very light colors that you are sure are colorfast can go in with the whites if you are not planning to use bleach. Less light colors can go in with a darker load. If you have a really huge amount, sort by color – so you have a blue/lilac pile, a pink/red pile, a grey/black pile and so forth. If you are scrupulous at this stage, you are less likely to have color-run incidents.


Then sort the piles according to wash temperature. Try to sort into items of the same weight and type of fabric, so that heavy fabric will not snag or tear more delicate ones. Put delicate items in a mesh wash bag to protect them.

There used to be umpteen wash cycles on machines, but manufacturers have now cottoned on to the fact that most people use only one or two, so they have reduced the number of general cycles, but have introduced others, such as a hand-wash cycle. These days, most people use variations on a 30°C or 40°C wash for most fabrics. Modern detergents are designed to wash efficiently at low temperatures and this is the most eco-friendly thing to do.

sorting-laundry laundry-sorting

It also suits delicate fabrics, such as woollens. In addition, people will sometimes use a 60°C hot wash for very dirty sturdy white and colorfast cottons and a 50°C wash for synthetics. Washing machines use a lot of energy, so always wash a full load, or use a half-load or economy programme if your machine has one. Always wash at the lowest temperature you can – it is much more ecologically sound. A 40°C wash uses about half as much as energy as a 60°C wash.

Testing for colorfastness. Until you have washed a garment, do not assume that it is colorfast. If you are not sure, add 1 tsp of detergent to a teacup of warm water and saturate an inconspicuous corner with it. Press between two pieces of white kitchen towel, and if the color comes off, wash separately or with like colors. Some dyes cease to bleed after a few washes; others, such as the indigo dye on jeans, never seem to become colorfast.


Remember that you can always wash garments at a lower temperature than the one recommended. If, for example, you have a couple of only slightly soiled cotton shirts that can be washed at 40°C, alongside a large pile to be washed at 30°C, wash them all together at the lower temperature.

Tags: home organizing, laundry

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