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Quick Cleaning Tips

Laundry Basics: How to Sort, Wash, Dry and Fold (page 1 of 2)

Learn the four basic steps to making laundry easier, plus the secrets to help make your clothes last longer and look better.

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We asked home-efficiency expert Cynthia Townley Ewer, author of Houseworks, to explain her secrets for making laundry chores simple, easy and successful.

Sort and Segregate

If you skip the sort step before starting the wash, you know what'll happen: red sweater plus white undies equals pink panties (or worse, pink jockey shorts).

To sort laundry, start with color. Separate clothing into white, light-colored, bright and dark divisions to avoid dye-transfer problems. Wash white and light clothing separately to keep dye transfer at bay.

Separating synthetics (polyester, nylon, acrylic) from natural fibers (cotton, linen) can also cure dye-transfer problems; synthetic fibers can be dye magnets, absorbing the castoffs from dye-rich natural fibers.

Troubled by lint in the wash? Keep lint-generators (sweatshirts, towels, flannel fabrics) away from lint attractors (nylon blouses, microfibers) in the laundry process.

For cleaner clothes, sort clothing by soil level. Jeans worn while planting seedlings in the garden aren't good wash-mates for lightly soiled blouses. Fabric weight, too, should be considered; the heavy stitching, brads and buttons on jeans are too rough-and-tumble to share a wash cycle with lighter-weight or delicate clothing.

Prep and Pretreat

As you load the washer, check each item of clothing. Close zippers, remove belts and ties, and check pockets for forgotten items that don't belong in the wash. Eyeball each garment, searching for stains and treat them before you wash.

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