Learn the four basic steps to making laundry easier, plus the secrets to help make your clothes last longer and look better.
More in Decorating
You're ready to wash, but how well do you know your washing machine? Your washer's product manual has a wealth of information about how to get clothes clean effectively. Washing recommendations vary from machine to machine. For instance, filling a front-loading spin-cycle washer more fully gets clothes cleaner, but overloading a top-loader that uses an agitator will impede the cleaning process and could damage clothing.
Once the clothing is loaded, add detergent. Detergent use is among those "know-your-machine" issues where it pays to be informed. Washing machines vary in capacity and are designed to use differing amounts of detergent. Consult the washer's product manual first, then read the detergent box to determine how much detergent to add and do measure carefully, using a measuring cup. You may need to use more detergent for large loads, very dirty clothing or if you live in an area with hard water. Use a bit less detergent for soft water, small loads or lightly soiled clothing.
Add any fabric additives or softener. Follow manufacturer's recommendations to use bleach, non-chlorine bleach or fabric brighteners; these toxic products must be used with care and according to label directions. Fabric softener should be added during the final rinse cycle.
Select the appropriate water temperature for the clothes in the washer.
When the washer cycle has finished, it's time to dry. Place clothing in an automatic dryer, and select the appropriate heat level and cycle duration. Give any twisted garments a good shake as you load them; you'll give them a head start to dry smooth and wrinkle-free. Hang delicate clothing from hangers, a dryer rack or from a clothesline to air-dry.
Make sure you fold or hang clothing quickly after removing it from the dryer; the last bit of heat in the garment will help to smooth out wrinkles (and prevent the need to iron). Watch out for metal buttons or zippers. They can be very hot after a tumble in the dryer.
Using color-coded baskets, place each family member's clothing in a separate basket as you fold. You'll make it easy for everyone to put away their own clothing if they only have to grab a basket and go.