When my son recently did the wash to earn pocket money, I quickly realized he had no idea whatsoever how to sort laundry.
Not only did he pretty much just toss everything into the machine, but he also managed to cram three peoples’ clothing, sheets, and towels into ONE load to which he added most of a container of my homemade laundry detergent. The results weren’t pretty.
Now, I’m not the type of person to turn down free (or reasonably priced) help. So, just as soon as we’d pried out the clothes that had been jammed into the machine and mopped the laundry room floor, I set about teaching him how to sort laundry my way.
Notice, though, I said my way.
IT’S A MATTER OF PREFERENCE
You see, there are all sorts of thoughts about how to sort laundry. Some people do much as my son did, throwing clothes, sheets, and towels into the machine willy-nilly and relying on their use of solely cold water (and maybe some of those color catcher things) to keep fabric dyes from bleeding.
That drives me nuts.
Other people, like my mother, sort so thoroughly based on color, weight, and manufacturer instructions that they wind up washing teeny tiny loads consisting of maybe two t-shirts in the same shade of yellow.
That drives me nuts, too.
When it comes to sorting laundry, I try to accomplish three things:
• Get the clothes as clean as possible.
• Keep clothes from ruining each other, either through bleeding dyes or friction.
• Save time and money if I can.
Accomplishing this means that I sort laundry more than once. Yes, that’s right: as much as I usually hate repeating steps when it comes to household chores, I sometimes sort then re-sort when it comes to laundry.
How To Sort Laundry
1. First, sort clothes based on color. Separate dark clothing from brights, lights, and whites. Sheets and towels get divided into white and colors. Underwear and socks get their own pile. (I buy white cotton underwear for all of us, so it all goes in the same load. My fancy, special occasion stuff gets either hand-washed or washed in its own load using the delicate cycle).
2. Next, sort the color-categories based on weight. Jeans, which are heavier than most other clothing, get washed in their own load. T-shirts and tank tops are typically made from the same fabric, so they wind up in their own piles (dark, bright, light, and white). Ditto for yoga clothes and activewear, sweaters, blouses, etc.
3. Combine loads where possible. You can often wash dark and bright clothes together IF they’re the same weight and you’re using the same temp, provided nothing is brand new (and thus likely to bleed dye). Ditto for light and white clothing.
4. Wash the filthiest stuff second-to-last. It’s smart to start the laundry by washing the most urgent load first. In our house, that means t-shirts and tanks, since we all have our favorite ones we like to wear throughout the week. Whatever load you start with, make sure to wash the underwear and socks second to last so you’re not transferring bacteria from them to other clothes that won’t get cleaned in hot water.
THEN DISINFECT YOUR MACHINE
Washing your dirtiest load last lets you disinfect the machine by running a load of towels with bleach if you use it, or an empty cycle with 2 cups of vinegar and no detergent.
When I explained these steps to my son (as I’ve explained it to my husband more times than I can count over the past 15 years), he looked at me like I’d just sprouted a second head. Then I sat down and put together a chart which immediately made sense to him.
And the result? He did two loads of laundry yesterday evening and plans to do another two this evening. Not bad for a $5 allowance. Now I just need to teach him how to follow my printable Laundry Day Routine!