Like death and taxes, doing laundry is one of life's more unpleasant inevitabilities. And while it's easy to pay someone else to do it all, you owe it to your grown-ass self to learn how to do it right on your own.
With that in mind, here are 12 things you may not realize you're doing wrong on laundry day. Step one: lay off the detergent, dude.
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1. You're sorting wrong
You probably already know to separate darks and whites, but it's more complicated than that. Don't mix towels in with synthetic clothing (especially stretchy workout garb), because you may end up with serious pilling. Same goes for washing fleece jackets with anything else.
2. Don't wash after every wear Unless you constantly sweat or smell particularly rank, washing most things after a single wear is totally unnecessary. Overwashing wears out your clothes faster. Instead, simply spritz them with a homemade linen spray and rejoice in less frequent laundry days.
3. You're using way too much detergent
You might think that more soap means a more powerful clean. False. In fact, using a lot of detergent will actually leave your clothes dirtier because it produces excess suds that collect dirt and trap it in areas that won't rinse clean. If you're used to measuring out half a cap per load, cut that in half.
4. Don't put fabric softeners in with towels It actually reduces their absorbency when wet, which defeats the entire purpose of a bath towel. And don't bother tossing towels in with wicking active wear either, since that prevents them from absorbing moisture too.
5. Wash comforters and pillows twice
For down comforters and pillows, you’ll want to take them to a laundromat’s high-capacity machine and wash them twice. The reason being that the feathers’ denseness causes some detergent to get trapped, so a second rinse cycle will assure everything's cleared out. Lastly, toss them in the dryer with a clean tennis ball; it'll fluff and redistribute the feathers while also reducing drying time.
6. Never wash a bathing suit Even though they’re designed to sit in water, you shouldn't wash your bathing suits in a washing machine, since the wash will damage the fabric (particularly if it contains spandex). The trick is to wash them by hand in cold water with mild soap. Don’t even think about tossing them in the dryer.
7. You're washing your jeans wrong
When washing dark clothes (especially your jeans) be sure to turn them inside-out and run them through a cold rinse cycle in order to avoid color fading. And if you want the most longevity out of your darks and denim, don't toss them in the dryer. Heat will fade them faster. Instead let them air dry on a line or drying rack.
8. Keep your machine clean
It might seem weird to wash the appliance that you entrust to, well, wash stuff, but you should be doing it once a year so that gunk doesn't build up inside. It's fairly simple, and requires running an empty hot rinse cycle with vinegar and baking soda followed by minor scrubbing.
9. Quit overloading your machine
Not only will clothes not get as clean as they should, but the crowded barrel will actually cause creases.
10. Keep those zippers zipped
Before tossing any garment with a zipper—no matter how small—in the wash, make sure it's zipped. Their exposed teeth can wreak havoc on other fabrics while swishing around in a washing machine or dryer.
11. Know your dryer cycles
It may be tempting to just run everything through the regular high-heat dry cycle, but that's a good way to rapidly wear out your duds. Instead, embrace all your options. Often the best choice is "Permanent Press," which runs a medium heat cycle followed by a cool-down period at the end that helps reduce wrinkling. When in doubt, skip the dryer entirely and let things air dry.
12. Unbutton your buttons Whether it's an Oxford or a pair of chinos, make sure buttons aren't secured before beginning a load. Otherwise you risk prematurely weakening their threading as they're tossed to and fro in the machine.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor who has made several devastating bleach-related laundry mistakes.