For anyone having to learn how to do laundry for the first time, it can seem like a daunting task. I can assure you however, it really is not daunting at all. Doing laundry is quite simple once you have learnt what factors to consider. In fact, learning those factors will enable you to do laundry in any washing machine for the rest of your life,
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Step 1: Things to Consider & Items You Need Before You Start
Most importantly you need to know where you are doing your laundry. Do you have your own machine? Are you using machines in a dormitory? Are you using coin operated machines, such as in a launderette or apartment building? If you are using your own machine, you have no limitations on when you can do your laundry. Leaving a load in the washer or dryer overnight will not be a problem. Launderettes and apartment buildings will have hours of operation, so you have to arrive early enough to finish drying your clothes before closing hours. A dormitory is not likely to have hours of operation though they typically have fewer machines. It is considered bad form to leave your laundry unattended for long periods of time, and you may find your load taken out of a washer and not moved to the dryer if left for too long. This can also happen before your clothes have completed their wash if you share the space with inconsiderate people. In a public setting planning out your time is an important factor to consider.
Items needed before you start:
- Detergent - Can be Liquid or Powdered depending on preference. High Efficiency machines (which are typically privately owned machines) recommend high efficiency formulated liquid detergent only.
- Fabric Softener - Can be Liquid applied during the rinse cycle (by the machine or manually) or dryer sheets placed in the dryer with your clothes. Does not need to be both, applying too much softener to your clothes can result in excess lint buildup.
- Laundry Basket (optional) - Convenient way to carry your laundry
- Bleach (optional) - Reasons to use bleach can be found here.
- Stain Remover (optional) - To remove heavy stains from fabrics that may not be removed from washing alone
- Quarters (if using a coin operated machine)
Step 2: Sort Your Laundry
Before heading to your laundry room, the first thing you should do is sort your clothes into groups. Of course you don't have to sort your clothes, but sorting helps protect your clothing and helps with longevity. The most basic way to sort your clothes is to separate into two groups, Whites and Coloreds. There are a number of different groups you can sort your clothes into depending on your needs and preference. Another breakdown on how to sort your clothes can be found here. Also be sure to check the tags on your clothing to see if there are any washing instructions. Some items have warnings such as "Hand wash only" or "Cold wash only", these instructions can be seen as recommendations. You do not have to follow these recommendations but they will improve the lifespan of your clothes.
Step 3: Your First Load
After you sort your laundry to your preferred groups, it is time for your first load. It does not matter which group you wash first. Take your selected group and look for any heavily stained items. If you have any, this is the time to pre-treat them. Pre-treating will consist of applying your selected stain remover following the directions on the product.
Depending on the size of the machine, you might need to split your group into multiple loads. If you overload the machine it will affect the wash quality and can damage the machine. With a top loading machine a good rule of thumb is to never pack your clothes higher than the central column. In front loaders, leave about 3 inches of space between your clothes and the top of the drum. This does not mean, push you clothes in as much as you can to compress them. You want to load your clothes in the machine loosely to allow for proper agitation.
If you are using a top loading washer be aware that you can either choose to start the cycle and put the detergent in before you load the washer, or after you load the washer. It is at your discretion and does not make a noticeable difference
Step 4: Choosing the Cycle
No matter the washer there are 3 basic laundry cycles. Normal, Permanent Press and Delicate. Your washer may have more cycles than these but it will never have less.
The vast majority of your clothes will be washed in the Normal cycle. Permanent Press is used heavier fabrics usually advertised as 'wrinkle free'. Delicate is used for sheer materials like lace or silk.
For a more in-depth look at cycles you can look here or perform your own search as there are no hard rules when it comes to laundry
Along with picking a cycle, you may have the option to select the load size. If not, your washer most likely has a sensing feature to automatically determine the size of your load. The load size is relative to the size of the drum in the washer. To determine load size I usually go by the following:
- Small - Up to 25% of the drum capacity
- Medium - Up to 50% of the drum capacity
- Large - Up to 100% of the drum capacity
These figures are just a rule of thumb and are by no means hard set. Choosing the right size is important however, too small and your clothes will not was properly. To large and you will waste water which can affect not only your bill but county water supplies, especially in drought stricken areas such as California.
Step 5: Adding the Detergent and Optionals
As I am sure you have noticed with all I have told you so far, there are no hard set rules when doing laundry. The same is true when it comes to how much detergent to use. Each brand will have their own recommendations for how much to use, such as here on Tide.com.
Liquid fabric softener can be added at this time also. Again, each brand will have their own recommendations such as here on Downy.com. If you choose to use fabric softener sheets, they will be added with your laundry in the dryer.
Bleach can also be added at this time if you desire. As I myself do not use bleach, I will let an expert tell you how here.
Washers with a detergent tray will also have lines in the tray to indicate how much detergent to use. The detergent tray will also have places for you to add bleach and fabric softener if you so choose. These washers will release the liquids at the appropriate time in the cycle. At this point, you can start the cycle and take a break until the machine has stopped. This will be indicated by either the timer reaching 0 and being accompanied by a buzzer/tone; or, by the dial reaching the 'Off' position accompanied by a buzzer.
If you are using a top loading washer and have decided to insert the detergent before loading your clothes, start the washer cycle now. The drum will slowly start to fill with water but the machine will not start to agitate until the water reaches the selected level and the lid is closed. If the lid remains open, the washer will wait idle until you close the lid. Once the water starts filling the drum you should add the detergent, letting the detergent diffuse into the water. Once the detergent is added, you can put your load of clothes into the machine.
If you have decided to insert the detergent after loading your clothes, start the washer cycle now. The drum will slowly start to fill with water but the machine will not start to agitate until the water reaches the selected level and the lid is closed. If the lid remains open, the washer will wait idle until you close the lid. Load your clothes into the machine as the water is filling the drum. Once loaded, wait until the water level is higher than your load of clothes and then add the detergent to the water. To avoid staining, never add the detergent directly onto you clothes.
If you wish to add fabric softener using a fabric softener ball, add the softener to the ball and add it to your load. I would recommend placing it in the middle of your load for even dispersal. Close the lid, once the water has reached the selected level, the machine will start. At this point, you can take a break until the machine has stopped. This will be indicated by the dial reaching the 'Off' position accompanied by a buzzer.
At this time, if the central column of your machine has a fabric softener dispenser, you may add fabric softener now up to the level indicated on the dispenser. Close the lid, once the water has reached the selected level, the machine will start. At this point, you can take a break until the machine has stopped. This will be indicated by the dial reaching the 'Off' position accompanied by a buzzer.
If your machine does not have a fabric softener dispenser you and you wish to add some, wait until the machine reaches the spin cycle. At this time you can add fabric softener once the machine starts filling with water. Be careful not to apply the fabric softener directly to your clothing to avoid stains. Take a break until the machine has stopped. This will be indicated by the dial reaching the 'Off' position accompanied by a buzzer.
If you do not have a dryer, proceed to step 8.
Step 6: Cleaning the Dryer Lint Trap
You should clear the lint trap every single time before using the dryer. Look for a plastic panel either on the back of the dryer drum or at front of the dryer in the lip of the door. It should be clearly marked with the words 'Lint Trap'. Pull or slide the plastic out. Attached to the plastic should be a mesh screen. Remove any lint that remains on this screen and then reinsert into the dryer.
NOT CLEARING THE LINT TRAP IS A FIRE HAZARD!!!
As you can imagine, dryers can get pretty hot. Large build ups of lint adds a chance of a fire breaking out
Step 7: Loading and Starting Dryer
After clearing the lint trap, move your laundry from the washer to the dryer. If you are using fabric softener sheets, add them now. Again, follow the recommendation on the box for number of sheets to use.
You will find that dryers have the three same basic cycles that washers have. Normal, Permanent Press, and Delicate. If your washer has more than those three cycles and you have the matching dryer, you will find that the likely have the same cycles.
You should use the same cycle that you used to wash your clothes if applicable, or the closest cycle which best applies to your clothing as based on the label. Some clothing is ok to machine wash but should not be tumble dried, always refer to the label. Once you have picked your cycle, press the start button. If you have another load of laundry to wash repeat step 3 onward for that load now.
The completed dryer cycle will be indicated by either the timer reaching 0 and being accompanied by a buzzer/tone; or, by the dial reaching the 'Off' position accompanied by a buzzer.
Check your clothes once the dryer has stopped, if they are still damp you may need to start the dryer again for a little while longer. You can select the same cycle again somewhere in the middle depending on how much more time you think your clothes need based on how damp they still are.
Step 8: What to Do Next
If you have finished washing your clothes but do not have a dryer, you can hang your clothes on a clothesline for them to dry. Be mindful to watch out for rain if you employ this method.
Once your clothes have finished drying you can move onto folding your laundry and ironing. Topics to be covered elsewhere