Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Home Environment

Helping Nebraskans enhance their lives through research-based education.

Sorting Laundry Saves Time and Money

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

Click to email this page to a friend.email this page to a friend

Laundry is a task in every household. Students going off to school are often faced with doing this task for the first time on their own. Whatever the case, here are some tips to follow when preparing and doing laundry.

Sorting is a top priority. By sorting clothes correctly many fading and other laundry problems can be solved. There's more to the sorting game than just keeping dark garments away from the whites. The secret is mixing and matching items into loads that need similar soaps or detergents, wash cycles and water temperatures. Check those garment care labels for special cleaning instructions. Without a doubt, smart sorting is the way of insuring clean results - wash, after wash, after wash.

First, sort by color.

Wash all whites separately; pastels and medium colors together; brights and darks by themselves. Pay special attention to white and lightly colored synthetics; they can pick up dark dyes from other fabrics during washing. Check trimmings and decorations for colorfastness.

Second, sort for soil.

Sort out those heavily soiled items away from the lightly soiled ones, since lightly soiled items can pick up the extra soil from the wash water. Whites will slowly get gray or yellow; colors will become dull.

Third, consider Specialty Sorts.

The Unmatched Set: Mix small and large items together in each load. This lets clothes move more freely, resulting in better washing.

The Fabric Types: Consider the fabrics and how they are constructed. Separate loosely knitted garments and delicates from regular wash loads, then wash on the gentle cycle.

The Lint Losers: Fuzzy sweat shirts, chenille robes, flannels and new towels have a tendency to share their lint with other garments during washing. Wash them in a load by themselves - away from corduroys and permanent press garments, which attract lint easily.

The Fluorescents: Hot pinks, bright greens, electric blues are often much less colorfast than other fabrics. Wash them separately or test them first before washing with other colors. For safety's sake do not pretreat with stain removers unless you have tested them for colorfastness first on an inconspicuous area. Fluorescent colors may fade over time.

In addition to sorting, the following tips will also help make laundry an easier task.

The recommended amount of detergent on the label is based on average conditions: 5 to 7 pounds of clothes which are moderately soiled and are washed in an average amount of moderately hard water. Change any of these conditions and you should change the amount of detergent. More detergent may be needed for: larger loads, heavily soiled clothes, larger-capacity washer or hard water conditions. Slightly less detergent may be needed if the water is soft, the clothes are only lightly soiled or the wash load is small.

For the best cleaning action, clothes need room to move freely. Plus, there must be enough free water to carry away the soil easily. Fill the tub loosely, not completely.

Detergents work best in warm-to-hot wash water. Consider using cold water only for washing clothes whose colors might fade or are only lightly soiled. There are detergents on the market for cold water washing.

Follow the manufacturer's labels and add products accordingly. Some products like oxygen bleaches are added to the wash water before the clothes are added. Liquid fabric softeners go in the rinse water.

Cold rinse water saves energy, makes ironing easier and helps prevent permanent press fabrics from wrinkling

Don't overload the dryer. Clothes need room to tumble freely in order to dry fast and wrinkle-free. Use the specially designed permanent press wash and dry cycles for permanent press fabrics, to minimize wrinkling — the wash cycle has a special cool-down rinse; the drying cycle, a cooling-down period.

To save energy, always wash a full load or match the water level setting to the amount of clothes being washed. When washing small loads, use a lower water level setting.

The time you take to sort correctly and follow laundry directions will save you time and money in the future.


Ask Lorene

(This resource was added August 2007 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

Contact Information

University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180