Even the best detergent can’t make up for bad laundry practices. Throw a red shirt in with your sheets and you’re now in the pink. Mix and match fabric types and you’ll end up with lint on your best blouse. Here are four rules to live by from the laundry pros at Consumer Reports plus some laundry pair picks from our washer and dryer tests.
Start by separating lights and darks, paying particular attention to red items, which are notorious bleeders. It’s also a good idea to sort items by fabric type. Keep towels, sweatshirts, and other items that shed lint away from sheets and other smooth fabrics that tend to pill. Close zippers; they can snag easily on other items. Wash jeans inside out to avoid streaky lines. If you have a high-efficiency (HE) top-loader that lacks a special cycle for waterproof and water-resistant items, avoid washing those items because they can cause loads to become unbalanced, leading to excessive shaking.
The sooner you treat the stain, the better. Pretreatment products such as Shout and Resolve are often helpful with many stains. Most liquid detergent can also be applied directly to stains. Powders can often be mixed with water to form a paste that can be applied to stains; refer to package for directions. You can also soak affected items in a solution of detergent and water. Many washing machines have a soak cycle that makes it easy, or you can fill the tub manually if you have a top loader. To treat underarm stains, our tests have found soaking shirts in OxiClean to be effective.
Load it properly
An overstuffed washer won’t get clothes clean. Conventional top-loaders hold about 6 to 16 pounds of laundry; high-efficiency top- and front-loaders hold 20 pounds or more. See the manual or manufacturer site for your model’s recommendations. For best results in a top loader, start filling the tub with water, add detergent, then add clothes. The best time to manually add bleach is a few minutes after the agitator starts running. Bleach is best reserved for white cottons, including sheets and undershirts; note that it can degrade the elastic on underwear and swimsuits.
In addition to being a waste of money, using too much detergent can leave residue in your clothes, and it’s not great for your washing machine, either. Confusing detergent caps with difficult-to-read fill lines make it easy to overdo it. Purex is on to a good thing with its PowerShot Super Concentrated detergent, which automatically dispenses the right amount of detergent. It was an also-ran in our performance tests, but we hope other brands adopt similar auto-dosing bottles. In the meantime, use a permanent marker to highlight the fill line you use most regularly.