11 Laundry Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making


If you hate doing laundry, raise your hand.

I can't see you, of course, but I'm confident that 99% of you reading this post dread laundry day. The sorting, the switching, the waiting, the folding, the unexplained disappearance of an arbitrary item. When will it all end? (See also: 25+ Secrets to Keep Your Clothes Brighter, Whiter, and Lasting Longer)

Well, at least you can make the thankless task a little easier to bear by avoiding these mistakes that are costing you time, money, and a bit of sanity.

1. You're Not Using Laundry Detergents That 'Rinse Clean'

Most of the leading laundry detergents are scented and given names that bring to mind a summer rain or a spring breeze. While they make our clothes smell fresh as a field of fragrant lilacs, it's not exactly getting your clothes "clean." Your clothes are clean in the sense that the dirt and grime has been eliminated, but as a result there's chemical detergent residue left behind.

Michelle C. Smith, an entrepreneur and blogger who specializes in making all-natural personal cleansing products, says, "The biggest laundry mistake people are making is not using a laundry detergent that rinses clean — or has a fragrance, for example. This residue is left on your clothes and then most people put a dryer sheet — full of material that leaves more residue — in the dryer with their clothes because they don't like how their clothes feel."

To solve this problem, try swapping your normal brand with an all-natural, fragrance-free brand — or learn how to make your own laundry detergent with natural ingredients.

2. You're Using Too Much Detergent

Are you a detergent eye-baller like me? What I mean by that is that I pour an amount of detergent into the cup that I think looks right for the load and toss it into the washer. It must stop now.

Mona Weiss, who talks about even more laundry mistakes over at the Eco Nuts blog, says that overdosing on detergent can result in dingy, worn-out clothes over time, along with a worn-out budget.

"If you're using a 'measure to this line' type of detergent, make sure you read the directions and make sure you are measuring to the correct line," she says. "There are also many a lazy laundry-doer that just pours what looks 'about right' directly into the laundry machine and hopes for the best. That's literally pouring money down the drain."

3. You're Overfilling the Machine

Weiss also touches on another laundry mistake that I'm guilty of making — overfilling the machine. It's a no-no: completely counterproductive — and costly.

"If you're all about saving money, then adding a few more clothes to the washer so you don't have to do another load is the worst possible idea," she chides. "It's so inefficient, it's anti-efficient. If your clothes can't rub up against each other during the wash then they're not getting clean, which means you'll have to wash the whole load over again. You may as well do a quick rinse in the sink under the faucet, because that's the level of 'clean' you're going to get. Some top-loading machines have a line to show where the water goes up to — your clothes level should be under that. Not up to the line, under. When in doubt take two things out."

Or 12, in my case.

4. You're Not Checking Your Pockets Thoroughly

How many times have you screamed in horror when you discovered that you left something in your pocket because you were too lazy to do a thorough check?

Somehow a crayon snuck into my dryer once (it wasn't pretty), there's been bubblegum in there, and countless burst pens, of course. All manner of paper gets mangled and destroyed, and sometimes there are items that I no longer recognize, or — better yet — have no idea why they were in my pockets in the first place. I'm lookin' at you, Matchbox car.

5. You're Spending Too Much Time Sorting Baby Clothes by Color

In general, most of us sort our own clothes in light, white, dark, and denim piles — although my method only includes three piles: whites, denim, and everything else that isn't those two things — because we don't want any of the dyes bleeding onto other garments. I'm totally on board with that; many of us spend a lot of money on clothing, and we need to make sure it lasts as long as possible.

Babies, on the other hand, are a different story.

First, any parent will tell you that the laundry from a baby never quits. I've seen some kids go through four outfits in a day, and I'm like, you need to learn how to stop vomiting all over yourself, dude. Second, these are babies we're talking about here — professional mess factories who don't have jobs or anybody to impress — so there's no need to spend anymore of your precious time sorting their bottomless hamper into separate stacks. Save for keeping dark navy and deep red items away from the whites, says Jennifer Porter, a blogger at Satsuma Designs, toss it all in on the "Miracle" cleaning setting and get on with your day.

6. You're Spending Money on Chemical Stain Removers When Home Hacks Work Just as Well

Have a whole arsenal of store-bought stain removers in your laundry room? Props to Kelly Ripa for being a formidable product endorser, but you're wasting your money. You have powerful stain fighters in your home right now that are not only cleaner than their chemical counterparts but work just as well — if not better. Porter recommends that we "avoid harsh stain removal chemicals and instead use baking soda from the orange box in your refrigerator and mix with a bit of water to make a paste. Let paste rest on stain for 20-30 minutes and launder as usual."

7. You're Not Protecting Your Delicates as Well as You Should

Porter and Weiss both recommend placing delicates and other small items into a zippered mesh bag so they enjoy gentler cycles, and so you can reduce the risk of your socks and undies ending up in the Great Garment Abyss.

"Add years of life to bras, save folding time, and beat the dryer sock gremlins when you use a cotton wash bag for lingerie, socks, and baby items (booties, socks, mittens, and more) for laundry cycles," Porter says.

Weiss seconds her sentiment: "There is no black hole and [your garments] don't vanish into thin air. They do, however, get sucked into tiny places like underneath the agitator, under the gasket, or into the dryer vent. Simple solution — put all socks, underwear, lingerie, handkerchiefs, and tiny baby things into zippered mesh bags."

8. You're Not Following the Care Instructions

If your garments are coming out on the other side of a wash and dry ruined, there's something wrong — and it's probably your fault. Not all garments should be treated equally, so it's important to read the care instructions on your clothing before you launder them. It's generally recommended that denim be turned inside out before washing on cold; many cotton items have special instructions; and please, pleeeeease, whatever you do, don't put anything wool in the washer or dryer unless you plan to pass it down to your five-year-old nephew when the cycle has finished.

9. You're Not Adding Vinegar to Your Stinky, Sweaty Workout Gear

Marathon runner Marigrace McKay told me that she adds one cup of vinegar to the washer to take the funk out of her gear, so I did a little digging to verify her claim. She's 100% correct — vinegar acts as a deodorizer to neutralize bad smells — and there are several other practical applications for vinegar in the wash, including protecting clothes from fading, acting as a natural bleaching agent, and combating lint and static clings.

10. You're Wasting About Half the Costly Energy During the Dry Cycle

Want to cut your dryer bill by almost half? It could be possible.

Matt Kilsdonk of HelpfulReviewer.com provides this smart tip to save energy and money: "You can reduce your drying time by half, by simply adding a dry towel to your load of wet laundry," he says. "The surface area of the dry towel helps absorb moisture and speeds up the drying time of the rest of the clothes."

He notes, however, that it's important to take the now wet towel out mid-cycle and air dry it. "Leaving the towel in the full cycle will not reduce the drying time," Kilsdonk explains.

11. You Might Be Taking Mom for Granted (and She'll Get Back at You)

The usefulness of this tip is debatable, but I found it hilarious nonetheless. Kate Kassian, proprietor of Buffalo Girls Mercantile, shared words of wisdom.

"My tip: Never C.O.D. your dirty laundry home to mom. You will never see it again. True story."

Let that sink in for a minute, friends. It gets funnier the more you think about it.

Do you have other laundry mistakes that we should avoid? Let me know in the comments below.

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