11 Commonly Asked Laundry Questions, Answered


Doing laundry can be a tedious chore for many people. From sorting and washing to drying and folding, it’s easy to have questions come up along the way. To help make laundry a little less mysterious, we’ve put together this guide answering some of the most frequently asked laundry questions. Read on for tips, tricks, and explanations to common laundry dilemmas.

What temperature should I wash my clothes on?

The ideal wash temperature depends on the type of fabric you are washing. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Cold water – This is suitable for delicates, lightly soiled items, darks and colors that are prone to fading or running. Washing in cold water helps colors stay vibrant.
  • Warm water – The warm water setting (around 80-90°F) is a safe bet for most normally soiled everyday items like sheets, towels, t-shirts, jeans etc. Warm water provides effective cleaning for common messes.
  • Hot water – The hot water setting (120°F and above) is ideal for sanitizing and getting rid of germs and bacteria. It’s also great for heavily soiled laundry and whites. However, hot water can fade bright colors over time.

Check clothing care labels for the manufacturer’s recommended wash temperature. When in doubt, opt for cooler water to help items retain their color and fit. For tough stains, pretreat and soak in warm or hot water before washing.

How much detergent should I use?

The amount of detergent needed can vary based on factors like load size, soil level, and washing machine type. Here are some general tips on detergent dosage:

  • Follow instructions on the detergent bottle – Detergent containers have markings indicating how much to use for different load sizes and soil levels. These are good starting points.
  • Start with less detergent – It’s easy to overdo it on detergent. For lightly soiled loads, start with 1/2 to 2/3 of the recommended amount, then adjust as needed. Too many suds can lead to residue.
  • Add detergent to the drum before clothes – This helps ensure it gets evenly distributed during the wash cycle.
  • Use less detergent for soft water – Hard water requires more detergent to work effectively, while soft water produces suds more readily so less detergent is needed.

The goal is to use the minimum amount of detergent required to get clothes clean. When in doubt, err on the side of using less since too much detergent can leave behind residue.

How should I sort my laundry?

Properly sorting laundry before washing can help fabrics last longer and prevent dye transfer issues. Here are some tips:

  • Whites – Wash white fabrics together on hot to keep their brightness. Bleach can also be added to remove stains.
  • Lights – Group lighter colors together to prevent dye transfer. Wash in warm or cool water.
  • Darks – Dark items should be washed together in cool water to prevent fading. Avoid washing with lighter colors.
  • Delicates – Bras, lace, silks and other delicate fabrics do best washed in mesh bags on a gentle cycle in cold water.
  • Bulkier items – Towels, sheets, and heavy fabrics should be washed separately from lighter items which can tangle around them.
  • Lint producers – Fabrics like fleece and chenille tend to produce a lot of lint. Wash them separately from lint magnets.
  • Sturdy vs. delicate – If washing sturdy and delicate items together, opt for a delicate cycle, cold water and mesh bags for fragile fabrics.

Taking a few extra minutes to properly sort your laundry can extend the life of your clothing and linens.

Should I wash or dry clean?

Whether to wash or dry clean an item depends on the fabric composition and construction. Here are some guidelines on when to dry clean:

  • Delicate fabrics – Silk, wool, rayon, and linen fabrics often require special handling offered by dry cleaning to avoid shrinking or damage.
  • Formalwear – Suits, evening gowns, dress shirts and other specialty clothing is best maintained through dry cleaning.
  • Heavy embellishments – Items with beads, sequins and other adornments benefit from the gentle cleaning process of dry cleaning.
  • Older fabrics – Vintage or antique clothing and textiles can be too fragile for regular washing.
  • Unwashable fabrics – Some synthetics like vinyl and polyurethane cannot be machine washed.
  • ** Items with “Dry Clean Only” tags** – Respect manufacturing instructions for garments labeled “Dry Clean Only” or containing a circle dry cleaning symbol.

When in doubt, check clothing tags for care recommendations. Dry cleaning is the safest cleaning method for expensive, specialized, antique or delicate fabrics.

How should I treat stains on laundry?

Addressing stains as soon as possible yields the best results. Here are tips for common laundry stains:

Grease and oil stains

  • Pretreat with dish soap or laundry detergent. Lightly scrub and let sit before washing.

Ink stains

  • Spray with hairspray before washing. The alcohol can help dissolve ink.

Blood stains

  • Rinse with cold water, then soak in cold water mixed with an enzyme detergent before washing.

Sweat and deodorant stains

  • Pretreat with a paste of baking soda and water. Let sit before washing.

Red wine stains

  • Blot stained area immediately, then soak in cold water with laundry detergent or a stain remover.

Mud stains

  • Let mud dry completely before brushing off excess. Pretreat with detergent before washing.

Fruit and berry stains

  • Rinse backside of fabric under cold water to push stain out. Soak in laundry detergent solution.

For tough stains, apply a laundry stain remover stick or spray before washing. Heat can set stains, so avoid hot water or drying until stains are fully removed.

How should I wash delicates and lingerie?

Lingerie, bras, hosiery and other delicate fabrics require special handling to maintain their fit and prevent damage. Here are some tips:

  • Use a mesh laundry bag to wash delicates – This prevents stretching and tearing.
  • Fasten hooks and zippers – This helps avoid snagging or tangling with other items.
  • Wash in cold water on a delicate or hand wash cycle – Hot water can damage elasticity.
  • Avoid the dryer – Lay flat or hang delicates to dry to help maintain shape and elasticity.
  • Skip the bleach and fabric softener – These can deteriorate delicate fabrics over time.
  • Hand wash when needed – Very delicate lace and silks often require hand washing.
  • Spot clean as needed – Use a gentle laundry detergent or soap on stains to avoid soaking entire garments unnecessarily.

Taking proper care to gently wash and dry delicates helps preserve their beauty and extend their lifespan.

How can I prevent clothes from shrinking?

Shrinking clothes can be frustrating. Here are some tips to help prevent it:

  • Wash in cold water – Hot water can cause fabrics like cotton, wool, and linen to shrink.
  • Skip the dryer – Tumble drying generates heat that can shrink fabrics. Air dry items lay flat or hang to dry instead.
  • Read clothing labels – Follow any instructions for washing temperature, drying method, or other care guidelines.
  • Wash similar fabrics together – Washing lightweight fabrics with heavy items can cause uneven drying and shrinking.
  • Use a delicates bag – Putting easily shrunk fabrics in mesh bags prevents friction and snagging during washing.
  • Wash less frequently – Limit washing of clothes prone to shrinking to help preserve their fit. Spot clean when possible.
  • Soak in hair conditioner – For accidentally shrunk wool sweaters, soak in hair conditioner then reshape and lay flat to re-stretch fibers.

While not always preventable, taking simple precautions when laundering clothing can help minimize unwanted shrinking.

How should I wash new clothes before wearing them?

It’s advisable to launder new clothing items before wearing them. Here’s why:

  • Remove chemical residues – New clothes may have finishing chemicals and dye excess left over from manufacturing.
  • Clean away germs – Clothing tried on by others can harbor bacteria and odors.
  • Prevent dye transfer – Wash colored items separately once to avoid dye rubbing off on other clothes.
  • Shrink before wearing – Heat from washing can cause shrinking. Better to have it happen before tailoring or wearing.
  • Soften fabrics – Washing helps relax fibers and makes many new fabrics softer against the skin.

When pre-washing new clothes:

  • Check labels for washing instructions.
  • Use cool or warm water, not hot.
  • Wash darks separately from lights and whites.
  • Air dry or machine dry on low if allowed.

Taking these steps helps new clothes look and feel their absolute best from the very first wear.

How often should I wash jeans and sweaters?

Jeans and sweaters can go longer between washes than items directly against your skin. Here are some guidelines:


  • Wash every 5-10 wears – Jeans don’t need frequent cleaning like underwear or socks.
  • Wash when noticeably dirty – Spot clean stains as needed between washes.
  • Wash inside out – This prevents fading from abrasion on the fabric surface.
  • Air dry – The heat from dryers can damage denim’s elasticity over time.

Washing jeans less frequently preserves their color and fit while still keeping them hygienic.


  • Hand wash when possible – Machine washing can be harsh on wool and cashmere knits.
  • Wash every 3-5 wears – Sweaters worn atop shirts don’t get dirty as quickly.
  • Freshen between washes – Hang outside or spot clean stains as needed.
  • Reshape while wet – Gently pull sweaters back into shape before drying.

Avoiding over-washing preserves the softness and structure of sweaters. Follow specialty care instructions for delicate or hand-wash only knits.

Can laundry detergent expire?

Yes, laundry detergent can expire and degrade in effectiveness over time. Here are some signs your detergent is expired:

  • Formula separation – Liquid detergent appears curdled or layered rather than uniform.
  • Difficulty dispensing – Powder detergent clumps up or won’t dissolve properly.
  • Foul odor – Detergent smells rancid instead of fresh and clean.
  • Poor cleaning results – Clothes come out of the wash stained or smelling.

To maximize freshness and cleaning power:

  • Store detergent in a cool, dry place. Heat and humidity hasten spoilage.
  • Use detergent within 6 months to 1 year after opening.
  • Don’t mix old and new detergent together.
  • Purchase smaller containers if it takes you a while to go through detergent.

With proper storage, laundry detergent can last well over a year. When performance starts to suffer, it’s time to replace it with a fresh supply.

How can I whiten clothes naturally?

For an eco-friendly boost of whitening power, try these natural stain-fighting ingredients:

  • Baking soda – Add 1/2 cup to the wash cycle to lift stains and brighten whites.
  • Lemon juice – Soak clothes in a solution of lemon juice and water before washing. The acid cuts through dinginess.
  • White vinegar – Works similarly to lemon juice. Add 1/2 cup to the rinse cycle to brighten laundry.
  • Hydrogen peroxide – Add 1/2 cup to a load of whites and launder with hot water.
  • Sunlight – Hang clothes outside on a sunny day. The sun’s UV rays naturally bleach fabrics.

When using these ingredients, start with less rather than more. Monitor clothes for any damage or fading before increasing amounts. With the power of nature, you can keep whites fresh and bright without bleach.

What laundry products are best for sensitive skin?

Those with sensitive skin or allergies may need to avoid certain chemical irritants found in regular laundry products. Here are some gentler options to consider:

  • Fragrance-free detergent – Pick a mild, dye-free formula made for sensitive skin rather than standard fragranced varieties.
  • Natural detergents – Try plant-based blends with gentle cleansing ingredients and no artificial fragrances.
  • Hypoallergenic dryer sheets – Look for fragrance-free sheets or wool dryer balls to reduce static cling.
  • Liquid fabric softener – Opt for an unscented version or skip altogether. Many sensitivities are set off by scented softeners.
  • Vinegar fabric softener – Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle instead for softening without chemicals.
  • Free and clear bleach – If using bleach, choose one labeled for sensitive skin and avoid opting blues or scents.

Doing a double rinse cycle can also help remove traces of irritating detergent residues. Prioritizing kinder, gentler laundry products creates a soothing sanctuary out of your laundry routine.

Does laundry detergent really expire?

Yes, laundry detergent has a shelf life and can expire after prolonged storage. Here’s what happens as detergent ages:

  • Ingredient breakdown – Surfactants and brighteners deteriorate in potency over time. Enzymes become less effective.
  • Loss of cleaning power – Outdated detergent won’t cut through dirt, stains, and odors as well. Whites appear dingy and grayed.
  • Formula separation – Liquid detergent can curdle or become layered. Powder clumps together from moisture absorption.
  • Funky odors – Instead of a fresh, pleasant scent, expired detergent often smells rancid or rotten.
  • Skin irritation – Deteriorated surfactants can cause skin itchiness and rashes.

While shelf life varies by formula, most liquid detergents expire within 6 months to 1 year after opening. Powder types typically last 1-2 years before expiring. To maximize freshness, store laundry detergent in a cool, dry place and tightly seal containers after each use. When laundering results decline, it’s definitely time to replace your detergent.

How can I prevent lint and pilling on clothes?

Lint and pilling (small fuzzy balls on fabric surface) occur from friction during wear and washing. Here are some tips to reduce lint and pilling:

  • Wash garments inside out – This puts the exterior fabric facing inwards to minimize abrasion.
  • Use a lint roller before washing – This removes stray fibers that can attract lint in the wash.
  • Separate lint-producers and lint-magnets – Fabrics like fleece can pill other delicate fabrics washed together.
  • Wash similar fabric weights together – Lighter fabrics that move differently can rub against each other.
  • Add a fabric softener or conditioner – These help reduce friction and static cling during washing.
  • Line dry rather than machine drying – The tumbling of a dryer creates friction that pulls lint and pills.
  • Use a fabric shaver – This handy tool safely shaves off pilling on garment surfaces.

With some easy preventative steps, you can keep clothes looking their absolute fluff-free best.


Doing laundry has its challenges, but a few simple tricks can help streamline the process. By following fabric care instructions, treating stains promptly, and taking steps to prevent damage, you can keep clothes looking and feeling great. With the guidelines provided here to common laundry predicaments, you can approach washing with confidence. Just remember – when in doubt, opt for cooler water temperatures and take extra care with delicates. Implementing good laundry habits will have you and your clothes looking fabulous.