How to Wash a Load of Clothes by Hand

How to Wash a Load of Clothes by Hand

Learning how to do your own laundry will save you a boatload of money in drop-off fees and dry-cleaning bills. As with cooking, if you are a beginner, this task can seem daunting. My advice: Roll up your sleeves and learn. It's a basic life skill, like cleaning a toilet or shopping for groceries. Mom won't be willing to do it forever, and even if she is, sooner or later every grown-up should take charge of his or her own underwear!

1 Sort and separate into piles. Divide by weight, level of dirtiness, type of fabric, and color. Categories can include whites, delicates, towels, noncolorfast garments, jeans, and blankets (see How to Sort a Heap of Dirty Clothes for Washing).

2 Pick a pile and prepare. Scan items for stains and spot-treat them. Empty pockets of coins, papers, and folding money. (Look twice for pens. Ink will ruin the laundry forever.) Turn colorfast items and garments with heavy hardware (like metal buttons) inside out.

3 Add the detergents. Carefully follow instructions on both the machine and the product packaging for adding detergent to the machine. For example, if you're using a high-efficiency washer and your local water is soft, you should use the bare minimum of detergent recommended. Use more for standard washers with hard water. Add liquid softener and bleach to the appropriate dispensers, if needed. Dilute bleach with water, using a separate plastic container, and taking extreme care not to splash it on surfaces or the clothes you're wearing. Never pour laundry chemicals directly onto dirty garments.

4 Select the appropriate water temperature. Colors require cold water. Whites, under most circumstances, can be washed in warm water. When bleaching cotton whites, like sheets, use hot. To kill mites, lice, or bedbugs on bed linens (especially pillowcases), use the hottest water available.

5 Honor the care labels. Follow the recommendations and set the temperature on the machine.

6 Add the clothing to the machine. Don't overstuff it or the clothes won't get clean.

7 When the cycle is complete, prepare to dry. After the garments are washed, shake out individual items so they'll dry more quickly, with fewer wrinkles.

8 Before drying, clean and empty the lint trap. Do this every time. Dryer lint is responsible for a great number of house fires. Make this a mindless habit and a step you never skip.

9 Dry like clothes together. Dry heavy towels with other heavy towels. Dry jeans with jeans. Otherwise, your heavy items won't dry and your delicate items will wear out faster.

10 Get 'em while they're hot. Don't let warm clothing languish in the dryer: Remove it as soon as possible once the cycle is done. Not doing so will leave you with a pile of wrinkled clothes.

11 Fold and hang. The same applies here. The sooner you neatly fold or hang your garments, the fewer creases you'll face when you dress.

How Big Is a Load of Laundry?

"But the lid stayed shut!" isn't a good reason to stuff your entire pile of dirties into a washing machine. Industry professionals judge load size by weight. The definition of "a load" of laundry depends on the capacity or size of the machine at hand.

Small-capacity top loaders may hold only 5 to 6 pounds of dirty clothing. Medium-capacity top loaders can usually handle 7 to 8 pounds. Largecapacity top loaders can clean about 12 to 15 pounds per load.

Front-loading washing machines can hold as much as 18 pounds of clothing. To find out how much your loads weigh, first weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding a load of laundry in a lightweight, collapsible hamper. Subtract your weight from the weight of you and the laundry. Some average weights of common laundry items:

• Twin-size quilt: 3 to 5 pounds

• Complete child's outfit: 2 to 4 pounds

• Complete adult's outfit: 3 to 5 pounds

• Traditional square laundry basket (filled): 18 to 25 pounds

• Standing rectangular hamper (filled): 21 to 28 pounds

• Down or synthetic comforter: 2 to 7 pounds