Spot Check

Are You Making These Laundry Mistakes?

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Spot Check

spot check

Not only is spring cleaning an opportunity to toss out junk, it's also a good time to look at your current cleaning habits. Have you gotten lax when doing the laundry, and started skipping steps that could be saving time and money? Here are some common laundry mistakes you're likely making that could be harming your clothes.

Ignoring The Label

ignoring the label

Clothing manufacturers are required by law to put care labels on their clothes. This gives you the best advice on how to clean them without damaging the fabric. The maker knows the materials used to make the garment and provides care instructions accordingly.

Choosing The Wrong Setting

choosing the wrong setting

You likely have multiple settings on your washer and dryer but never use them all. It's not a bad idea to pull out the user manual and review the different settings to make sure you're doing right by your clothes, saving energy by running the right cycles, and getting the most out of your machines.

Using The Wrong Detergent

using the wrong detergent

Many times the clothing label will tell you the best detergent for a garment. For example, mild detergent is commonly recommended for delicates and baby clothes. Mild detergents are lower in chemicals and less damaging to delicate fabrics. Woolite and Tide Free & Gentle are common mild detergents. Other options include organic and natural detergents that are dye- and bleach-free.

Not Treating Delicates Delicately

not treating delicates delicately

On top of using a mild detergent, hand-wash delicates or put them in the washing machine on a low or delicate cycle. Squeeze out extra water gently after washing, or roll the garment in a dry towel and repeat until the moisture is out. Avoid wringing and twisting. Lay flat to dry, and if the label says it's okay to iron, use a low setting on slightly damp fabric.

Using Water That'S Too Hot
washing machine temperature knob

using water that's too hot

Hot water is harsh on clothes. It can cause the fibers to break down faster than they otherwise would. Opt for cold or warm water unless absolutely necessary.

Mixing Colors

mixing colors

Sorting clothes by color may not be necessary — if you're using cold water and the clothes have been washed before. But it's a good practice to avoid bleeding and keep whites looking as white as possible. Sort dark colors together, pinks and reds together, and whites together.

Letting Stains Set In

letting stains set in

The longer a stain sits untreated, the harder it will be to get out. Treat stains as soon as possible for easier removal.


treating stains the wrong way

Not all stains should be treated the same. Petroleum-based dish soap such as Dawn works on grease stains, while cold water helps with blood, chocolate, and mustard. The American Cleaning Institute has a comprehensive list of how to clean different stains.

Scrubbing Stains
Christian Horz/istockphoto

scrubbing stains

Rubbing can stretch out and damage fabric, potentially making a stain spread. Instead, dab gently from the outside of the stain toward the center.

Using Too Much Detergent

using too much detergent

Too much detergent can actually hinder cleaning. The excess can get stuck in hard-to-rinse spots like the collar and cause bacteria buildup, not to mention a whole host of other problems. Be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging, and if you see suds at the end of the cycle, you're using too much.

Overfilling the Washer

overfilling the washer

Want to get a lot of clothes washed in a short amount of time? Resist the urge to overload your washing machine. While it seems like a quick fix, it's not. Clothes must be able to move around freely to dislodge dirt, while freely moving water is better able to wash dirt away.

Using The Dryer Too Often

using the dryer too often

It's easier on your clothes to line dry them than to expose them to the heat of the dryer. Jeans won't fade as quickly and the rest of your wardrobe will show less wear. Line drying also helps prevent fabrics like cotton from pilling. If you must use the dryer, consider a lower heat setting.

Neglecting Your Dryer

neglecting your dryer

Cleaning your dryer is important not only for drying clothes faster but for preventing fire. Between every load, clean the lint trap and screen. Every six to twelve months, have the dryer vent professionally cleaned. In between cleanings, use a vacuum attachment to suck out any clogs or built-up lint. If the screen on your dryer vent is looking gunky, wash it in the sink with warm water and dish soap. If you notice your clothes taking longer to dry than normal, it's probably time to get the vent cleaned.