15 Common Laundry Mistakes You Never Knew You Were Making

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a live-in maid, chances are you’ve been doing your own laundry — and possibly even someone else’s laundry — for years now. But even though you have the experience, does that really make you a laundry expert?

There’s more to getting the most out of your washer and dryer than just separating your delicates from your denim. In fact, there are a ton of laundry hacks out there that can save you money and may even make your clothes last longer.

Ahead, check out the most common laundry mistakes that people make every day.

1. Don’t just sort out lights and darks

Man Doing Laundry
You should sort materials in addition to colors. | iStock/Getty Images

You may already know that you shouldn’t just throw every article of clothing in the washing machine without sorting it first. But did you also realize you should sort out materials in addition to colors?

Sort lights and darks first, but for the best clean, Martha Stewart recommends separating out heavily soiled items and different weighted fabrics. For example, you shouldn’t be laundering your denim with your tissue weight t-shirts.

Next: This is the right way to load the washer.

2. Never pour detergent onto clothes

Female Hand Pouring Detergent In The Blue Bottle Cap
The soap needs to be evenly distributed. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

The best way to distribute laundry detergent is by adding clothes, then water, then soap (unless you’re using bleach). Never pour the detergent without putting the water in first to ensure the soap gets evenly distributed.

Next: This is why you shouldn’t use too much detergent.

3. More detergent does not equal cleaner clothes

fabric softener
Too much soap could irritate skin. | Manuel-F-O/iStock/Getty Images

Too much soap can leave irritants on your clothing, which could lead to rashes on sensitive skin. If you notice that your clothes aren’t getting clean enough, then it may be time to switch to a higher quality detergent. Using more won’t help, and it can hurt.

Next: Stop wasting energy here.

4. Save energy and skip the dryer

Allowing clothes to air dry saves the fabric — and your money. | BrianAJackson/iStock/Getty Images

There’s a free dryer outside and it’s called the sun.

It’s always smart to air dry your clothing when possible. Running the dryer drains energy, which costs you money and wears out fabric fibers more quickly.

Plus, there’s nothing like the smell of sun-dried sheets on your bed.

Next: This is an important step most people skip.

5. Stop leaving zippers down

jeans zipper unzipped
Zippers can snag on other items. | matka_Wariatka/iStock/Getty Images

Zip up your garments before you wash them to keep them from snagging on other items in the load. Make sure you clip your bras before washing for the same reason.

Next: You may not know this about shirts.

6. But don’t leave your shirts buttoned

buttons on shirt
Always unbutton shirts. | RossHelen/iStock/Getty Images

Washing clothing that’s still buttoned can loosen the threads on the button holes. Always unbutton shirts — and don’t forget the sleeves — before you wash them.

Next: Missing this step could spell disaster.

7. Don’t skip cleaning the lint trap

cleaning dryer lint
Clean the lint trap and dryer duct to prevent fires. | pastorscott/iStock/Getty Images

You may already know that it’s important to clean the lint trap after each load to prevent dryer fires. But did you also know you should be cleaning the dryer duct at least once per year? That’s the part that vents out of your house.

It’s also important to scrub the removable lint trap every once in a while. Just use an old toothbrush dipped in detergent, give it a once over with water, and air dry.

Next: There’s a right and wrong way to tackle stains.

8. Stop scrubbing stains

hand-washing laundry
Scrubbing a stain could backfire. | tfexshutter/iStock/Getty Images

You may think the best way to eliminate a stain is to scrub it out — but this behavior could backfire and cause the soiled area to spread.

Instead of scrubbing, try blotting. Gently dab at the stain from the outside in to get rid of it. And remember, the earlier you treat a stain, the better. Try tackling it right when it happens rather than waiting for laundry day.

Next: This is a compelling argument for spending a little more money.

9. Don’t get the store brand detergent

Laundry folded with detergent
It’s a waste of money. | AlenaMozhjer/iStock/Getty Images

Buying name brand food products or medication is often a waste of money. But when it comes to laundry detergent, you’re better off picking a pricier, name brand version instead. Cheap detergents are often composed of cheap filler ingredients and won’t get your clothes as clean.

Next: Ignoring this instruction could cause damage.

10. Don’t ignore the ‘dry clean only’ label

clothes label
You might ruin a garment. | AndreyCherkasov/iStock/Getty Images

Some sources claim that delicates which normally require dry cleaning can be cleaned in modern washing machines and line dried. But the more you do this, the more you risk ruining a delicate garment.

Leather, suede, silk, and anything with embellishments shouldn’t be washed in the washing machine.

Next: End the orphan socks.

11. Stop leaving socks loose

person wearing socks
Put them in a garment bag.| esmeraldaedenberg/iStock/Getty Images

Your washing machine may not eat socks, but it is easy to lose track of them in a giant load of laundry. Instead of leaving it to chance and accumulating sock orphans, try putting all your socks in a garment bag (you can find them at the dollar store) before washing. It’ll make sorting and pairing socks so much easier.

Next: Chemicals don’t belong in this place.

12. Stop using dryer sheets

towels in basket with washing machine in background
Try reusable dryer balls instead. | humonia/iStock/Getty Images

Dryer sheets have been linked to cancer thanks to their chemical components. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to live with staticky clothing forever.

Reusable wool dryer balls work well at keeping your clothes from attracting static and best of all, they’ll save you money since you don’t need to buy new ones all the time. If you miss the fresh scent that dryer sheets provide, try dabbing a few drops of essential oils on the balls before drying the load.

Next: Stop wasting the weekend on laundry.

13. Don’t try to wash all the laundry in one day

dad and young children sorting laundry
Spread out the work, so you have less to fold. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Who wants to spend a Saturday washing, drying, and putting away laundry?

It’s much easier to create a laundry schedule instead. Try separated hampers and then wash darks on Monday, lights on Tuesday, delicates on Wednesday, or whatever works best for you and your schedule. That way you’ll always have a minimal amount to fold.

This method also helps prevent you from overstuffing the washer, which can keep your clothes from getting clean.

Next: Keep your clothes from smelling moldy.

14. Don’t forget to clean your washing machine

Man washing clothes
Washing machines can grow mold. | Andrew Olney/iStock/Getty Images

If your washing machine cleans clothes, do you really need to clean it? It turns out the answer is yes.

Front-loading washers are especially prone to getting moldy. Try running your washer on the “cleaning” cycle at least once every few months to prevent this common problem.

Next: Get rid of static naturally.

15. Avoid overdrying

woman doing laundry
It can damage and wrinkle your fabric. | iStock/Getty Images

More time in the dryer means your clothes are more likely to become wrinkled or full of static. This behavior also causes the fibers of your clothes to break down faster, which can cause holes. Don’t overstuff your dryer, and don’t over dry your clothing.

Read more: The Most Clever Laundry Hacks You’ve Never Heard Of

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