You’ve heard of it. We’ve all heard of it. That mysterious concept. So weird and ambiguous. Just the word itself sounds time-consuming: sorting. Admit it, when you’re alone, doing your laundry or your families laundry you have definitely thought to yourself: do I really have to sort all of these clothes before washing them? Why not just throw everything in together, place one laundry detergent pod and press ‘Start’? What’s all this ‘sorting’ we keep hearing about?! Well, unless you want to risk ruining your wardrobe, linens, and other machine washables it’s better to learn what it is and not skip it! It matters.
Sorting is, actually, the least time-consuming aspect of the laundry process. It also means that you spend less time fixing mistakes and mishaps! So, by all means, keep on reading.
There are actually three ways to sort your laundry, no matter which types of laundry detergent you use: sort for stain removal (extremely soiled vs not too soiled), sorting by fabric type, and sorting by color (classic). Check out the tips for each:
Sort for Stain Removal Have a couple of items that need some serious stain treatment? Let’s work with those first. Pluck them from your pile of dirty laundry and check which type of stains those are. If they are tough stains (grass stains, blood stains, soiled cloth diapers, red wine stains, etc.) those garments will need pre-treatment before throwing them in the washer, otherwise you run the risk of the laundry detergent (natural or otherwise) not being able to remove them.
For stubborn items, simply fill a bucket with a mixture of one part white vinegar, one part warm water and soak the stained items there. If you’re treating blood stains, though, always use cold water. Heat can cause blood stains to set! Leave the items soaking for about an hour or two, agitating every 20 minutes or so. Then empty out the mixture and wash the laundry as you normally would (preferably following one of the next sorting steps).
Laundry Sorting A: Color If you’re just starting to do your own laundry, chances are your common sense and learned behavior will lead you to sort laundry this way anyway. So after you have chosen the best laundry detergent for your needs (be sure to check out natural laundry detergent, liquid laundry detergent, and powder laundry detergent alternatives!), it’s time to separate that pile into like colors. 1. Whites - White clothes. Not too complicated. 2. Light - This encompasses clothes that are not white, but isn’t “dark” either. Light blue, pastels, pink, light yellow, light green, peach all fall into this type). 3. Darks - These are your blacks, grays, dark blues, dark browns, red, purples, and dark purples, etc.
Bonus tip: since technology has come a very long way in recent years, HE washers and intelligent appliances have made this type of sorting sort of unnecessary. Even though it’s important to separate your whites from everything else, especially if you’re using blueing agents or laundry detergents specifically made for white clothes, your darks and lights may go in together and still enjoy a powerful clean that won’t hurt the colors. You should instead focus all your energies on sorting by fabric type.
Laundry Sorting B: Fabric Type This type of sorting is arguably the most important. Laundry gets damaged more often because of washing garments on cycles that are not suited for them. For this type of sorting, it’s important to use your best judgement and have a sense of which types of garments require a “delicate” cycle and which don’t. If you’re not sure, take a look at the label on your clothes.
A quick guide for separating by fabric types: 1. Delicates - This are your panty hoses, lingerie, silk clothes, satin sheets, etc. Anything that can be described as light, silky or prone to be hurt on the washer falls into this category. 2. Towels - You shouldn’t wash towels with any other types of clothes for 2 main reasons: they will get lint all over your clothes and everything will take longer to dry on your tumble dryer. It’s best to wash towels, bed sheets, and clothing garments separately and have them dry separately. 3. Denim and jeans - If you have 1 or 2 jeans only, skip this. However, if you’re planing on washing 5 or 6 pairs of jeans it’s important to throw them in by themselves. Otherwise they won’t get properly cleaned and will take a very long time to dry, as will anything else that you throw in with them. 4. The rest - Blends, cotton, shirts, tshirts, other types of clothes.
In short, Sorting by fabric type will significantly reduce damage to laundry and expedite your drying cycle (which will save you both time and money.)
Bonus tip: Wash all of your baby clothes separately! Not only do baby clothes require a gentle laundry detergent, but they can get tangled up with the rest of your clothes and not get washed properly. Always wash and dry baby clothes by themselves.
Tl;dr = You should just sort by fabric type, wash baby clothes separately, and pretreat tough stains.