Do I Really Need to Sort My Laundry By Color?

Updated: Dec. 22, 2023

Do you really need to separate laundry by color and type? For prolonging the life of your washables, the short answer is yes. Find out why here.

Some folks might find it meditative to sort laundry, while for others it’s a complete drag. But the question is: Do we really need to sort laundry? The short answer is yes.

Sorting, including separating laundry by color, prolongs the life of clothing and other washables. And while skipping the sort doesn’t necessarily mean your clothes will be ruined, taking a few minutes to separate your wash loads just makes good sense.

Why Do People Sort Laundry?

There are various smart reasons to sort laundry, including:

  • To keep dark or strong colors from bleeding onto lighter-colored or white items.
  • To separate washables based on washing machine temperature, like hot water for whites and cold water for darks.
  • To keep different materials from interacting. You don’t want to wash your zippered jean jacket with your silk or satin nightshirt.
  • To keep like types of laundry together, especially items that may need sanitizing, like socks and sportswear.

Benefits of Sorting Laundry

Sorting laundry can help your clothing, towels, sheets and any other fabric items you toss in the washing machine last longer and retain their color and brightness. Here are some of the benefits of taking the time to sort:

  • No “oops” moments. If you’ve ever had a stray red sock turn a load of white towels pink, you know what we’re talking about. When you separate laundry by color, you reduce the risk of a strong- or dark-colored item “bleeding” onto lighter-colored items. Sure, those pink towels aren’t technically ruined, but they won’t look good in your yellow and gray bathroom.
  • For proper wash temperatures. Related to the point above, sorting by color lets you choose different temperatures for washing your items. Those white sheets and towels can withstand high temperatures, but jeans, sweaters and dark-colored items are probably better off in warm or cold cycles.
  • For sanitizing certain items. Dirty socks, funky workout and sports uniforms could all use a little sanitizing with bleach, vinegar or baking soda. And some items, such as soiled underwear, are better off not mixed with other washables — yet another good reason to sort.
  • For washing on different cycles. Your delicate wool sweater, lace camisole and favorite jeans do not belong in the same batch of laundry. Sorting by fabric type helps protect your most delicate items. Here is how to use bleach in laundry.

What If I Don’t Sort My Laundry?

If you have a few loads of durable, everyday clothing and other items and skip the sorting stage, nothing too terrible is likely to happen, especially if you wash with cold or barely warm water. But even if your darks don’t obviously bleed onto your whites, your white or lighter-colored clothing will lose some brightness over time.

To keep all your washables looking their best for as long as possible, take a few minutes to sort them before washing. If you’ve got the space, a sorting laundry hamper such as this three-section model can make separating lights, darks and colors a snap. Or try a four-section sorter, with an additional bag for delicates or items to be sanitized.
Wondering why does your washing machine smell? Find out here.