10 Laundry Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

Updated: May 09, 2023

Even if you've been washing your clothes for years and think you know how to do laundry, these common slip-ups can cause unnecessary damage to fabrics, fit, and more.

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laundry room

Don’t Just Sort Lights and Darks

According to Martha Stewart Living, the more you sort the laundry, the fresher your clothes. Separate very dirty or muddy clothes apart from lightly soiled pieces, and heavy or abrasive fabrics like denim from more delicate ones. (For denim, turn inside out, wash in cold water on a gentle cycle, and dry at a low temperature to prevent fading.) To prevent sheets from twisting, wash each set separately instead of the whole family’s at once, and include smaller items like underwear in the load. According to Donna Smallin Kuper, author of The One-Minute Cleaner, the items help prevent twisting because they have different tumble patterns. Also, check out these small space laundry room organization ideas and the top rated laundry products on Amazon.

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Don’t Put Detergent Directly On Your Clothes

Believe it or not, there’s a right and wrong way to load the washing machine. Real Simple says that for best detergent distribution (read: cleaner clothes), place laundry in first, then add water, and lastly add soap. However, if you’re using bleach, add water first, then clothes, and then soap. Speaking of detergent, have you tried laundry detergent sheets yet? Oh, and check how a laundry pedestal can turn your laundry room from an eyesore to a show stopper, too.

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Don’t Abuse Your Dryer: Take Care of Your Laundry Appliances

If you have time to air dry, do it. Not only do you save energy by not running the dryer, it’s gentler on delicate items and helps stretchy clothing, like yoga pants, to keep their shape. Whenever you do tumble-dry, don’t overload the dryer, or over-dry fabrics. Then fold or hang them immediately to prevent wrinkles. Does your washing machine have a funky smell? Here’s how to fix it. See why doing this one thing to your dryer will make your house safer and save you some money.

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Don’t Mix Socks with Clothes

Tired of losing one less sock every time you do a load? Try placing socks in the washer first, then adding everything else. This makes them less likely to attach to other garments, which often causes them to go missing. Check out this amazing laundry room makeover.

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Don’t Leave Zippers Open

Loose zippers can snag delicate clothing, as well as scratch the doors of front-loading washers. Make sure they’re all the way up before you toss in the machine. Also, unclipped bras can pull fabrics or damage the drum if they fly around loose. Invest in lingerie bags or an old pillowcase as a solution. Plus: Learn how to clean your washing machine’s inlet screen.

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Don’t Leave Dress Shirts Buttoned

Yes, zippers should be fastened, but buttons should not. Washing a button-down shirt with the buttons fastened can damage the buttons and rip the buttonholes. And don’t forget about the cuff and collar buttons either! Here are some other tips that make laundry day easier. Plus: 13 more clothes washing tips.

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Don’t Forget a Quick “Bleeding” Test

If you’re worried about that new red shirt the first time you wash it, do this easy test to find out before a mess happens. “Dampen a discreet spot, then blot it with a white cloth to see if the dye bleeds. If so, wash the item on its own until the color stops running,” according to Martha Stewart Living. You can also include an old white sock in the wash to check. Want to try a method to make your whites even whiter? Try laundry bluing.

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Don’t Skip the Filter and Hose When Clearing the Lint Trap

Empty the lint filter after every cycle, because lint buildup can clog the duct and become a fire hazard. It’s also important to actually clean the filter about once a year. Scrub with a toothbrush dipped in detergent, then rinse and air-dry. Also, detach the hose from the back of the dryer about once a year (you’ll know it’s time when it takes more than an hour to dry a load), then snake a long brush through and push out lingering lint. Install easy-to-clean vinyl flooring in your laundry room.

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Don’t Scrub Stains

You may think the best way to treat a stain is to give it elbow grease, vigorously scrubbing the stain with detergent. But that’s not the best course of action, and it could even result in the stain spreading. Instead, gently dab the stain, working from the outside in. And, of course, the earlier you treat it, the more likely it is to go away. Watch out for the signs you’re using too much laundry detergent. If you spot greasy stains on your laundry after washing it, try doing this one thing to eliminate washer stains.

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Don’t Wash Items That Should be Dry Cleaned

If clothing has a “dry clean” label, proceed with caution. Some items don’t actually need to be dry cleaned; if you’re dealing with natural fibers, like linens and silks, it’s probably safe to hand-wash them and let them air-dry. But for items like leather, suede, and “structured pieces” (like blazers and suits), you’ll probably want to obey that label. Yes, you can DIY: Check out our how-to guide for fixing your washing machine.