3 Things You Might Not Know About Laundry (If Your Parents Always Did it For You)

published Oct 4, 2020
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Hoping for insight on his love language, I once asked my husband what made him feel loved. His answer: “When I open my dresser drawer and I see it full of clean, folded underwear, it makes me really happy.” Got it. Acts of service.

Struggle as I might to always stay on top of the family’s laundry, it’s been one of the family chores I have gladly taken on. My husband’s duties include washing the dishes after dinner, taking out the trash, and gently carrying spiders outside. But the laundry has been my domain, and not only because it makes my husband feel loved. You see, he’s not exactly the best person for the job.

The intricacies of laundry duty have eluded my dearly beloved and I’d rather avoid the inevitable laundry mishaps that would be sure to happen if he tried to take on the task. Perhaps his parents did his laundry for him as a way of expressing their love (I get it, I do the same), or perhaps my Laundry Rules are stricter than most, but, well, let me put it this way: I’m teaching my kids how to laundry while they’re young so they know how to do it as adults.

Here are a few laundry things I’ve lovingly, and with lots of laughs, tried to teach my household:

Credit: Natalie Board/Shutterstock

1. Gray is Not a “Dark”

Sorting by color involves separating your light-colored and dark-colored clothes for separate loads of laundry. And when you’re separating, you’re really looking at tone, not color. For instance, a dark gray is considered dark, but a heather gray goes with the lights.

Although some people have solved their laundry problem by skipping the step of sorting, I’ve never been able to take this route. To me, sorting by color and type is a basic tenet of doing laundry properly, and the reason is two-fold: First, you don’t want your dark colors to bleed onto your lighter colors. If dark colors run, you can end up with dingy-looking or pinkish-hued light colors.

Second, sorting allows you to use the best water temperature to get your clothes their cleanest. Cool water keeps your dark-dyed laundry looking new and saturated (not to mention: cool wash cycles use less energy). On the other hand, hot water can help lift dirt and discoloration from clothing, helping your lights and whites (hello undergarments) looking and feeling cleaner. (Although: It’s a myth your detergent needs hot water to work—modern formulas work just as well in any temperature.)

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. “Whites” Really Means Underwear (and a Few Other Things)

Further sorting your lights into regular light loads and what many people call “whites” also has to do with water temperature and getting your clothes their cleanest. When you find out that warmer water can help get clothes cleaner, you may be tempted to wash everything in hot water. But hot water has its downside. It’s harsh on fabric (especially on elastic) it can set certain stains, and it can shrink your laundry. So not all white-colored things should go in your white laundry loads.

Your “whites” should be items that are heavily soiled, that are used close to the body (underwear, bed linens, towels, etc.), or that have been used by someone who is sick, so they can be washed with the hottest water. (Or better yet—use the sanitizing cycle.) Separating whites from your regular lights allows you to treat each category of laundry according to its particular needs without undue wear and tear on items that receive regular use.

3. No, You Can’t Put Fancy PJs In the Dryer

In addition to sorting your laundry by color, it’s important to also pay attention to fabric type and special care for each item. Familiarizing yourself with the care instructions for each garment allows you to take the best care of each piece. Reading every tag may seem like more than you bargained for, but with a little practice, you’ll learn which types of items may need special care. For instance, regular wash cycles may be too damaging for delicate sleepwear, which tend to do best in a mesh laundry bag on a delicate cycle, before being line-dried.

Being meticulous with laundry pays off. You’ll avoid mishaps that can ruin your clothes, whether through a one-time mistake or over time. This will save you frustration, time, and money—and keep your items looking their finest.