The best ways to machine wash clothes

July 27, 2015

Today's washers are sophisticated enough to handle almost any washing problem and will adjust to all but the most finicky fabrics. But you will maximize your machine's effectiveness by organizing your laundry, preparing it for washing and using the right detergents and additives.

The best ways to machine wash clothes

Assuring appropriate water temperature

Using the appropriate water temperature for each load of laundry helps assure optimum cleaning. In general, hot water should be used for most whites and for coloured items that are very dirty. Because a warm wash is safe for most other fabrics, it is the most frequent choice. And for clothes that have barely been soiled, a cold wash is adequate. Cold-water washes are also the surest way to keep brightly coloured clothing from fading.

  • For hot-water loads, water heaters should deliver water that is 60°C (140°F) and certainly no less than 49°C (120°F).
  • To check the water temperature, put a candy thermometer in a glass and fill the glass with water that is running into the washer.
  • If the water temperature is not appropriate, adjust the thermostat on your water heater.

Loading clothes

Loading the clothes washer involves knowing two things — what to put in a load and how much. As for how much to put in the washer, make sure that all items are unfolded, loaded loosely and can move easily throughout the wash process.

  • In a top-loading washer, a full load comes to the top row of holes in the washtub.
  • Clothes loaded in a front-loading washer can fill the entire tub; the washer's tumbling action dips them repeatedly in and out of the water.
  • A washer works best when a load contains both large and small items. So if several sheets are headed for the laundry, try to split them into different loads and combine them with smaller items.

Choosing the best cycle

Every fabric is unique, and washers are designed to accommodate as many different types as possible.

Check out the washer's back panel, where the cycle options usually include regular, permanent press and knits/delicates.

  • When a load includes cottons, linens and other washables, set the washer for regular.
  • Choose the permanent-press cycle for articles with a permanent-press finish or for garments made of man-made fibres, like polyester, nylon or acrylic.
  • Use the delicate cycle for clothes that are the most fragile.
  • If there is any doubt that a garment can stand up to being agitated or tumbled, choose the delicate cycle. Also, if the label reads "Hand washable," choose the delicate cycle.

Avoiding tangling

Because a washer agitates or tumbles clothing while cleaning it, clothing sometimes comes out of the washer tangled.

  • To avoid tangles, load the washer without twisting items around the agitator.
  • Choose the right amount of water for the load; not enough water or too much water can cause tangling.
  • A mesh bag to hold delicate items or items with straps also helps prevent tangling and snagging.

Avoiding residue

If a white residue or soap film is left on your clothes after laundering, putting them in the dryer should remove it.

  • To avoid residue on clothing, use warmer water during the wash cycle.
  • Detergent needs water of at least 18°C (65°F) to work properly, and it may not dissolve completely in cold water.
  • Using liquid detergent rather than granular may help.
  • Using less fabric softener or switching your fabric softener or detergent is another solution; a chemical reaction between the two can produce a residue.
  • Try not to overload the washer.
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