Tips for pre-sorting laundry and pre-treating stains

July 28, 2015

Sorting clothes should be easy. Darks go in one pile, whites in another and light colours in a third. That's a good start, but if you really want to do it right — and keep your clothes looking their best — also sort by similar fabrics and dirt level.

Tips for pre-sorting laundry and pre-treating stains

1. Sort by colour

  • Separate whites from colours and light colours from dark colours.
  • When in doubt, read care labels. If the label in a particular garment says to wash separately, that is because the dye colours will run.
  • Even tiny amounts of dye can transfer to other fabrics, making the clothes look discoloured and dingy.

2. Sort by soil

  • Separate heavily soiled or greasy items from lightly soiled ones.
  • Lightly soiled clothes will pick up the extra soil and grease, making whites look grey or yellow and colours look dull.

3. Sort by construction and material

  • Separate out clothes that are loosely knit or woven and clothes that have delicate trimmings or unfinished seams that can fray. Wash those on a shorter cycle that features more gentle agitation.
  • Also separate lint producers, such as fleecy tracksuits, chenille items, new towels and flannel pajamas, from lint attractors, such as corduroys, synthetic blends and dark things.

4. How to treat stains

  • Always try to remove stains when they are fresh. But if a stain doesn't come out, you need to address this before washing.
  • If you let clothes pass through a washing cycle (or the dryer), the stains may become permanent.
  • If you treat them beforehand with the right stain-removal solution, you stand a good chance of removing the stains for good.

5. Soak protein-based stains in cold water

  • These stains include egg, milk, feces, urine, blood and the like.
  • Soak for at least half an hour, and then run the stain under cold water, gently rubbing the fabric together with your hands to loosen the stain.
  • Avoid warm or hot water, which can cook the proteins, setting the stain permanently.

6. Pre-treat oil and grease stains

  • Use liquid laundry detergent or pre-treatment spray.
  • Apply the detergent or spray directly to the stain.

7. Soak tannin stains

  • This includes stains such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and jam, for half an hour in a solution of 5 ml (1 tsp) of liquid laundry detergent (preferably one containing enzymes) per 2 litres (2 quarts) of warm water.
  • Do not use soap or a soap-based product, as soap can make the tannin stain harder to remove.

8. After washing

  • Check to see whether the stain has gone.
  • If it hasn't, do not dry — heat can permanently set the stain.
  • Try again to remove the stain and then repeat washing.
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