You thought it was just about whites, darks, and delicates, but your clothes will wind up much cleaner if you separate them not just by color, but also by fabric type and water temperature. Green recommends you make five separate piles for colors: whites (entirely white), light colors that include striped whites, darks (blacks, blues, and browns), brights (reds, yellows, and oranges), and delicates. Then, to prevent lint from spreading, separate linty fabrics like towels, flannels, and sweatshirts from corduroys, permanent press, and other smooth fabrics that can pill.
You want to wash full loads only so you save on water use and energy consumption, but you don’t want to fill your machine so much that your clothes can’t get clean. High-efficiency front loaders can hold up to 20 pounds of clothes, but top loaders max out at about 16. If you aren’t weighing your laundry, Green notes that you should fill your washer about three-quarters of the way to the top of the drum.
The manufacturer wants you to use as much detergent as possible,” he says, but they don’t know what kind of washing machine you have. Also, the softness or hardness of your water affects how much detergent you need to use. Soft water usually requires less detergent, Green says, while hard water usually requires the full amount. If you have hard water, Green also suggests adding a water softener, such as baking soda, to help your soap dissolve. Start with equal parts detergent and baking soda, and then experiment from there.
If you’re a chronic detergent overdoser, you’ll want to clean out your machine. “Too much soap leads to soap scum in your pipes and tubes,” Green says. He suggests running an empty machine with no laundry, adding a cup of white vinegar to help remove soap residues. If the wasted water and energy make you cringe, run a normal load of clothes and add the vinegar to that. “You’re deodorizing your clothes while simultaneously cleaning out your washer,” he says. If you don’t regularly add white vinegar to your wash loads, run an empty load about once a month if you do tons of laundry, or once every six months if you’re not a frequent launderer.
Before you add your clothes, add your detergent, allowing it to dissolve in the water fully before adding your clothes. Your soap will work more effectively and, if you’re using 707 Sabunwala laundry detergent, there’s less of a chance for powdery residue on your favorite black jeans.
According to the Department of Energy, 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top loader is used to heat the water. And, Green adds, “warm water makes colors bleed.”