Laundry 101: How to Do Laundry (Step-By-Step-Guide)

Let’s face it, facing a pile of dirty clothes isn’t the highlight of anyone’s day. The washing, drying, ironing, folding, and putting away – almost anything seems more appealing than laundry.

Despite its reputation as a dreaded task, dealing with laundry becomes much more manageable and even efficient with a few essential basics and tricks. Not only does this make laundry easier and also ensures cleaner clothes that last longer. After all, isn’t anything worth doing worth doing well?

The key to conquering the laundry pile isn’t just knowing how but also finding the time to do it. The time commitment will vary based on your family’s size and needs. While laundry for a smaller household might be a once-a-week affair, larger families might find it more practical to tackle a bit each day. Make sure to allocate sufficient time in your weekly cleaning schedule for your family’s laundry needs.

If you have older kids (around 9 or more), consider teaching them the ropes of laundry or encourage them to read this post. Empowering them with these skills not only instills good habits early on but also prepares them for independent living, making your life a lot easier!

I’ll guide you through pre-treating stains, washing whites, colors, towels, and delicates. Plus, I’ll share some basic tips for drying, ironing, and folding.

Let’s tackle this laundry challenge together

Laundry Basics: A Simple Guide

Step 1: Sort Your Laundry

Divide your laundry into three categories: lights, darks, and mixed colors.

Consider washing delicate items separately using a low temperature and special detergent.

For heavily soiled items, like a sports kit, it’s best to wash them separately to prevent dirt transfer.
Pay attention to laundry care labels.

Step 2: Check Care Labels

Examine the care labels on your clothes. They provide information on the recommended washing temperature, whether the clothes can be tumble dried, and other important details.

If a label indicates “dry clean only,” keep the garment away from the washing machine. For “hand wash only” items, set them aside, take a break, and consult our guide on hand washing clothes.

Be cautious if you see a laundry symbol with a cross through it; it means the item should not undergo a specific treatment. Common symbols include those for irons, tumble dryers, and bleach.

Some care labels provide additional drying instructions, such as laying a garment flat to prevent stretching. For a more in-depth understanding, check out our article on deciphering washing symbols on garment labels.

Step 3: Pre-treat Stains

Some stains wash out easily, while others are more stubborn. It’s generally best to address a stain as soon as you notice it.

Rinse off as much of the stain as possible, then apply a stain remover, following the instructions on the packaging. Depending on the product, you might need to let it sit for a few minutes or proceed directly to washing.

If you don’t have a stain remover, consider rubbing in a small amount of liquid detergent or making a paste with laundry powder and a splash of water. Check the product label, as not all detergents are suitable for this method.

While hot water is effective for most stains, some may require cold water. For specific stain removal tips, here is our laundry hacks for tackling stains.

Step 4: Prepare Your Clothes

Empty all pockets to remove coins, pebbles, tissues, and any loose items. Place delicate items in a mesh bag to shield them from the agitation of the washing machine drum.

Turn embellished items inside out to prevent damage and avoid snagging on other clothes.

For dark or brightly colored clothes, including jeans, turn them inside out to preserve their color and prevent dye transfer.

When loading the laundry into the machine, avoid the temptation to stuff it to the brim. Clothes need room to move for proper cleaning.

Additionally, heavy items like towels and jeans can impact the machine’s spinning efficiency if overloaded.

Step 5: Add Detergent and Fabric Conditioner

Choose the right detergent for your fabrics to achieve optimal results. Biological detergents, which contain enzymes for protein-based stains, offer powerful cleaning but may be too harsh for delicate fabrics and can irritate sensitive skin conditions like eczema.

Non-biological detergents are enzyme-free, making them a better option for sensitive skin. For delicate fabrics, use a specialized detergent.

Laundry detergents come in liquid, powder, capsules, and tablets. While liquid and powder are usually more cost-effective, tablets and capsules are convenient.

Keep them away from children, as they can be harmful if ingested. Follow the recommended amount on the detergent packaging to ensure effective cleaning without residue.

Fabric conditioner is optional but beneficial. It smoothens fibers, prevents damage, and leaves clothes feeling softer. It can also reduce ironing time and keep clothes smelling fresh.

Step 6: Select the Right Wash Setting

Avoid using the same wash setting for every load. Delicate clothes require a cooler temperature (30 or below), while heavily stained items may need a hotter wash (60 or above) with a longer cycle.

Check the care labels on each item, as some fabrics cannot withstand higher temperatures. For less dirty clothes, opt for a shorter cycle and lower temperature.

The spin cycle affects drying time and fabric wear. Choose a higher spin cycle for towels, jeans, and sheets, but stick to 800 or below for woollen jumpers and delicate items.

To save energy, use 30º or 40º degrees. If you’re uncertain, learn more about washing machine settings.

Step 7: Press Start

This step is straightforward – press the start button on your washing machine. However, it’s crucial not to run the machine or tumble dryer overnight or when you’re away, as they can pose a fire risk.

If you’re at home but don’t want to remove the clothes immediately, many washing machines allow you to delay the start of the cycle for a few hours.

Step 8: Dry Your Clothes

Retrieve your clothes from the washer within an hour of the cycle ending to prevent them from developing unpleasant odors. Check for lingering stains, especially if the clothes were heavily stained before washing.

For tumble drying, avoid overloading the dryer, separate clothes by color and weight, and be cautious about garments that may be damaged by tumble drying. Always refer to the care label, and if in doubt, let them air dry.

Dry woollen items flat and hang most others on a line or airer. If drying indoors, consider opening a window or placing clothes near a heat source like a radiator.

Step 9: Iron Clothes

Once your laundry is clean and dry, ironing enhances the appearance of most dresses, shirts, and trousers.

Check the care label and fabric type before ironing to avoid damage. If you dislike ironing, explore our ironing hacks.

Step 10: Put Your Laundry Away

Finally, store your clean clothes properly. Hang dresses, shirts, and trousers in the wardrobe to prevent wrinkles. Neatly fold all other items, ensuring they are fully dry before storing to prevent musty odors.

How to Wash Clothes Without a Washer

Follow these steps along with the care instructions on your clothing labels for a traditional way of washing clothes.


  • Laundry detergent, such as Swash® Laundry Detergent
  • Water
  • Stain remover (optional)
  • Fabric softener (optional)


  • Large bucket, sink, or tub
  • Scrub brush (optional)
  • Drying rack
  • Large spoon (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Separate Clothes Separate your clothes based on fabric type, color, and the recommended wash temperature on the care labels to preserve each item’s appearance.

Step 2: Treat Stains Check each garment for stains. If found, apply stain remover directly to the spot following the instructions on the product’s packaging.

Step 3: Add Laundry Detergent and Water Place your favorite detergent in the bucket, tub, or sink. For handwashing, use one to two teaspoons of detergent, adjusting based on the container’s size. Be cautious not to use too much detergent to avoid a prolonged rinsing process. Fill the container with cool, warm, or hot water according to the temperature indicated on your laundry care labels. Stir the water with your hand or a large spoon to distribute the detergent.

Step 4: Submerge and Agitate Clothes: Immerse your laundry until fully submerged. Then, gently agitate your clothes for 5 – 10 minutes. For heavily soiled items, let the clothes soak before agitation. Repeat the agitation process for stubborn stains.

Step 5: Rinse Drain the water and rinse your laundry with fresh water until all detergent residue is removed.

Step 6: Hang or Lay Flat to Dry After rinsing, gently press your clothes to release excess water without twisting them. Lay your clothes flat to dry or hang them on a drying rack away from direct sunlight to prevent fading. For knit fabrics like sweaters, lay them flat to avoid stretching the fibers.

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