Home Washing Guide to Washing, Drying, Ironing

The Process of Laundering: Washing

Click to download Mrs. Stewart's Home Washing GuideMost washing machines offer a choice of water level, water temperature, and cycle (which sets intensity and length of agitation, number of rinses, length of soak, etc.). Follow machine manufacturer’s instructions for the best results. The guides below will also give you an idea of appropriate cycles for specific loads.

Water Level

Vary the water level in your washer to fit the size of your wash load. Be sure there will be enough water to let items move freely. Avoid overloading.

Water Temperature

Proper choice of water temperature can also minimize dye transfer from unstable colors. Check your garment Care Label for recommended wash temperature. If Care Label advice isn’t available, use the following as a guide.

Hot Water provides the quickest and best cleaning. Use it for sturdy whites, colorfast pastels and light prints, cloth diapers and similarly soiled baby items, heavily soiled work and play clothes.
Warm Water cleans while minimizing dye loss, removes wrinkles and helps reduce wrinkling in the washer. Use it for permanent press, colorfast dark or bright colors, synthetics made of nylon, polyester, acrylic and washable woolens.

Cold Water may help protect sensitive dyes, minimize washer wrinkling and save hot water. However, it doesn’t clean as well as warmer temperatures. Use it for bright red and orange dyes that release color without losing intensity; lightly soiled fabrics, removal of some protein stains such as blood.

Cold Water is excellent for rinsing ALL loads, regardless of wash water temperature. Rinsing in cold water helps reset dye-fastness, set in fresh smelling scents of detergent fragrances, and save energy.
Laundry detergents are formulated to clean well at temperatures above 60 degrees F. In water colder than 60 degrees F, detergents do not dissolve well, soils are more difficult to remove, fabrics will retain wear wrinkles and may have increased pilling.

Washer Cycle

Regular Cycles usually provide a wash time of 10-14 minutes with a normal agitation and spin intensity. This is a good cycle for most cottons, linens, work and play clothes. If you are energy conscious, many resources report that a 10 minute cycle is usually sufficient for commonly soiled garments.

Soak Cycles are provided to help loosen embedded soils and stains. Most last for only a couple of minutes. If you desire a longer soak – fill the machine, add clothes and soaking aids (such as a presoak enzyme product) and then turn the machine off. When ready to resume the laundry, turn the machine back on, selecting the appropriate wash cycle.

Synthetic Cycles (Permanent Press, Knits) are for loads of shirts, blouses, dresses, knits and similar wearing apparel with normal soil levels. These cycles usually provide a wash time of 5-10 minutes with an extended cool-down spray rinse to minimize wrinkling.

Delicate Cycles are provided for laundering delicate lingerie, stockings, nylon undergarments, etc. These cycles have a minimal washing time (usually 3-5 minutes) with a gentle agitation and spin intensity.

Extra Rinse Cycles are provided to be used with modern fabrics with heavy or oily soil, to help remove additional detergent that is required for these soils.

About Drying

To begin, check the garment Care Label for specific drying instructions or warnings. As drying can set some stains into fabric more permanently, make a practice of checking freshly washed clothing for stains before throwing them into the dryer. Finding one gives you the opportunity to treat it before the dryer cycle makes it impossible.

Without the Automatic Dryer

Drying via clothesline in the sunshine remains a favorite. Unfortunately, in our society, it has become inconvenient. While it is more energy efficient than the automatic dryer, it takes a much longer time.

Flat air drying is preferred for sweaters and some cotton knit garments. Squeeze out extra water without wringing. Then roll the garment in a towel to absorb more water. Shape and lay out flat on a clean dry towel or on a drying rack.

With the Automatic Dryer

Since many clothes are permanent press or “no iron” garments, the chore of ironing can be virtually eliminated by using an automatic dryer properly. Items such as towels, jeans, or underwear are much softer and more comfortable to wear when tumble dried. Get to know your dryer and it’s cycles by consulting the machine Manufacturer’s Instructions for use. If you are in need of a machine manual, contact the machine manufacturer.

Prepare clothes for drying by lightly shaking out items taken from the washer, before placing them in the dryer. Tightly balled up fabric dries slower and will likely come out wrinkled.

Be careful not to overload the dryer. A stuffed dryer will not allow the items to tumble, causing wrinkling and slower drying.

Keep like garments together. A washer load is usually a dryer load – both in size and likeness. Permanent press items should not be dried with towels, and delicate items, such as lingerie should be dried separately. All clothes should be left in the dryer just long enough to remove wrinkles and moisture.

Be careful not to over dry. This can cause linting, wrinkling and shrinkage of many fabrics. It is normal for elastic bands in shorts, socks, or bras to feel slightly damp when first removed from the dryer. Use the proper heat setting and cycle.

Hang and fold garments as soon as possible after drying is complete to avoid wrinkling.

Do not dry woolens, fiberglass fabrics, rubber or plastic coated articles as these present a fire or explosion hazard.

Keeping the lint filter clean and clear will prevent fire-related accidents as well as maintain good air circulation for better drying results.

Dryer Cycle & Temperature

Regular (Warm/Hot) cycles are for drying non-permanent press items such as towels, underwear, jeans, and diapers.

Permanent Press (Warm) cycles are for permanent press and outer wear garments of nylon, acrylic, polyester, and blends of these with other fibers (these garments may be labeled “tumble dry” or “tumble dry-medium”). It is essential to remove these garments from the dryer immediately when tumbling stops since they will become wrinkled if left in the dryer basket. If your dryer has a cool-down cycle, take advantage of it to help eliminate shrinkage & wrinkling.

Delicate (Cool) cycles are for lingerie, “hand washable” items, machine wash and dry woolens, and those heat sensitive items labeled “tumble dry-low”.

Other Drying Tips

Bath mats and throw rugs that have rubber backing should be air dried unless the label states that they may be tumble dried. Items containing foam rubber or vinyl must not be dryer dried.

Draperies should be dried according to Care Label instructions.

“Machine wash and dry” woolens may be dried on the Delicate setting. “Hand washable” woolens should be blocked and air dried on a flat surface.

Nylon hosiery can be dryer dried in a mesh bag.

Cotton knits should be blocked into shape and air dried flat unless Care Label states otherwise.

Drying a small load reduces the tumbling effect and prolongs the drying period. Add 3 to 4 already clean and dry like-color towels to speed up drying of small loads.

About Ironing

In the modern days of permanent press and other no-iron fabrics, many families do not even own an iron. In the event that you need to iron or if you simply prefer or enjoy it, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Use the washing/drying tips to reduce wrinkling.
  • Be careful about where an iron is plugged in and how it is supervised. Be sure the cord is not strung across a hallway inviting a safety hazard.
  • Be sure your ironing board is easy to set up and provides a sturdy and smooth surface for ironing.
  • Read the garment Care Label for the ironing procedure and temperature setting to use.
  • Do not iron items which are dirty or stained. The heat from the iron could set the stain in more permanently. Likewise, keep iron and ironing board cover clean to avoid staining a freshly laundered garment.
  • When ironing pile fabrics (velvet, corduroy, materials with raised patterns) or when ironing dark fabrics, silk, rayon, linens and acetates – iron on the wrong side of the fabric to prevent de-texturizing and shining of the fabric.
  • When ironing double fabrics such as shirt collars, cuffs, pockets and hems, iron the inside first and then the outside. These areas may require steam or pre-wetting when ironing.
  • Iron clothes while they are still damp.
  • Iron lengthwise on fabric to prevent stretching.
  • Hang clothes immediately after ironing to help them keep that “just-pressed” look.