Laundry Preparation

Click to download Mrs. Stewart's Home Washing GuideWhat you do before you actually turn on the washing machine is as important as the washing process itself. We have divided this part of the Home Washing Guide into the following five sections for easier reference.


Presorting may be the most important step of the laundry process. By presorting your laundry in loads of like color, fabric, weight, texture, construction and soil level, you can avoid many problems. For the best washing action in all loads, include articles of different sizes to allow free circulation in the washer.

To begin, separate out “dry clean only” garments. Then, sort by the following categories:

  • Sort by Color – Separate whites from colors and light fabrics from dark fabrics. Different wash temperatures are needed for maximum cleaning and to keep colors from fading and bleeding. If you have a new garment and wonder if it’s colorfast, wash separately. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup white vinegar when washing the item the first time. The vinegar neutralizes the color and minimizes future fading. Continue to wash separately until no color bleeds in wash water.
  • Sort by Fabric – Separate man-made fabrics like polyester from natural fibers such as cotton. Man-made fibers can attract the oils that are released from natural fibers during washing. These oils can make spots more noticeable. Some fabrics (white cottons, linens, and underwear) require hot water and vigorous washing; others (washable woolens and dark colors) require cold water and short wash times to prevent shrinkage or fading; still others (permanent press fabrics) require special treatment to prevent wrinkling. Follow garment Care Label instructions. Fabrics which generate lint, such as fleece and terry cloth, should be washed separately. Wash like-fabrics and like colors together.
  • Sort by Weight, Texture and Construction – Loosely knit garments, articles with lace trim, or “hand washable” articles require a “delicate” laundry procedure. Lingerie should be washed separately from jeans. Mixing fabric weights can play havoc on your washers balance and it will be unable to clean your clothes as efficiently.
  • Sort by Soil Level – Heavily soiled work or play clothes should be washed separately from lightly soiled clothes, as soils can travel from one garment to another. Wash grubbies in a separate load from good clothes.
  • Other Sorting Tips
    • Always consult and follow garment Care Label instructions. For help, see the Care Label Guide. Put a bulletin board on the wall in the laundry area for attaching Care Labels of special consideration garments and for posting the printed Care Label Guide, found in the printed copy of the Home Washing Guide, which can be obtained for free by contacting us.
    • Loads of permanent press, delicates, knits, and woolens should be smaller than regular loads.
    • Wash white nylon items separately or with white-only loads to avoid picking up color from other fabrics.
    • Do not wash silk, wool, spandex or other chlorine sensitive products in a load you plan to bleach.
    • Blankets, bedspreads or large rugs should be washed alone because of their size.
    • Diapers should be washed separately so you can use a gentler detergent.
    • Place nylon hosiery in a mesh bag or zippered pillow case for washing and drying.


As you are sorting your laundry into appropriate wash loads, follow these simple preparation tips:

  • Complete necessary mending, as the washing process could make rips and tears larger.
  • Shake out loose dirt, brush lint out of cuffs.
  • Close zippers and hooks. They may catch and snag other clothes in the load.
  • Empty pockets. Remove belts, pins and bows. Overlooked tissue, crayon, lipstick, cigarettes, ball-point pens, gum or any metal object can create real problems when they get into the washer or dryer, both for your clothes and for your machines.
  • Don’t forget to check for loose change or dollar bills.


Follow these tips and consult our Stain Removal Guide for pretreating stains:

  • Treat spots and stains as soon as possible and thoroughly before putting into the dryer.
  • Check the garment Care Label before attempting stain removal.

Loading the Washer

As there are several types of washers, it is recommended that you obtain and become familiar with the manufacturer’s instructions for machine use. Each washer offers different cycles and some offer various kinds of dispensers and filters – all of which affect the result of your laundry. If you are in need of a machine manual, go to our Laundry Equipment page where suggestion is provides for obtaining a manual.

In general:

  • Put detergent in first – let liquids dilute and powders dissolve before adding clothing.
  • Load the washer loosely with dry, unfolded clothes.
  • Load larger items first, smallest items next and medium-sized items on top.
  • Do not overload your washer by packing clothes in, as they must circulate freely in the wash basket for thorough cleaning and rinsing. Overloading can result in poor cleaning, excessive lint, extra wear on fabrics and extra work for your machine.


Presoaking works wonders on heavily soiled and greasy garments as well as on delicates that require only a minimum of agitation. Pre-soak with water alone (use the warmest water safe for the fabric), or aid the soak by adding detergent or a commercial enzyme presoak product. Most machines have a presoak cycle that lasts for only a few minutes. For heavily soiled clothes, a presoak of 15 minutes or longer is recommended. To do so, fill washer, put in desired additives and clothing. Turn machine off for desired soaking time. Then turn machine on to finish the wash cycle. You may need to consult your machine manual regarding presoaking — the more modern machines work differently in this regard.  It is best not to soak overnight as this can cause fabric graying.