Simple steps I use to wash clothes in a Washing Machine

Simple tips for washing clothes in a washing machine

Read this article yourself to know that even the world’s greatest consider – Washing Machine The Greatest Invention Of The Industrial Revolution.

Yes – they are bad for the environment, but think of what it does for women’s (and men’s ) workload – more time for reading, more time for sewing, more time for sleeping and more time for more work.

The back-breaking hand washing of clothes (loads and loads of them) is now done easily by this super cool machine . Let us see the simple steps you can follow to make the work even more effective than it already does

wash laundry

Washing Laundry in a washing machine 

Step 1. Prepare clothes for wash 

First and foremost, I empty the pockets of all clothes – this is a necessity as most of the time my kids’ pockets are filled with paper – I do not know how all those paper fills these tiny pockets. Or the paper may seem enormous after they have had a wash and are shredded to tiny bits all over the washed clothes.

I also zip up the zippers and hook up the bra hooks. And remove any pins, removable decorations like sashes, ribbon bows, rosettes etc.

Another necessary thing I do is to turn the clothes inside out, especially if they are dark in color. This will prevent lint on the face of the garment.

I also look at the care label in the garment (Which you find on the side seams on the inside of the garment) for specific instructions for washing and drying.

Checkout the post on fabric care /laundry labels to know what each of those symbols means.

Step 2. Remove dried dirt from clothes

If you have a soiled dress with dried-up dirt, use a brush to brush off the dirt from the surface gently. Be very gentle if the fabric of your garment is silk, or wool, made of delicate fibers, or has embroidery or bead work.

If the dried-up dirt proves to be very stubborn, you can use a blunt knife to scrape off the dirt.

Collars, hems of pants, and armpits of dresses/shirts are areas with the most dirt and stains. Pretreat these areas with detergent for better cleaning – simply brushing after soaking in the detergent helps.

Another piece of clothing that needs some hard pre-wash love is super dirty white socks – they will never be white in the washing machine wash. You may need to use bleach on it before popping it into the washing machine. 

Step 3. Treat stains

If you see any stains before washing, this is the best time to remove them. You can spot-clean the stain. (Please do not spot clean if your fabric is made of silk – checkout the post on washing and caring for silk clothes)

If it is a simple stain made from natural secretions/solutions like blood, urine, milk, egg, etc, you can simply soak them in cold water (Never use warm or hot water to treat these stains;  the stains will set permanently). Apply a little laundry detergent and rub the stained area slightly against each other.

If the stain has been set for some days, apply the cleaning solution (laundry detergent or stain-removing product) to the area of the stain. You can also soak the area in the cleaning solution. I soak a small piece of cotton in the cleaning liquid and dab it on the stain. Follow the directions in the bottle.

Gently rub the area together with your hands. This will penetrate the cleaning solution better into the fibers and remove the stains better. 

Take it out and see if the stain is gone; if not, use a stronger solution or more soaking duration (considering the label in the bottle, ofcourse).

Suppose the stain is made from beverages like coffee, tea, etc you may have to soak the stain for 15-20 minutes in diluted laundry detergent solution. This soaking will remove most stains. If not, checkout this post on removing tea/coffee stains from clothes.

If the stain is made from oil or anything greasy, you may have to use commercial stain-removing products. You can try removing the stain by soaking the fabric in laundry detergent for 30 minutes and see whether the stain is gone or not. If not, proceed with the professional cleaner/dry cleaner.

Do follow the labels in the product to the T and check the care label in your garment. Some clothes do not take bleach very well (like Nylon) ; you will find all these things on the care label, so don’t forget that step.

bleaching laundry care symbols

Never use bleach on silk, wool leather, or spandex. Do not use chlorine bleach on dark clothes. Oxygen bleach is better on dark clothes, if you have to use it, that is.

Check out the posts on correct way of using laundry bleach,  treating stains on white clothes. 

Step 4. Sort the garments.

I sort the clothes for laundry into two segments – colored dresses and whites. Then colored clothes should be sorted – dark clothes and lighter clothes

washing machine

Also, ensure that the new clothes you have do not bleed. You can check this by rubbing a white towel that is soaked in detergent against the new fabric. The Fabric care label of the garment will have a label that says “wash separately” if the fabric bleeds. Here are some tips to prevent fabric color bleeding.

I always laundry black clothes together. Just the thought of lint on my pure black clothes gives me the jitters. Checkout the ways to prevent lint on clothes.  ; How to maintain and restore black clothes

Sort the clothes according to the type of fabric it is made of. My delicate white lace top is definitely NOT going into the washing machine with my jeans. 

I also keep towels separate from clothes to be laundered separately. They are very fluffy and give off lint like anything. 

Lingerie is something I do not put together with my other clothes. I keep all the bras inside the laundry bag and wash them with other undergarments. You may have your own way of doing it.

Check out the post on washing lingerie/bras and  the tutorial to make a simple laundry bag. 

Do not put these into the washing machine!

Some clothes you should be wary of or be careful or never put in, when washing in the washing machine.

  • Waterproof clothes ( raincoats, umbrella covers, sleeping bags, car cover sheets, diaper covers, and ski wear) are not meant to be put in the washing machine.
  • Silk Neckties, suits, and jackets are better hand-washed. They will be marked dry clean only.  
    Leather / faux leather clothes, clothes with metal embellishments, fine embroidery work clothes decorated with lace or other delicate trims, are also not meant for the washing machine wash.
  • Wool clothes, Fine silk clothes like scarves, rayon clothes, thin knit clothes, sequin / beaded fabric, dark coloured cotton clothes which you suspect may bleed.
  • Heavily soiled clothes should not be put into the machine without an initial cleaning – like a dirty nappy or greasy work clothes.
  • Clothes with zipper open or drawstrings open.
    Nylon stockings, underwear like brassieres, especially underwire bras; not say those gem studded (Victoria’s-Secret ones) or otherwise lacy lingerie.

Step 5.  Set Water temperature and the cycle

Water temperature – I always wash clothes in cold water. But many prefer a hot wash for their clothes.

The basic washes on a washing machine include a hot wash/cold rinse for white or very soiled clothes; a warm wash / cold rinse for slightly soiled /permanent press clothes; cold wash/cold rinse for delicate clothes.

I have read that “the effectiveness of laundry products is reduced as the water temperature is decreased,” But I prefer to give more importance to energy conservation and rarely use hot water. Heat makes the fibers of the clothes shrink. And color also fades. Coldwater rinsing minimizes the wrinkling of permanent press items.

When to use hot water in the wash – If the cloth is soiled, like a hand towel that has not seen detergent for a long time, you may want to wash it in warm water.

If it is a diaper nothing like a hot wash to clean the stains and destroy germs. Kitchen towels also warrant a hot wash. Work clothes for people doing physical work, such as working around machines, cars, farms, heavy construction work, etc., also need a hot wash.

Cycle – This is as per your machine and the type of clothes that you are washing. The cycle represents the agitation given by the washing machine. Everything will be written in detail on your washing machine or in the manual of your machine. Common ones are delicate cycle, Quick cycle, Deep clean cycle, Wool/silk etc .

Old washing machines have fewer cycles but the newer models have many many settings appropriate for the fabric you have. In my machine there is even a sari setting – though I have never used it, I know many who would be happy with it. I like to hand wash most of the clothes which are delicate or have embroidery work on them.

This is what happened when I put my stretch lace top into the machine.

knit fabric different types

 Checkout this post on the proper way to hand wash clothes

As is common sense, the heavier agitation is reserved for sturdy fabric and very dirty clothes

Cotton clothes, synthetics, and all clothes which are not heavily dirty all get put in the washing machine.

In some machines you also get the option to set the load cycles – you can decide this on the number and weight of the clothes you are going to wash. 

Step 6. Detergent

I prefer to use liquid detergent for washing clothes. They are the best for washing clothes, suitably gentle on the fibers but effectively cleaning clothes. 

When I used the powder detergent and I used to put the washing powder through the compartment specially provided in the machine. But after some time, it got clogged with powder.

The washing machine in my mother’s house even developed a problem with clogging. So I started to put the powder manually after the water was filled, though it was slightly inconvenient.

Do not ever put the washing powder directly on to clothes. It will cause discoloration. Do dilute the detergent before using. You can dilute the detergent in hot water for better dispersion.

And do not put too much detergent in the hope of better cleaning. Use only as much as needed. Too much detergent may cause discoloration and weaken fibers. From what I understood the measurement given in the detergent labels is for 2.5-3 kg of soiled clothes.

One thing I have learned after owning both a top loading washing machine and a front loading machine is to use a specially formulated washing detergent for the front loading machine and nothing else.

The foam leaking out of the machine is a common problem with the front loading machine with the regular washing powders.

If you have a front loading washing machine do choose a low sud detergent because this machine tumbles the clothes without much water so creates more sud. You should be buying the washing powder which is marked for your particular model. 

Step 7. Washing

Washing machines come in many types – Front/Top Load, Automatic/Semi-Automatic. Use the machine settings as per your particular washing machine. Nowadays most households have a front-loading fully automatic machine.

Washing, rinsing, and spinning all are pre-programmed. You just have to select the type of wash/spin you want.

Usually, there are the following settings for washing

  • Regular wash
  • Permanent Press cycle (This cycle uses an extra cold water spray or deep rinse to relax the wrinkles) A permanent press cycle is recommended for clothes that cannot take much heat like polyester. 
  • Delicate cycle – This slow agitation and spin cycle is used for delicate fabrics and for knits too. 

Use fabric softener in the final rinse cycle if you want to, especially if you are using a dryer to fully dry the clothes. I have noticed that the softener makes my clothes less wrinkly. That is enough for me to make me a fan. But I do not use them always – especially when the natural bug hits me – which is getting too frequent as I age.

Never use fabric conditioners with other products like fabric softeners or bleach. Also do not use more than the package recommends.

Some fabric conditioners are used in the washing machine and some in the dryer. Whatever it is, read the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly about use and dilution before using. Do not use them with performance fabrics.

How to use the fabric softener in the washing machine

A fabric softener is usually added in the last rinsing cycle. Your washing machine probably has an inlet for putting in the fabric softener.

Use only as much as needed for the number of clothes you have not less or more. And if you are adding it manually remember to put in at the last rinse cycle for satisfactory results.

Some prefer to add some tablespoons of vinegar ( 2-3) in the final rinse water for removing all the soap residue from the clothes. It is a good alternative to fabric softener. Vinegar sure doesnot give you the heavy perfume that fabric softeners but they also donot leave all the chemicals that fabric softeners do. It really does soften clothes.

Step 8. Dry

After the spin cycle, I hang the clothes to dry on a clothesline the old fashioned way, getting all the sunlight and wind the natural way. All that is left for you is to fold up those freshly done laundry.

If you are using the dryer, take out the clothes as soon as the cycle is over to prevent permanent wrinkles. 

washing clothes


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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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