Learning how to do your own laundry is an important life skill. While it may seem intimidating at first, laundry doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right guidance on how to sort, wash, dry and fold your clothes, you can become a laundry pro in no time!

This beginner’s guide covers the laundry basics – from laundry room layout and essential supplies to step-by-step machine washing instructions. There are also handy tips sprinkled throughout for stain removal, washing delicates, saving money and more.

Let’s dive in and get you up to speed on tackling this household chore like a seasoned laundress (or laundro). The more you practice, the more the process will come naturally. With laundry, experience brings confidence.

Laundry Room Layout and Setup

Having an organized laundry area makes washing clothes far smoother. Here are some elements to include:

Sorting Station

Set up bins, baskets or dividers for pre-sorting different fabric types and colors. This saves time when loading.

Washing Machine

Choose a front or top loading washing machine in your desired size and with preferred features.


Select an electric or gas dryer to match your laundry needs and fuel type. Make sure it can handle your largest loads.

Drying Rack

Have a rack on hand for air drying delicate items that can’t go in the dryer. Foldable racks save space.

Iron and Ironing Board

Iron as needed for wrinkle-prone items. Look for an iron with adjustable heat and steam settings.


Incorporate hampers, shelves and bins to corral laundry before and after washing. Consider laundry bags to transport.

Detergent and Supplies

Stock up on laundry detergent, bleach, stain removers and any other laundry products you need.

Gathering and Sorting Laundry

The first step in any laundry routine is collecting and sorting your dirty clothes, linens and other washable items.

Collecting Laundry

  • Use hampers or bins in bedrooms and bathrooms to collect laundry throughout the week.
  • Check pockets for tissues, receipts and other items that should be removed before washing.
  • Shake out any visible crumbs, dirt or pet hair before taking to the laundry area. Empty lint traps in the dryer after each use.

Sorting Tips

  • Separate by color (whites, lights, brights, darks) to prevent dye transfer.
  • Separate by fabric type like towels, sheets, delicates, heavy fabrics.
  • Sort by level of soil – heavily soiled from lightly worn.
  • Don’t overstuff – too full can lead to wrinkling and uneven cleaning.
  • Use your sorting bins to make loading the machines easier.

Choosing Detergent and Additives

Choosing the right laundry products for your loads is important for good cleaning results.

Detergent Considerations

  • Pick a detergent compatible with your machine type – HE (front loaders) or conventional top loader.
  • Powder, liquid or pods – choose your preferred format.
  • Look at the ingredient list and avoid dyes, perfumes or harsh chemicals if you have sensitive skin.
  • Determine if you need a cold water formula or one for tough stains.
  • Calculate cost per load when selecting value sizes. Don’t overpay.

Bleach and Other Additives

  • Diluted bleach can whiten whites and disinfect towels/linens. Avoid splashing colors.
  • Oxygen boosters like oxiclean help lift set-in stains and refresh dingy clothes.
  • Fabric softener leaves clothes feeling soft and reduces static cling from the dryer.
  • Dryer sheets also cut down on static and soften laundry.

Washing Machine Use and Loading

Time to start washing! Make sure you know how to properly load and operate your washing machine model.

Top Loading Washers

  1. Measure out the recommended amount of detergent for your load size. Add to the drum or detergent dispenser.
  2. For powered detergent, allow water to wet inside the drum before adding clothes.
  3. Load laundry loosely into the drum, avoiding overpacking. Mix large and small items.
  4. If using bleach, add the measured amount to the bleach dispenser per product instructions.
  5. Select your desired settings – wash cycle, water temperature, spin speed and any options.
  6. Start the wash cycle and let the machine work its magic!

Front Loading Washers

  1. Add measured detergent to the detergent drawer, typically marked for prewash, main wash and fabric softener.
  2. Load the drum loosely, allowing clothes to tumble freely. Don’t overload.
  3. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of bleach to the bleach dispenser for disinfecting whites.
  4. Choose your preferred cycle and settings based on fabric type and soil level.
  5. Start the wash cycle. Make sure not to open the door once the cycle begins.
  6. Leave the door open after washing to allow drying and prevent mildew buildup.

Drying Clothes

Once washed, it’s time to dry your laundry. Here are tips for both machine drying and air drying options:

Using a Clothes Dryer

  • Clean the lint filter before each load to allow air to circulate and prevent fire hazards.
  • Sort laundry by fabric type – heavier cottons take longer than lightweight synthetics.
  • Don’t overload the dryer – clothes need room to tumble.
  • Dry similar colors together – lightweight fabrics like socks are prone to getting lost when mixed with heavy items.
  • Use dryer balls/sheets if desired to soften laundry and reduce static.
  • Check clothes are dry before removing to avoid mildew risks. Re-fluff as needed.

Air Drying Clothes

  • Lay delicates like lingerie, activewear, tights and more across a drying rack or on top of a towel.
  • Check garment tags – many sheets and clothes now say tumble dry low instead of air dry.
  • Hang button-down shirts up on hangers while damp to dry flat and minimize wrinkles.
  • Roll clothes like sweaters gently in a towel to absorb moisture, then lay flat to finish drying.

Laundry Stain Removal Tips

Dealing with laundry stains? Try these handy removal methods before washing:

  • Pre-treat with stain remover, bar soap or dish soap. Let sit 5-10 minutes.
  • Use cold water to rinse blood, chocolate, ink or mud stains ASAP. Avoid hot water.
  • Gently scrape off crusted debris from food, makeup or dirt with a dull knife or spatula. Don’t scrub aggressively.
  • For oily grease stains, sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda before washing to help absorb it.
  • Spot test treatments first in an inconspicuous area to check for colorfastness and fabric damage.
  • Check garment tags for specific instructions on stain removal methods compatible with the material.

Doing Laundry More Efficiently

Streamline your laundry routine even further with these handy tips:

  • Schedule a set laundry day so it doesn’t pile up. I find Sundays work well!
  • Wash full loads whenever possible to maximize efficiency and savings.
  • Use cold water washes for lightly soiled laundry to conserve energy.
  • Pre-treat stains to avoid extra wash cycles. Soak in oxy-boosters or dish soap.
  • Remove lint from the trap before each dryer use to maintain air flow.
  • Use dryer balls to cut down on dryer sheets and soften laundry naturally.
  • Hang or fold clothes right out of the dryer to avoid wrinkling.

Storing Clean Laundry

Once washed and dried, you’ll want to properly store clothes to stay organized and keep them fresh.

  • Sort folded laundry right into drawers – socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc.
  • Use shelf dividers or bins to neatly stack folded towels, sheets and other linens.
  • Hang delicate items like bras, dresses and button-downs to prevent stretching.
  • Put off-season clothes in garment bags with cedar blocks to keep fresh smelling.
  • Clean out dresser drawers before adding freshly laundered clothes. Toss old holey socks!

Laundry FAQs

Still have some burning laundry questions? Here are answers to some frequently asked beginner questions:

How much detergent should I use per load?

Check the detergent bottle for recommended amounts based on load size and level of soil. Typically 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup for top loaders and 2-3 tablespoons for front loaders. Too much suds can hinder cleaning.

Should whites be washed differently than colors?

Yes, it’s best to wash white and light-colored laundry separately from darker colors and avoid mixing if possible. This prevents dye transfer issues. You can wash similar darks or brights together.

What temperature should I wash clothes in?

Follow the garment care labels for recommended washing temperatures. Use cold water for lightly soiled loads to conserve energy. Warm or hot water helps heavier soils and stains dissolve. Avoid extreme hot heat that can damage fabrics.

How should I wash bras and delicate fabrics?

Hand wash or use a mesh garment bag on the delicate cycle. Hang bras to dry instead of the dryer. Look for detergent specially formulated for delicates.

Can I put dress shirts in the dryer?

While polyester dress shirts can go in the dryer on low, cotton/linen shirts are prone to wrinkling. Hang them to air dry then iron or steam later if needed. Tumble dry low if in a hurry.

How often should I wash jeans?

Jeans and other sturdy cotton bottoms only need washing every 3-4 wears unless heavily stained. Spot clean as needed. Washing too frequently can cause premature fading.

What’s the best way to dry shower towels?

Wash bath towels separately from clothes on the hottest setting recommended for the material. Tumble dry completely before use. Avoid mildew risks from air drying damp towels.

You’ve Got This Laundry Thing Down!

There you have it – all the need-to-know basics for taking on laundry like a pro! While it may feel intimidating when you’re getting started, laundry becomes much simpler with practice.

Remember to sort clothes by color and fabric type, choose a gentle detergent, load the washer properly, and dry based on material directions. Deal with stains as quickly as possible. And fold or hang clothes right away to avoid a wrinkled mess.

The more you do it, the more second nature laundry will become. Don’t be afraid to start washing those piles of dirty clothes. With this handy beginner’s guide, you have all the instructions needed to handle laundry like a boss!

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