How to sort Laundry

gwloloDecember 28, 2012

What is the best way to sort laundry? Please share your best ideas of how to make this work for a family of 4. How many categories do you sort into? Is it better to collect it all together and sort near the machine for washing or is it better for each person to sort in their room and bring it to the laundry area? Are laundry sorters near the washer dryer a good idea?

Here is our set up - The washer dryer is in the hallway across the main bath for the kids. The master bedroom is on the same floor a bit further away. We occasionally dryclean at home with Dryel. We are not a sporting family and in general, our clothes do not get very dirty. We also wash white cotton sheets everyweek and white cotton kitchen towels. Our washer is Miele W1918. It is a smaller euro washer and we expect to do laundry at least once a day.

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Hello. First off, you have a very nice washer to be doing any sort of laundry in. You should almost always have consistent and great results with a 1918.

Anyway, to your point. In my opinion, I would suggest starting with the sorting basics, and then expanding as you see fit. My general rules for sorting are whites from colors, towels in a single load, followed up with delicates and/or especially heavily soiled loads. Personally, I sort into many categories for a household of just 2. Whites, lights, darks, jeans, towels, sheets, dishtowels and cleaning rags. I hold on to delicate or special items until i manage to get a load worth washing. I do kitchen linen separate because I just prefer to not wash things that touch my food with my underwear and socks, and I like to wash the living crap out of them. Personal preference. I think the absolute basic sorting is into 3 loads: Whites/lights, darks, and toweling.

I am interested in how others sort, too..... :)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 9:58PM
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I have laundry sorters in my laundry room, and it works really well for me. The kids are responsible for bringing out their own laundry and sorting it into the bins. I double check it as I'm loading up the washer and subcategorize as needed, depending on how much is in the bin. :-)

In our home, I sort as follows, for a family of four:
Whites, including underwear, T shirts, socks.
Lights, including some delicate underthings that I put in small knit laundry bags.
Darks, sub-categorized into
-Jeans and other sturdy non knits
-knit fabrics and lightweight non knits, which are set to a less aggressive wash and spin than the jeans and sturdy non knits.
Reds (we have a lot of red clothing in our family)
Sweatshirts/fleece, sometimes sub-categorized into light/dark if there's enough in the basket.
Bath Towels
Dishtowels (I have a lot of these, and like Miele 1966 I "wash the crap out of them".)
Microfiber towels.
Delicates, as needed.

In addition to sorting by color and fabric type, I also make sure that anything with a screen print or jewel decoration (my daughters jeans) are turned inside out. All zippers are zipped, to prevent the zippers from snagging on the other items in the load.

I hope this was helpful.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 12:40PM
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If you have the space in your utility room, my suggestion would be bins or baskets for each load. Such as towels, white's, light's and dark's... Have the children sort their own laundry and put into the appropriate bins. This is a great thing for chidren to learn to do from an early age.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 1:01PM
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Cj --> I am impressed! Do you use different detergents for the different types of laundry?

dbfirewife - I agree with with you. I am trying to figure out how to get enough sort bins in our laundry closet.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 4:48PM
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I have a family of 5 and they are responsible for getting their laundry to the laundry room and sorted. We use a 3 compartment canvas sorting bin. Reds, whites and darks. Towels, sheets, it all gets sorted and washed by color. We don't have any hand wash items. It works. I do have an array of detergents dependant on color, soil level, temp being washed at, etc. I do sort out the higher temp (205) items but really only do that if I have heavily stained items that I'm trying to salvage or a ton of towels. After washing the clothes go into baskets and the kids are responsible for grabbing their own. Easy!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 1:11PM
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GWlolo, I do have different detergents for different things. I use Tide Total Care liquid for everything but whites and towels. It cleans well and I like the way the clothes come out. Whites get Tide Vivid Powder, which has a bleaching agent. Towels and rags get regular Tide powder, at least at the moment. I bought a small box to try it out, and it works well, but I'm not sure I need another box of detergent around when the Vivid powder does just as well. When I got the new washer, I tried out various detergents that I'd seen recommended by others on this site, and these are the ones that I ended up choosing. They work well with my water, and my washer.

Don't be too impressed--lol, I'm not really that big of a laundry buff, I just decided that I wanted better results, and spent some time on this forum learning how to accomplish that. I learned a lot from the folks here.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 12:52PM
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I'm the laundry person in our household of two. Going to college and having two part time jobs doesn't leave a whole lot of time for the nicer things in life - such as laundry. ;-)

Anyway, my laundry routine:

- Anything white/bright goes in one wash load. That's tops and sweaters, underwear, kitchen towels, socks etc.* This gets washed in warm 104F water, usually with an extra rinse and a detergent that (oxy-)bleaches (sanitizes) in warm water.

- Towels of all colors get the same treatment as above but at 140F (or sometimes 205F).

- White fitted sheets get the same treatment as above.

- Anything dark goes into another load. Basically sweaters and jeans for us. Again warm water, extra rinse and a powder that is free of oxy and optical brighteners.

- Pillow and duvet covers of all colors get the same treatment but at 140F.

- Office shirts and blouses. Cool 86F wash, method free + clear and, which is why I wash them on a separate load, a low spin.

Brights and darks get washed weekly. All the rest gets washed once no clean item is left (e.g. towels every six weeks). Bulky items such as the stack of dirty towels or sheets are stored in individual baskets in the laundry room (which is in the basement), while brights/darks are dropped into a hamper in the bathroom.

*I know some people faint at the idea of mixing underwear and kitchen towels etc. but it has worked for me all these years. ;-p


    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 8:35PM
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LOL, Alex, if I had enough towels to last my family 6 weeks, we wouldn't have room in the house for anything else....

I will probably revisit the way I separate the clothes once the kids leave home and the piles are smaller, but for now, this works for me.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 12:04AM
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I'm such a lazy slob ... I usually sort by the required drying temperature, drying time, and post-dryer treatment. Except for the first wash of something colored, I dump whites and colored things into the same load if they need the same drying cycle.

If something bleeds repeatedly, it gets sent to charity. If it requires special handling, except for ski gear and wool sweaters, I don't buy it.

I use one kind of detergent for almost everything, fabric softeners and bleach only for exceptional cases (the white cotton rug gets both).

Adding: I almost always wash in cold water, unless I'm washing something really grungy or disgusting - then it gets a hot wash and maybe even bleach.

1 - sheets (of any color)
2 - levis and heavy cotton shirts
3 - Towels of any color, and dish towels
4 - "underwear" and lightweight things that get folded, that can be left in the dryer. (low temp cycle dry)
5 - polo shirts and other clothing that needs to be hung immediately

Occasionally I need to wash something special, such as a wool rug, but that's a once-a-year event.

This post was edited by lazygardens on Sat, Jan 5, 13 at 11:46

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 11:44AM
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if I had enough towels to last my family 6 weeks, we wouldn't have room in the house for anything else....

Certainly! :-) It's manageable for us since I replace the large towels once a week and hand towels twice. I make sure they dry quickly after usage (during this time of year, I just throw them over a radiator and they dry within 20 minutes) so seven days of consecutive use won't lead to musty odors. Plus, my 3.3 cu.ft. washer can handle it all in one go (gotta love the cool-down at the end).


Here is a link that might be useful: Boiling towels

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 6:09PM
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I am surprised no one else has mentioned sorting simply by family member. It saves so much time deciding what belongs to who!

My son has the least amount of clothes (school uniform 5days a week)and a week's worth fit easily in one load all together(just put a load in now). My daughter and I have the most clothes and have several laundry baskets in our closets divided "tops" "pants" "socks, underwear,bras" so we can do whichever is most needed first. My husband tends to mix his all together. If I do my husbands laundry I divide button up shirts/pants/socks underwear tshirts purely due to ease of getting out and folding all the same or hanging all up. But he just mixes it all up and tends to cram the washer full..............I just try not to watch. Sheets and towels are separate and usually done by me.

The benefit of dividing by family member is that the entire basket of clean clothes can go straight from dryer to the correct bedroom. No time is spent deciding who a pair of pants or socks or tshirt etc belong to. And laundry can be done on an as needed basis.

I used to divide lights and darks, but I can not tell the difference so I stopped. Though we do not wear much white.

On occassion I will do a gentle handwash only load. My theory is if clothes do not survive the washer, we (my family) can do without them.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 5:26PM
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I am another who separates reds from other colors, but I will put pink, purple, and lavender in with reds. At least that's what I did in the 1980s when I had a lot of clothes that were those colors, and they were bad about bleeding. I didn't mind reds bleeding onto purples, which is why I grouped those together. I have no blue jeans and no denim, and so I don't have to worry about those bleeding onto other clothes, but otherwise I would wash them with dark colors or blues. I almost never use chlorine bleach any more because I do not have white towels, but I wash white and near whites together and use Oxiclean.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:14PM
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As a starting point, I would recommend sorting by like washing instructions according to the garment label. Then break your load size down further, if necessary, by color, garment type, and soil level. Note that the same load in the washer may not equate to the same load in the dryer.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:33AM
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Brad Edwards

I am a stay at home dad, I don't sort anything. Not trying to knock anybody as I would love to sort things, but laundry isn't my forte.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 12:50AM
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"would love to sort things, but laundry isn't my forte"

Why not try it then, and see if your results are better? It's not that hard, especially if you have your family do it when they bring their laundry to the laundry area. I have bins in the laundry area labeled lights, darks, whites, reds, etc. and when they bring their things out, they just toss them in. Washing your whites together so that you can wash them on a warmer setting than, say, dark colors will keep them nice looking longer--as will washing your dark colors on a cooler setting.

I look at sorting the laundry as a way of protecting the investment I've made in my family's clothing. It's not inexpensive to clothe a family, even if you're not buying designer labels (and we certainly don't!). Laundry doesn't have to be your forte, but you can certainly learn a few things that will make your garments last longer and look better. Lord knows, there's enough information on this site to get you started, and many people that would be willing to answer questions if you have any.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 3:21AM
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My sorting methods are very similar to Cj47. The biggest difference is that I will mix darks with reds, on the basis of textile washing requirements (weight / fabric / number of rinses...). I have found that if there is any bleeding from the red it isn't visible on the black. I only do this once I am confident that the blacks are set and not bleeding themselves.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:29PM
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