The Right Way to Do Laundry – 5 Steps You Might Be Missing

The Right Way To Do Laundry - 5 Steps You Might Be Missing - Clean Mama

To be honest, I’m not a fan of doing laundry.  I do my best to enjoy the mundane task, but I also know that as soon as all the laundry is “done”, there’s probably another load lurking somewhere.  Today I have a couple tips and tricks that might make the process a little easier and more manageable.

  1. Don’t over load your washer.  Cramming two loads of dirty laundry in your washing machine might save you time, but you are making your washer work too hard and more importantly, your clothes probably aren’t getting as clean as you’d like them to.
  2. When it comes to detergent, less is more.  Use the least recommended amount – adding extra isn’t going to get them any cleaner, it will actually cause build-up that will make them dirtier.
  3. Cold water is your friend – you can mix lights and darks as long as you wash them on your cold water setting AND assuming that it isn’t a brand-new red shirt with white undershirts.  (I wash any new brights just with brights for at least 3 washes before mixing it up.)
  4. The secret to super soft and fluffy towels?  No fabric softener!  The liquid fabric softener actually coats the fibers and not only do they take longer to dry but they aren’t as fluffy as they could be.  You can use white vinegar in lieu of fabric softener in your rinse cycle or dryer sheets for the same effect.
  5. There really isn’t a right or wrong process to doing laundry.  I prefer to do a load or two of laundry because having to do gobs and gobs of laundry all on the same day is a big downer for me.  If I just have a load or two to wash/dry/fold/put away, it’s much less overwhelming to me and it eliminates baskets and baskets of clean, but not folded laundry.

Any helpful laundry tips to share?

If you liked this post, you might want to read my thoughts on the right way to vacuum!



  1. I never knew the trick to soft towels. I always wondered why my towels are never soft. Thanks so much for these tips. 🙂

  2. Jessica s says:

    I totally agree on the fabric softener! I also hate the smell anyway lol. It is kinda like washing cloth diapers, need lots of water, less detergent. And when you get a build up you have to strip the build up off. Hot washes!!


  3. All my clothes have the little balls on them. Do you know a way to get rid of them or prevent them? I have started washing my clothes on delicate and I have changed detergents hoping that would help. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Sylvia, you can get a fabric shaver that removes the little balls! It’s about $14 from coles. I love mine, it’s given my clothes a whole new life.

    • I bought a battery powered pill remover to get rid the the balls off my sweaters. It works pretty good. I had a hard time finding one but eventually did at a tailor shop. I’m not sure how to avoid them in the first place though. They always seems to build up where the fabric rubs together, like under the arms, so I don’t think it’s the way I wash them.

    • As a knitter, I’ve learned much about fabrics and the cause of pilling. Bottom line: you can’t get away from it, but you can slow it down. 1) Don’t overload the washer or dryer. Clothing needs the freedom to move in the water for cleaner clothes and less abrasion with the other items being washed. 2) Not only wash like colors together, but like fabrics. For instance don’t wash blue jeans with t-shirts – the shirts will wear out in no time. 3) And finally, for your fabrics that are, by nature, soft wash and dry them inside out. That way the outside of the fabric is better protected from abrasion with other clothing.
      Loved all the comments.

    • Carolynn says:

      I started washing my clothes inside out and noticed no mall pills….try that.

  4. Franceanne says:

    Hi, thanks for the lovely tips. I realized as well that if you put loads of clothes to wash at ones they won’t get so clean and they won’t smell nice. Another way for protecting you washing machine to last longer is to lesson the number of spinning. For example during summer I spin only at 600/400 spins depending on material and in winters at 700/800. The more the washing machine spins the less it will serve you!

  5. I stopped washing my towels with fabric softener a LONG time ago! Not only does it make soft and fluffy but they are more absorbent! The fabric softener tends to leave a waxy residue.

  6. I definitely agree with the white vinegar tip! I have always washed my towels with it. It also takes the mildew-like smell out of them. 🙂

  7. Thanks for these great tips. I always use fabric conditioner I have never tried washing without it. I might give it a try,

    Natasha @

  8. If your towels smell all musty, wash them with 2 cups of vinegar (or one if they’re not that bad) and warm/hot water. Then wash them again with a little detergent. It’s amazing!!

  9. Brand new brights that may bleed, add half cup of salt with detergent allow to mix in water and then add clothing. This has always worked for me! Great article 🙂

    • This trick is used when dying fabric. The salt makes the dye adhere to fabrics rather than floating around in the water.

  10. I rarely dry many of my clothes. Because of that, my black items always come out with annoying white lint all over them. Even after I hang them to dry, it does not easily roll off with a lint roller, it is really stuck on. The puzzling thing is, though, that I only wash with like colors. So I can’t figure out how to get them coming out better. Any suggestions?

    • Washing machine need to be cleaned just like other appliances. The broken fibers (lint) can collect and hide in your drum only to redeposit on other clothing. Not to mention detergent can too! To keep blacks black try hand washing or shaking them out after they come out of the washer. This will lessen lint deposits on your clothing. Once in a great while blacks will need to be revitalized. This can be done by stove top or machine dying them with fabric dye. I had to redye my blacks when I was in college every few weeks (I only wore black and living in California they fade FAST.)

  11. Dryer sheets are also considered fabric softeners. They also coat your towels (and other clothes) with a chemical residue. I skip fabric softeners and dryer sheets altogether and add white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser for every load and use dryer balls instead of sheets. There are a few types of dryer balls; plastic ones and some come with holes to add water for a steam dry (great for wrinkles), and there are wool dryer balls that are eco friendly and you can add a drop of essential oils to scent your load. The best part about any type of dryer balls is that they cut the dry time by about 20%!

  12. I always run new brights and darks through a quick cold cycle with a cup of vinegar (no detergent). They never ever bleed after this. It’s called “acid fixing” and it binds the dye to the fabric.

  13. Theresa L says:

    I “treat” myself and fold while I watch TV. It’s a little break in my day and lets me stay caught up on my favorite shows.

    • I do that too Theresa! 🙂 It makes it go quicker and then I tell the kids if their not folding they can’t watch! 😉

  14. It’s my understanding, although not my experience, that you need to be careful with vinegar if you have hard water. As a busy mom with four kids (and tons of laundry) sometimes it’s hard not to overload the washer. I appreciate the reminder! I have also switched from using fabric softener to using wool dryer balls. I’ve learned a lot about laundry since I started using cloth diapers. Thanks for this helpful information.

  15. I can’t wait for summer when the days are long enough to dry my clothes on the line. We try not to use the dryer and have a hanging rack inside for the winter, so we’re limited to one load a day so I space it out throughout the week. We also cloth diaper, so we do a lot of laundry! The sun is the only way to get some of those unsightly stains off diapers, the sun is an amazing bleach!

  16. Thanks for this article! As I do most of what you said above, I love that you said that you prefer to do a load or two of laundry every single day. Doing a bunch of laundry on one day is a downer. I have tried so many house cleaning schedules where there is one day you do laundry. And I just cannot do it. it either doesn’t get done, or it all gets washed, dried, bit not folded and put away. So we deal with a pile of laundry to dig through for the week. I hate laundry. And by doing a load or two each day or every other just works for me. I always feel guilty or I am not as organized as other moms. Thanks for giving me freedom!!!

    • As long as you love your family and do the best you can, you don’t need to feel guilty!! I’m sure you are doing fine!!!

  17. I use a pair of old tennis shoes in the dryer with my sheets, towels and blankets. it cuts down my drying time immensely.

  18. felling pretty happy I knew all of this 😀 I never use fabric softener and always use vinegar instead. heaps cheaper and does the same if not better job and won’t irritate sensitive skin (ie babies and my sister in law who comes out in a rash if any fabric softener is used on things).

  19. We had a big family, 7 kids. Only 2 left now tho! We had a system. Everyone has their own laundry basket or a smaller rectangular plastic basket. It is their repsonsibility to bring it to the laundry room. All I do is sort colors, wash fold and sort back to individuals. They need to pick up their baskets and put their laundry away. I am in charge of ours and the towels. If they want their sheets done, they put them in their basket. We did laundry 2-3 days a week. Never on the weekends!
    I use dryer sheets, but cut them in half. It is enough!

  20. I have never used vinegar instead of fabric softener, but I’m willing to try anything for softer, better smelling towels. The only drawback….I HATE the smell of vinegar. Will it be noticeable?

    • Hi Katie,
      You will not smell the vinegar! Vinegar only smells when it is wet – so just like using it for any other cleaning job, once what you are cleaning has dried, the smell goes away. Definitely worth trying!!

  21. Hello! Hey what are the little white ball in the jar in your photo on this post?

  22. Love my wool dryer balls and white vinegar!!! I have not used dryer sheets for years and my towels are fluffy and have no odor to them

  23. My friend’s clothing and towels always smell so nice. It doesn’t matter what scented item I select, they never have that nice lavender scent she has on her towels and sheets… and hers stays! Any suggestions?

    • Ask your friend how much detergent and softener she’s using – it could be that she uses more than you do so there’s a more potent scent.

  24. I use Fels Naptha to pre-treat stains. I make my own laundry and use vinegar for softening. My best advice is to fold or hang your laundry as you are taking it out of the dryer or taking it off the clothesline.

  25. Becky, thanks for the tips! I’ve heard of the use of vinegar, but haven’t actually tried it yet. It’s good to see the process actually works. I know what I’ll be doing with my next load of towels. Do you use it with clothing too?

    Simply Planned

  26. Hi! I am a newbie! I love your site! So helpful! A little tip that might be worth mentioning is folding the clothes immediately out if the dryer. Place them in a laundry basket and you are ready to go!
    I also have 4 baskets: one for each kid (2 daughters) , 1 for my husband and I, and 1 for sheets and towels. The girls can take their baskets up to their rooms and put away themselves!

  27. One thing I’ve noticed about the “pilling” is that washing towels with any other laundry will give you that pilling on both the towels and other clothing. I always wash my towels in a load by themselves. I love the info about the vinegar and fabric softener. I’m going to use the vinegar right away. My towels are so flat that I thought I had bought poor quality even though the label said Egyptian cotton. One other thing that helps me with the pilling is to turn the clothing inside out before washing it.

    • In another place on this same website, she says “you can add about a quarter of a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle or fabric softener dispenser if you feel like it needs a little softening”. I hope that helps those of you who were asking. I’m new here and just found it.

  28. Christina says:

    After someone scared me with a story about fabric softener and the harm it can do I’ve stopped using it. Have to admit my clothes still feel soft even without it. I’m really bad for overloading our machine so guess this might be part of reason why some clothes stains don’t come off. Especially with our toddler, I try and do one load a day. Piles are now smaller (except ironing ????) where as before we had a mountain of clothes as I tried to dedicate just one entire day to Laundry.

    Someone gave me advice about washing socks and that is to give each person their own mesh laundry bag so when it comes to that dreaded task of sorting, it’s just a case of pairing each persons up as they’ve already been sorted by person.

  29. Hello! Thank you so much for all of your advice.

    Do you do a separate load of your bathroom cleaning towels from your kitchen cleaning towels?

  30. I’d love to know where you got that adorable laundry tin!

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