It’s a tale as old as time. At some point in your life, you’ve been taught how to sort and separate your laundry before throwing them in the washer. Maybe you’ve been taught to sort based solely on color, maybe by fabric, or maybe even by level of dirtiness. Or maybe, possibly, all three?

Since doing your laundry is an inevitable chore, you might as well get good at it. Knowing how to separate and sort your clothes for optimal results will keep your clothes intact and lasting longer, help maintain the fabric and color’s integrity, and even lessen your carbon footprint.

  1. Sort by color – It’s a tried-and-true method, and for good reason. Separate your lights and darks; it’s as simple as that. If you want to sort even further, separate into darks (e.g., black, navy, dark grey), brights (e.g., lime green, bright pink, neons), lights (e.g. beige, pastels), and whites (e.g. white, ivory). Dark and deep, bright-colored clothing are dyed with pigments that can easily bleed onto lighter fabrics (just ask your one pink sock). You run an even higher risk of color cross-contamination if you wash with warm or hot water, so opt for a cool, gentle cycle when possible.
  2. Sort by newness – Be extra cautious about newly-bought clothing. New clothes tend to still be heavily dyed since they haven’t been washed out a few times yet. Make sure to put new clothes through a couple of cycles before trusting them not to bleed onto the rest of your clothing.
  3. Sort by fabric – First, if you’re unsure what your clothes are made of, always check the tags. Most clothing items will offer guidance on how to handle them. Otherwise, try to sort your clothes based on fabric type:
    • Sheets and pillowcases
    • Towels, blankets, and rugs
    • Regular wear (e.g., t-shirts, jeans, pants, blouses)
    • Underwear, socks, and intimates
  4. Sort by texture – Check the texture of your clothes by examining the delicacy of the garment and any hardware on it, such as buttons, zippers, and snaps. You’ll want to make sure you separate these items, so the hardware doesn’t snag on any delicate clothing. A good reminder is to make sure you zip or snap anything closed and turn them inside out to further prevent any issues.
  5. Sort by weight – Heavier items like towels, sheets, and blankets can damage more delicate items during the tumbling process. In addition, heavier items tend to be lint-producing and you don’t want that to transfer to any lint-attracting materials.
  6. Sort by dirtiness – Depending on how soiled your clothes are, you’ll want to give those some extra care and a longer washing cycle. It’s best to keep any odor-filled, stained, and dirty clothing separated from your other “dirty” clothes to ensure both get washed efficiently.

Knowing how to separate and sort your clothing pre-wash will keep your clothing in its best shape, leaving you with a longer-lasting, better-smelling, fully functioning wardrobe.