AARP Eye Center
You follow the same routine each week, gathering dirty clothes, sheets and towels, separating whites from darks, pouring detergent and spending hours washing, drying and folding clean laundry.
Roughly 50 percent of American families wash seven loads of laundry per week — or up to 2,000 pounds of clothes every year, according to a 2021 survey done for appliance-maker Whirlpool. And believe it or not, laundry ranks as America’s favorite cleaning task, according to a separate survey by the American Cleaning Institute.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
But even if you love doing laundry, you’re likely making loads of mistakes when it comes to getting your clothes clean. Here are nine ways you might be doing laundry all wrong.
1. Skipping sorting
Separating whites and darks is just the beginning.
While research showed that some households sort laundry according to stain intensity or wash underwear separate from kitchen towels, there’s no need to sort laundry into countless micro loads. Instead, Keith Flamer, laundry expert for Consumer Reports, suggests thinking about fabrics.
Sort delicates from synthetics and wash denim on its own—even if your favorite jeans and T-shirt are the same color. Denim, he explains, can be abrasive and damage lightweight clothing.
2. Overloading the machine
Doing fewer, larger loads might cut down on the amount of time you spend doing laundry, but your clothes may not get as clean.
“When we overstuff [the washing machine], the clothes and the detergent can't circulate enough,” Flamer says. “You end up with uneven cleaning and possibly detergent residue on your clothes.”
Flamer suggests washing two medium-sized loads instead of one extra-large load of laundry. Check your washing machine manual for recommended load sizes — they might be smaller than you think.
3. Doubling down on detergent
Detergent was designed to trap dirt and wash it down the drain in the rinse cycle, but washing machines aren’t powerful enough to keep up with excess detergent, says Patric Richardson, who calls himself the Laundry Evangelist and is host of The Laundry Guy on the Discovery+ channel.