Skip Navigation

How to Sort Your Laundry

The first step to doing your laundry is sorting garments into different piles based on color, fabric and other considerations. This is the easiest way to decide which clothes should run in which wash cycle and to avoid garment damage, fabric shrinking and color transfer. Follow the steps below to ensure you're sorting your laundry properly and keeping your wardrobe in tip-top shape.

Towels and linens

Put towels and linens in their own pile. These are generally thicker fabrics that should be washed apart from your clothes.  


Separate clothes

The first thing you should do when separating your clothes is to group them by color. This is important because washing different colors together risks transferring dye from one garment to another.

You also want to separate clothes based on their weight or thickness. If you run thick fabrics like denim together with thin garments like lingerie, the thin garments could rip in the washer. Plus, these differently weighted garments will dry at different speeds.

Here are six suggestions for different laundry piles:

  • Whites - White t-shirts, underwear, socks
  • Darks - Black, gray, navy blue, purple, dark red
  • Light colors - Pastels like pink, lavender, yellow, light green, light blue
  • Bright colors - Any bright color including red, blue, green, purple, yellow
  • Denim - All jeans and other denim
  • Delicates - Pantyhose, lingerie, silk

Check tags

Before washing each load, take a look at the clothing tags to make sure you accommodate your garments' special needs. Some pieces are dry-clean only, while others need to be air-dried. Make sure to follow the directions on the clothing tag.



Choose wash cycles

You'll need to select the appropriate wash cycle for each pile. When choosing the water temperature, remember to wash your bright colors in cold water to keep them looking vivid. Dark and light colors may do best in warm water, while whites can withstand hot water.

When choosing the wash cycle, keep in mind how durable each fabric is. Thick fabrics like denim can withstand the high spin speed of a normal cycle, while delicates will need the gentle agitation of a delicate cycle. If you want to take advantage of more specialized cycles, such as a steam cycle or permanent press cycle, you should make a separate pile for each of these cycles.


Prepare clothes for washing

Just before throwing them in the washer, check all pockets for change, wallets, phones and anything else you don't want going through the wash. Make sure to remove belts from pants.

Generally speaking, you should turn clothing right-side-out to make sure the outside of the garment is most exposed to the detergent. However, some jeans and other dyed clothes specify on their tags that you should wash them inside-out.

Finally, remember to pre-treat any stains with stain remover, vinegar or another blemish-blaster. There are many ways to remove stains from laundry, so make sure you're using the right products.