5 Laundry Sorting Tips

laundry hampers
Sorting laundry really shouldn't be that time-consuming. If you have a few strategically labeled hampers, the job should be done as you toss dirty clothes into them.
Dorling Kindersley RF/Thinkstock

Laundry sorting, while not as dreadful a task as scrubbing toilets, is probably not all that high on most people's lists of favorite household chores, ranked down with loading the dishwasher and mopping the floors. It's a tedious, but not too taxing task, and most of us long to skip it and just throw all of our laundry into the washer in one big pile -- shirts, underwear, towels, socks, jeans, sheets, everything.

We wish we could tell you to go ahead and get rid of those extra hampers, laundry baskets and delicates bags. Nothing would please us more than giving you permission to wash your brightly hued sweaters with your white undershirts and dark-rinse jeans. But alas, you won't get that advice from us today. No, you're going to have to keep sorting -- and it's possible that you should actually be sorting more than you already are.


Sorting laundry really shouldn't be that time-consuming, though. If you have a few strategically labeled hampers, the job should be done as you toss dirty clothes into them. You won't have to sort on laundry day -- once the hamper is full, you know it's time to wash a load. Here are five tips that could make you an organized, high-efficiency sorting machine.

5: Sort by Color

"Separate brights and whites" is the mother of all laundry rules. Everyone knows it (we hope), and everyone probably breaks it from time to time -- either by accident or out of sheer laziness -- and pays for it with a load of pink socks and undershirts. No matter what your laundry-sorting habits, this is one you really have to follow, no ifs, ands or buts.


4: Sort by Weight

towels going in the wash
Sort heavy fabrics like towels from lighter fabrics so they don't get damaged -- and so they dry in about the same amount of time.

If it's never occurred to you to sort your laundry by weight, this tip might have just thrown you into a tailspin. But trust us, it doesn't take too much brainpower and won't add hours to your sorting time. It's a good idea to sort by weight so thinner fabrics don't get damaged by heavier ones, and so that everything in the load has about the same drying time. The main items that should be washed separately are jeans, towels and sheets -- not so hard, right?


3: Use a Mesh Bag for Delicates

For delicate items, like lingerie, that can get snagged, stuck and tangled if they're washed with everything else, use a mesh bag (with a zipper, not Velcro). Mesh bags are also a sure cure for missing-sock syndrome: Throw socks into one of them instead of the hamper, and wash the bag on the delicate cycle.


2: Keep it in the Bag

Speaking of mesh bags, here's an absolutely ingenious idea: Put mesh laundry bags into your hampers and throw the whole shebang into the washer. This tip is especially useful if you have older kids: Put a "whites" and "colors" hamper into each kid's room, have them toss them into the machine when the bags are full, then return the bags when it's all clean and dry -- for them to fold!


1: Separate the Stains

While you're sorting (or, ideally, as you're tossing dirty clothes in the hamper), keep an eye out for tough stains. The earlier you can catch and pre-treat a stain, the better; if a badly soiled shirt makes it all the way through the wash cycle and the dryer, the stain might never come out. Keeping all of your stained items together makes it easier to check everything after the wash cycle and ensure that all those dirty spots are gone.


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  • American Cleaning Institute. "HE Washers and Detergents." (April 3, 2012) http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/assets/1/Page/HE.pdf
  • Hinnant, Amanda. "18 Time-Saving Tips." Real Simple. (April 3, 2012) http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/life-strategies/time-management/20-timesaving-tips-tricks-10000001547685/index.html
  • Mama's Laundry Talk. "Laundry Basics: How to Sort Clothes." Oct. 25, 2010. (April 3, 2012) http://www.mamaslaundrytalk.com/2010/10/25/laundry-basics-how-to-sort-clothes/
  • Martha Stewart Living. "The Wash Cycle." January 2012. (April 3, 2012) http://www.marthastewart.com/267832/the-wash-cycle