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How to wash white, dark and coloured clothes

Learn important tips for washing different colour clothes

Hooray for laundry day! Everyone loves clean clothes, which is why it’s important to know how to care for your family’s favourite outfits. One of the best ways to keep everyone looking sharp is by learning how to wash white, black, dark and coloured clothes properly. By using the tips below, you can help keep your shirts, pants, skirts, sweaters and blouses looking their best.

A load of brights in a washing machine tub during a wash cycle.

1) How to clean white clothes

When it comes to washing white clothes, it’s important to remember that dirt and dye equals dingy. Be sure to wash white clothes separately from anything with colour, such as dark items or brights. Even lightly dyed items and older clothes can leech dye during a wash cycle, which can stain your whites or give them a dull, grey appearance.

Also before washing whites, be sure to separate heavily soiled items from lightly soiled ones. This will help prevent dirt or stain particles from settling on other items during the wash cycle.

Once your whites are loaded into the washing machine, select a detergent with an added booster, or add oxygen bleach, borax or washing soda to the detergent dispenser. Lastly, wash your whites in the hottest water your fabric will tolerate to help power out stains and reduce dinginess.

2) How to wash dark or black clothes

As mentioned above, be sure to separate any dark clothes from lights, brights and whites before washing. While it is possible to wash black clothes with other dark fabrics, you may wish to wash black items separately from other dark clothes to avoid dulling or staining. However, if you don’t have enough black/dark clothes for a full load, you can combine them.

Next, sort your items by fabric weight, turn the clothes inside out and fasten zippers, buttons or hooks to reduce friction. Clothing fibers can break when rubbed against rough surfaces, which will make dark or black clothes look faded.

To help keep dyes from bleeding, select detergent without boosters or bleach alternatives, use the shortest wash cycle possible and opt for cold water. Heat can stress and fade dark fabric, so use the lowest dryer cycle heat setting and remove your clothes as soon as they are finished.

3) How to wash coloured clothes

In some ways, washing coloured clothes is similar to washing dark clothes. However, it is important to separate colours more thoroughly than darks to avoid staining from dyes.

Try to group colours together – wash pastels in one group, and separate reds, oranges and yellows from green or blue items. If your brights are brand new, wash them separately for the first few washes to help keep them from bleeding dye onto other clothes. As with dark clothes, secure zippers, buttons and hooks and turn all items inside out.

Choose the shortest wash cycle possible based on the level of soiling, and use cold water. If one of your brights bleeds onto another, do not place the soiled item in the dryer – heat will set the stain. Instead, wash this item separately in cold water until the dye washes out.

A woman rinsing a yellow garment with her washing machine.

4) Other laundry tips

Before you toss your clothes in the washing machine, take some time to double check labels and set aside clothes that need hand washing or are dry clean only. Pre-treat stained clothes and set them aside to wash separately if they are heavily soiled. To avoid damaging clothing fibres, try to group and wash fabrics of similar weight together.

Lastly, wash towels and sheets separately from clothes, using a long, hot wash cycle to ensure a thorough cleaning.