Washing your clothes

Whether you have a washing machine at home or not, you can wash your own clothes quickly and easily

home washing machines

  • If you have a washing machine in your home, learn how to use it
  • Your parent or carer should be able to help you the first time, or you can often find the manual online
  • Washing machines all offer a range of different washing programmes at different temperatures.
  • Different programmes are suitable for different types of fabric and different levels of dirtiness
  • The general rule is to wash similar colours and similar fabrics together

The main programmes you are likely to use are:

  • mixed or cotton wash for whites – at 40° or 60°
  • mixed or cotton wash for coloureds – at 30° or 40°
  • hand wash programme for wool or delicate garments – at 30° or 40°

Doing a wash

When preparing for a wash:

  • sort all your dirty clothes, sheets, towels etc into “whites” and “coloureds”
  • check the care labels on your clothes for any special instructions; if it’s not clear on the labels, the meaning of the different care symbols is explained here . Remember – the temperatures listed are the recommended maximum temperatures for washing that item
  • put aside any clothes that are ‘dry-clean only’ or ‘hand-wash only’ or have any other special instructions. Deal with these separately (see below)
  • check whether you have enough whites or coloureds for a reasonably full load (it is uneconomical to run a washing machine for a few items only)

Once you have enough items for a wash:

  • check and empty any pockets. Pens and tissues will spoil your load; electronic items will be ruined
  • turn items inside-out if the care label tell you to (eg for jeans)
  • fill the washing machine loosely
  • put in the required amount of detergent
  • add fabric softener if you want (for extra fluffiness and/or the scent)
  • select and start the correct programme.

You should always choose the lowest maximum temperature allowed for the items. So if most items in your load can be washed at 40° but one can only be washed at 30°, you must either do the whole load at 30° or save the 30° item for a different load

‘Dry-clean only’ clothes

These are likely to be damaged by washing, so need to be taken to a dry-cleaners and professionally cleaned. This is an expensive and sometimes tedious process (if you do not have a dry-cleaners near you), so:

  • try to avoid buying ‘dry-clean only’ clothes in the first place
  • avoid having to dry-clean jackets and coats too frequently by hanging them up after use with plenty of air around them – near an open window is best

Sometimes you may be able to wash ‘dry-clean only’ silk and woollen garments on a delicate wash, but be careful; don’t experiment on your favourite new item, and be aware that the finish may deteriorate over time.

‘Hand-wash only’  clothes

  • See if your washing machines has a ‘delicates’ and/or a ‘woollens’ programme designed to wash clothes as gently as possible
  • It it does, you can safely use these for ‘hand-wash only’ clothes
  • Use a special liquid detergent which is gentler than normal washing powder

Canvas shoes and trainers

  • If your shoes’ care label specifically says they can be washed in a machine, then you will be safe
  • Putting them in a pillowcase first will helps to protect the machine
  • If washing is not specifically recommended, then be careful:  you can find completely opposing advice on the internet, so use your skill and judgement and do not experiment with your most expensive brand-new trainers.

Stain removal

  • Remove stains as quickly as possible
  • You can buy stain removal liquids for different types of fabric and different types of stain
  • Keep stain removers for the most common type of stains you get
  • Always follow instructions for use – normally you apply the product and leave for a while before washing the item as normal

Stain removal gets some people very excited, and a quick Google will bring up all sorts of suggestions and advice if you’re interested.

Using a launderette

  • Washing machines in launderettes are very different. Generally, they are bigger and simpler
  • Prices vary from place to place. You can generally choose either to wait and watch your washing go round and round for an hour or so (take some homework or reading with you), or you might be able to pay extra for a “service wash” where a member of the launderette staff will take it out and perhaps even fold it for you
  • Even if you have a washing machine, launderettes can be useful for bigger items that don’t easily fit into a domestic washing machine.

See also our pages on:

Do your laundry
Drying your clothes