How To Do Laundry For Beginners

How To Do Laundry For Beginners will walk you through each step of laundering your clothes and linens. With clear, easy to follow steps you will learn a better, more efficient way of cleaning your clothing.

Laundry soap bottle sitting next to wicker basket full of folded clothes. Washing machine in the background.

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There are essential lessons in life that are never taught inside the walls of a school. Balancing a checkbook, washing dishes, making a meal, and washing your clothes, for instance. If you happened to grow up in a home where these lessons weren’t taught, then how do you learn them?

This was my dilemma 15 years ago when I first got married and was then responsible for my own home. I had no idea how to do most of these “normal” chores and no idea who to ask.

I felt embarrassed that as someone in my 20s I didn’t know these things. And even 15 years ago, I really couldn’t find this information on the internet. No one had a book out about how to take care of a home, at least not that I was aware of.

So this is my driving force behind sharing what I have learned and what has worked for me. Hopefully if there is someone out there who like me, so badly needed someone to teach them. I pray I can be a help to that person.

Towels hanging out of washer in the background. Woman holding a cup pouring laundry detergent into the cup.

How to Do Laundry for Beginners

As with any task, laundry day can be broken down into easy to follow steps. I will also address different situations, such as how to wash different types of fabric, options for washer settings, and when NOT to dry clothing in the dryer.

Gather Your Laundry Supplies

Laundry requires some simple products and tools in addition to your washing machine and dryer, or clothesline.

Basic items such as laundry baskets, detergent, stain remover, and fabric softener are all you need to have your clothing fresh and clean once again.

Pro tip: Simple Supplies!

You do not need a ton of fancy gadgets or the latest organizers to get your laundry done well. Develop a routine that works best for you and then dial in the organization and streamline your process.

Bars of plain white soap beside a whicker basket with wooden clothespins, a wooden bowl of grated soap, a small dish with a block of soap that says "Savon de Marseille" a jar of homemade laundry detergent and a jar of baking soad with a wooden scoop. A natural round brush sits beside the baking soda. A yellow towel is in the background on the left. A natural linen looking waffle texture towel is in the background on the right.

Choosing a Detergent and Softener

The type of detergent you use on your clothing and linens can be determined by looking at 5 different factors. The type of fabric, the care requirements of your clothing, the soil level, your machine, and your personal preferences.

There are detergents that are specifically formulated for delicate fabrics or heavily soiled garments. Some have extra cleaners for stain fighting. Some are whitening and brightening.

There are even detergents that are color fast for darks or have special enzymes to fight odors and specific types of stains.

When choosing laundry detergents, also take into account any allergies to dyes or scents your family might have.

We do not have any allergies but we are all sensitive to scents so we prefer to find detergents that are dye and scent free. In place of liquid fabric softener (or dryer sheet), I use wool dryer balls to keep static cling at bay.

Also determine if a liquid detergent or a powder detergent works best for your washer. Most owners manuals will recommend a certain type of laundry soap that works best in their machines.

I personally use a liquid detergent as I have found it cleans and dissolves better during the washing cycle. I have also made my own DIY liquid laundry detergent in the past.

Pro tip: Detergent decisions!

Do not feel you have to use a particular brand, or the trendy crunchy granola detergent. I love crunchy granola, and if you want to use that, then you do that. But which ever detergent works best for your family’s need will be the best choice. I got you mama.

Sort Clothing by Color and Fabric Type

Let’s take a look at sorting clothes. This is an important step in laundry that is often overlooked or skipped.

For best results, it is essential to sort dirty laundry into separate piles by the color and fabric type. This is to prevent color bleeding and shrinkage.

Garments can be sorted into four categories: white garments, brights, dark clothes, and delicates.

White clothes can be washed with bleach, if you prefer, to keep them crisp and fresh looking. If your towels and bed sheets are white, they fall into this wash category also.

Dark colors can be washed with cold water which will keep them from fading. I would include anything denim in the category.

White clothing and linens in soapy water with bubbles.
Bright aqua colored linens in soapy water.

Brights should be washed together so that they do not bleed onto to lighter fabrics and they are not dulled by darker fabrics.

Delicates require mild detergents and cold water to keep the condition of the fabric fibers in like new condition. Delicate fabrics are wool, very thin cotton, linen, silk, or garments with things like lace, beading, or embroidery.

Special care should be taken when you wash delicates because many delicate items require different detergent and washer settings.

Once you have your clothing separated by color and fabric type, it is important to check the care labels inside each garment or linens to properly wash them.

Pro tip: Sort Without Stress!

Please don’t stress over sorting! I know we have ALL heard the horror stories of the red shirt sneaking into the white towels and now you have to change your entire bathroom aesthetic to match your newly pink towels. But trust me, even if you don’t sort perfectly, it will be okay. Your clothes will still get clean!

Laundry guide graphic with symbols found in fabric care labels in clothing and linens.

Following Fabric Care Labels

Each item to be washed will have a label that includes care instructions specifically chosen for the type of fabric it is made of.

Following your garments’ fabric care labels can reduce fading and general wear and tear. This is the ideal way to keep your garments in the best condition.

Above you will find a chart explaining each of the most common laundry symbols you may find on the labels of your garments. Be sure to check out our post on Decoding Laundry Symbols and Care Labels!

Choosing the Correct Washer Settings

You may have noticed that your washer (and dryer) have quite a menu of settings for you to choose from. How do you know if your wash is Normal or Delicate? What clothes should be washed on Heavy Duty? And what on earth is the Permanent Press setting? Let’s find out!

So you have all of your supplies gathered. You have a mound of dirty clothes that is ready to grow legs and run away, and you managed to wrangle them all into neat little sorted piles. Well done!

Now that you have taken a look at the labels to know how to wash your garments, let’s demystify the washer settings, shall we?


The most commonly used wash setting is Normal. Sometimes labeled (depending on your brand of washer) as Regular or Cotton,

Normal is a general setting for cotton apparel and blended type fabrics (such as synthetics) with a normal everyday dirt level. This cycle works well for sheets and towels, as well.


The Delicate cycle is about the closest thing, washing machine wise, to hand washing. Using a very low agitation and spin cycle is crucial for protecting delicate fabrics or fabrics with ornate designs.

Ideal for light fabrics, like silk, or synthetics as well as textiles prone to shrink easily such as wool. Delicate cycle is what you will use for those items that would be damaged if handled too harshly.

Heavy Duty

Heavy Duty is a setting that is kind of self explanatory. All of your heavy duty items such as comforters, jackets, even heavy work wear or jeans can be washed in the cycle.

Have a whole load of towels you need to wash? Heavy Duty cycle works well for that too. Utilizing a heavier agitation with a much longer wash time, the heavy duty cycle cleans your big bulky items as well as very dirty clothes.

Does your husband have a job that brings home heavily soiled clothes? Then this is the cycle for that job!

Permanent Press

Permanent Press is the cycle for your wash and wear, every day synthetics. This cycle is best for items with an average soil level and gets them clean in less time than the Normal setting.

Perfect for workout wear, performance wear, and even typical polo shirts or golf shirts, the Permanent Press cycle gets the job done in less time.

White clothes dryer with door open. A caucasian looking hand is holding the lint trap of the dryer in front.
Clothesline with wooden clothespins holding up white and clue striped cloth, a white and grey zigzag print cloth, and a chambray blue apron with white lace detail.

Drying Clothes: Machine or Air Drying

When it comes time to dry your clothing, you have options. The quickest option is to just take them out of the washer, and toss them in to the dryer.

But if you are up for an adventure, then you might want to look in to air drying your clothing. Most common form of air drying is utilizing an outdoor clothesline or a drying rack.

The versatility and easy to store function of a drying rack makes a great hybrid option for air drying some items, and can be done inside or out.

Depending on who you ask, air drying clothing inside may be a little controversial. There are some who argue that it can cause mold issues by introducing too much moisture into your home.

However, if you have a wood stove like me, then that humidity may be a welcomed friend in the dry days of winter. Plus you don’t have to freeze your fingers off hanging the wash outside. Great Grandma would be jealous!

Don’t worry, if air drying is not your thing, using your dryer is easy peasy.

With settings similar to your washer settings, you can easily choose the best one for your laundry and then start it and wait till it dings!

I tend to utilize the same settings for both the washer and the dryer depending on what I am washing at the time. Drying time will depend on the weight and type of fabrics.

Pro tip: Lint trap!

When using your clothes dryer, do not forget to empty your lint trap. This should be emptied after each load of laundry. Lint can be highly flammable, and if not regularly cleared from your dryer, it can pose a fire hazard.

Simple Tips on Laundry for Beginners

  • Be sure to consult both the owners manual for your washer and your detergent bottle to know exactly how much detergent to use for each load of wash. Using too much detergent is not only expensive, but can cause residue to build up in your washer resulting in a smelly washer or causing mechanical issues.
  • Consult your garment labels to select the correct water temperature for your wash. Too high of heat can damage the fibers of some fabrics causing your clothing to shrink.
  • Know the proper load size for your washer AND dryer. Overloading your washer can put it out of balance which can cause it to not spin properly. This can result in clothing not cleaning properly or not spinning out the excess water. This information can generally be found in your owners manual.
  • Can’t find your owners manual for your washer or dryer? No problem! Most manufacturer manuals can be found online by searching for the make and model of your machine. That information is generally found on the display of your machine or the back.
  • Once you have the hang of doing your laundry, and have found a routine that works for you, try setting up your laundry room. Organizing the space where you do laundry can help to streamline your process to make laundry day easier and more efficient.

one last thing…

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