What’s The Best Way To Separate Laundry? Everything You Need To Know…


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Wondering what the best way to separate laundry is? Look no further – all the answers are right here (with reasons for each method so you can find the perfect option for you and your home life).

What's The Best Way To Separate Laundry? Everything You Need To Know

I still remember the day I learned the importance of separating laundry the hard way.

It was a busy week, and in a rush to get everything done, I overlooked the bright red sock lurking in my pile of white laundry.

Without a thought, I dumped everything into the washing machine. Imagine my horror when I opened the washer to find my white shirts, socks, and underwear all dyed a lovely shade of pink!

This laundry fiasco was both amusing and a disaster – my favourite white t-shirt was now a shade I would never have chosen, and my husband was less than pleased at his pink underwear!

This incident serves as a stark reminder of what you want to avoid by separating your laundry effectively.

So, let’s delve into whether you should separate your laundry at all, explore the different methods to do so, and ultimately discover the best way to do it.

Which do you think is the best? Let’s see if we agree!

Should You Even Separate Laundry At All?

Some may question the necessity of separating laundry, considering it an unnecessary chore.

However, I think that you definitely should, at least for some things…

When talking about separating in case colours bleed, then it’s less important with better detergents that allow lower washing temperatures.

On the one hand you could argue that throwing everything in together is fine, but when there’s still a possibility of colours running then you may think it’s worth separating anyway.

The other thing to consider is taking care of your clothes, because washing certain fabrics together causes its own set of issues.

Different materials have unique needs; for example, your delicate silk blouse requires a gentler wash than your sturdy denim jeans.

When you sort your clothes properly, they retain their colour and fit, which saves you money in the long run as you won’t need to replace them as frequently.

The Different Ways You Could Separate Laundry

So we’ve decided that separating laundry is a good idea – just to be on the safe side if nothing else.

But now what? What are the different ways to separate it all, and which is the best option overall?

Let’s look at the possible choices:

#1 – By Colour

Sorting your laundry by colour is a common and effective method to prevent colour bleeding. Here’s how:

  1. Whites: Start by separating all your white clothes. This includes any clothing that is pure white or light enough to be considered white. Washing these items separately prevents them from picking up colours from other clothes.
  2. Lights: Next, sort out the light-coloured clothing. This category generally includes pastel and light shades such as light blue, pink, yellow, and grey. Washing these together keeps the colours bright and vibrant.
  3. Darks: Finally, gather all the dark and brightly coloured clothes. Deep colours like black, red, navy, and purple fall into this category. Washing these items separately prevents their colours from running and staining lighter clothes.

Remember, when sorting by colour, the aim is not just to prevent colour bleeding but also to maintain the colour integrity of your clothes.

Also, for new brightly coloured items, it is good practice to wash them separately for the first couple of washes as they tend to bleed more.

#2 – By Fabric Type

Sorting your laundry by fabric type is another effective technique to protect your clothes. Different fabrics have different washing needs, and washing them separately helps maintain their quality and longevity. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Delicates: Delicate items such as lingerie, silk, and lace should be washed separately, either by hand or on the delicate cycle of your washing machine. These items are vulnerable to damage from both the washing process and other, tougher fabrics.
  2. Medium Weight: This category includes fabrics like cotton, linen, and synthetic blends. They can withstanding normal to high washing temperatures and regular agitation.
  3. Heavy Duty: Items like denim jeans, sweatshirts, and towels fall into this category. These tough fabrics can handle rigorous washing and higher temperatures, but their rough texture can damage more delicate items if washed together.

This method of laundry separation prolongs the life of your clothes, keeps them looking their best, and prevents damage during washing.

#3 – By Temperature

Sorting your laundry by temperature is another method that is often overlooked but can be quite beneficial.

Different types of fabrics require different washing temperatures to maintain their integrity and cleanliness.

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Cold Wash: Items that are prone to shrinking or colour bleeding should be washed in cold water. This includes bright colours, dark colours, and delicate fabrics. Cold water is also beneficial for clothes with stains from blood, wine, or coffee as heat can set these stains.
  2. Warm Wash: The majority of your laundry can be washed in warm water. This includes synthetic fibres, knits, and jeans. Warm water is particularly good for getting body oils out of clothing.
  3. Hot Wash: Sturdy fabrics like white cotton bed sheets and towels are best washed in hot water to remove any germs and allergens. Hot water should be used sparingly as it can shrink clothes and fade colours.

This method of laundry separation ensures that your clothes are washed effectively, without damaging the fabric or setting stains.

#4 – By Dirt Level

Sorting your laundry by dirt level can sound peculiar, but it is an excellent strategy to ensure that your clothes are properly cleaned. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lightly soiled: Items like office wear, casual wear that hasn’t been sweated in, and bed linens fall into this category. These clothes can be washed together on a regular wash cycle, which will adequately clean them without unnecessary wear and tear.
  2. Moderately soiled: This category includes clothes that you’ve sweated in, like gym clothes, or clothes that have light stains. These need a heavy-duty cycle or a pre-soak before the wash cycle to ensure they’re properly cleaned.
  3. Heavily soiled: Items that are heavily stained or soiled, like children’s play clothes, work uniforms, or clothes that have been worn during heavy physical activity fall into this category. These clothes should be washed separately on a heavy-duty cycle with a pre-soak, and may require spot treatment for stains.

By sorting and washing your clothes according to the level of dirtiness, you can ensure they’re cleaned effectively without causing unnecessary wear on lightly soiled clothes.

#5 – By Speciality

Sorting your laundry by speciality is a method that caters to certain types of clothing with specific washing needs. Here’s how you can do this:

  1. Activewear: Sportswear and fitness clothing often contain materials like spandex and polyester that require special care. These materials can break down in hot water or from the friction in a full load of laundry. Washing these items separately can help preserve their form and function.
  2. Bedding: Items like comforters, blankets, and pillows often require special washing instructions due to their size and material. Washing these separately ensures they are cleaned properly and maintain their shape.
  3. Towels: These usually need a high temperature wash to make sure they’re kept hygienic.
  4. Outdoor Wear: Certain items may need detergents that add waterproofing into the fabrics.
  5. Baby Clothes: Babies’ sensitive skin makes it important to wash their clothes separately, using a gentle detergent that won’t irritate their skin. Their clothes also tend to be more soiled than adult clothes, which is another reason to wash them separately.
  6. Delicates: Silks, wools and underwear fall into this category.
  7. Normal Wear: This is for everything else! Any clothes and items that need a general wash.

Following this method of laundry separation caters specifically to the needs of specialty items, ensuring their longevity and cleanliness.

#6 – By Person

Another way that a lot of people now use is simply a low temperature wash for everything that belongs to each person in the house.

That way all items from their laundry basket can go in, be dried, and then return to their room pretty quickly. No sorting needed!

This method doesn’t take into account any special needs of the clothing items, so it’s one to use with caution for sure.

So, What’s The Best Way To Separate Laundry?

For me, it’s what I call ‘Speciality Plus’.

The reason for this is that I like to split everything up by speciality first – and then see what each group contains and split further if necessary.

Usually this means the following loads in a week:

  • Bedding * 1
  • Towels * 1
  • Activewear * 1
  • Delicates * 1
  • Normal wear * 3 (could be split by person)

Plus any odd washes throughout the year for one-off items.

Make It Easy With A Schedule

Laundry schedule - finished

As you can see from my example above, there are 7 washes needed each week with the odd extra one as and when.

This means that I could have a specific day(s) for each one.

It makes for an easy schedule – as on bedding day I could do more than one load if needed – but I can focus on doing bedding and making sure it’s being washed correctly.

I would definitely recommend making a schedule based on your laundry separation, as this makes the whole process much more streamlined.

Check The Label!

Lastly, when talking about separating laundry and washing it – it would be remiss of me not to remind you to always check the label on items of clothes before you do anything.

This will make sure you’re right about the ideal way to wash it before you do anything. Better to be safe than sorry!

(and once you know each item of clothing you’ll know what’s needed more easily…).

What's The Best Way To Separate Laundry? Everything You Need To Know

And that’s it – the rundown of all the laundry separation methods you could pick, and what I consider the best option out there, all things considered.

I hope it’s helped you decide what’s best for you, and that laundry goes a little easier from now on.


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This article was written by Chrissy

Hi - I'm Chrissy... Having run my own business for 12 years as a Professional Organiser and Interior Designer, I know what works (and what doesn't!) when it comes to setting up a home that works both functionally and aesthetically. Now you can mostly find me in a coffee shop or at home, working full time on (which I setup back in 2011) sharing all my tips and ideas. My mission is to help you create a home that you love to live in every day...


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