How to do Laundry: The Ultimate Guide

How to do Laundry: The Ultimate Guide

Most households do laundry several times a week to make sure they always have clean clothes to wear for work or even just around the house.

No matter how long you’ve been doing laundry for, this guide may be able to help you figure out how to do laundry in a more effective and efficient way. Master the basics of laundry with this easy eight-step guide on how to wash and dry clothes, and to better understand the many aspects of laundry.

Step 1: Decoding Laundry Symbols

There are a lot of symbols associated with clothing and how to wash and/or dry them. What do the various washing symbols on your clothing care tags mean?

The first thing to do is review a clothing label to find your fabric information followed by a series of symbols. Make sure you distinguish between the washing and drying symbols.

The next thing you want to do is spend some time understanding how different fabric types respond to various water temperatures, detergents, and agitation. This is important information to know before washing a load of laundry.

Someone reading the laundry tags on a green article of clothing.

The most common laundry care symbols provide information about how to wash, heat level, bleach usage, dry cycles, ironing and dry cleaning.

Learn more here about decoding laundry care symbols

For your reference, download this useful infographic from Whirlpool.


If your whites are looking a little worn down, consult the triangle on the clothes’ label (if there is one) as this usually provides bleaching instructions.


Most laundry machines remove the need for ironing. If a particular piece of clothing does require ironing, or you simply want nice creases in your pants, symbols shaped like an old-fashioned iron offer guidance on how to do it.

Step 2: Prep your Clothes

Your laundry routine should begin with prepping your clothes for the washing machine.

Start getting your laundry load ready by double checking all the labels. You will want to set aside any articles of clothing that are hand wash or dry clean only.

Once your load is sorted, empty every single pocket, close all the zippers, fasten every hook and tie any strings. Then, turn clothing that may have a tendency to retain odour and fade inside out (this can include jeans and athletic wear). It’s also recommended to turn sweaters inside out to help avoid piling.

Pretreat any stains or soiled areas. Certain top load washers feature a water station where you can soak and pretreat garments with either just water or a mixture of water and detergent to treat stains prior to being washed. Select Whirlpool® top load washers have a Pretreat Station. This station allows you to soak, scrub and wash right in the washer with a built-in dual temperature faucet and pretreat brush. Learn more about Whirlpool innovative washer features here.

Someone scrubbing the stain on an article of clothing over a washing machine with items inside as it fills with water.

Wash your gym clothes inside out. This will help soapy water reach the inside surface where sweat and odour get trapped.


New articles of clothing should be washed on their own for their first few cycles. This is because new clothes may bleed dye more readily, and you want to avoid that new red blouse ruining your entire load.

Before washing, take some time to learn a few general stain removal rules or to refresh yourself on the basics:

  • You should always immediately treat stains. Fresh stains can be easier to remove than old ones that have set in. If the stain is on a non-washable fabric, you may want to hand it over to a dry cleaner as soon as possible. Make sure you mention the stain and the fiber content of the garment.
  • Always read and follow package directions when using any stain removal product.
  • Always test stain removers on an inside seam or any hidden part of a garment for color fastness. Perform a test by applying the product and then letting it stand for 2-5 minutes, and then rinsing it. If you notice that the colour has changed, avoid using this stain remover on the garment.
  • When trying to remove a stain, place the stained area face down on either a clean and dry paper towel or white cloth. Next, apply the stain remover to the underside of the stain. This will compel the stain off the fabric surface, instead of through it.
  • Only use bleach on an entire garment, not just one area, to prevent uneven colour removal. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s product use instructions and always read and follow the care instructions and any warnings on the garment care label regarding the use of bleach.
  • It’s recommended to never add chemical dry cleaning solvents directly into a washing machine.
  • Avoid causing a fire by carefully and thoroughly rinsing and air-drying the area(s) of a garment that were treated with dry cleaning solvents prior to being placed in the washer.
  • Avoid mixing stain removal products. Certain mixtures, like ammonia and chlorine bleach, can produce noxious fumes.

Curious how to get dried paint out of clothes? Check out this detailed guide here.

Step 3: Sort and Separate Laundry

First sort by colour and then consider fabric type and soil level until you have separated every item into full loads of similar clothes. Check the tag attached to items for any special instructions with respect to sorting.

A woman in a pink shirt stands at an island, pulling a sheet out of a wicker basket. On the granite counter is a pile of laundry. Behind her are a washing machine and dryer. Above the laundry appliances are shelves filled with baskets and laundry detergent bottles.

COLOUR: separate whites, lights and darks to avoid risk of dyes bleeding out and staining other items.

FABRIC TYPE: denim, cotton, synthetics, blends, delicates, towels and bedding. Washing your delicates and more durable fabrics separately can help prevent damage. This is because heavier fabrics are often more abrasive, which can cause an abundance of wear and tear on delicate clothes, resulting in these items potentially getting damaged. It can also result in more even drying, if they are dried together.

SOIL LEVEL: separate heavily soiled articles of clothing from lightly soiled one. Often, items that are heavily soiled should be washed in a longer, heavy-duty cycle.


Separate lint-givers from lint-takers. You will have a better chance of keeping lint off clothes by washing lint-giving fabrics, like towels, separately from lint-takers like synthetics, knits and corduroy.

Step 4: Add Detergent

Now it’s time to add detergent but don’t just thoughtlessly pour it into the machine.

If your washer requires High-Efficiency (HE) detergent, be sure that you’re using HE detergent. This quick guide can help you learn more about HE detergent.

Measure detergent per the package instructions. You will then pour the detergent into the dispenser or, if there isn’t one, pour it right into the tub. How much detergent you need will depend on the load size and the detergent concentration. If you prefer using detergent pod, place it in the bottom of the tub.

Swash™ liquid laundry detergent from Whirlpool Corporation is equally effective in both HE and non-HE washers. It is 8x concentrated, so you can use less than most other regular detergents. Also, the compact and intelligent bottle design features a Precision Pour Cap to prevent waste that is the result of over pouring. Learn more here.

On a wooden shelf next to a white wall is a bottle of Swash liquid laundry detergent. Next to that bottle is a metal basket.

Some washing machines are designed with an automatic detergent dispenser designed. This can help you save time and deliver an effective clean. It works by calculating how much detergent is required and removes the chore of adding detergent to every single load.Select Whirlpool® top and front load washers feature the Load & Go™ dispenser, where you can simply add detergent once and, depending on the model, skip refills for up to 20-40 loads (Based on an 8 lb load).

Someone pouring blue liquid laundry detergent from a red and white bottle into the dispenser of a washing machine.

Is fabric softener part of your laundry routine? Fabric softeners smooth and coat fibers that help make them feel softer to the touch, combat wrinkles, reduce static and can sometimes add a fresh scent to your laundry. For liquid softener, always measure the right amount for your load, as per the fabric softener packaging. Add liquid fabric softener into the designated softener dispenser at the start of your wash, if this feature is available on your model. Lastly, remember to always check the care label of each clothing item before use.

blue liquid laundry detergent being poured out of the spout of a bottle into the dispenser of a washing machine.

You can usually find specific information in your owner’s manual. If your washer doesn’t have a dispenser, manually add liquid fabric softener during the final rinse cycle while the tub is full of water. Do not add during the wash cycle, as it will only serve to rinse away the effects of the softener.

Step 5: Load the Washer

If you’ve followed the steps up to this point, then you are now ready to load the washer.
Loosely and evenly place items into the washer around the tub. Ensure that they have room to move around in the water and tumble.


When washing bulky single items like a jacket, add a few extra items around the tub to balance the weight.

Step 6: Select the Wash Settings

Many modern washing machines offer a slew of cycle options, each designed to ensure your clothes are cleaned as needed. The Normal cycle is most likely your best bet for your day-to-day loads. You may have to deal with various stains and fabric types so give thought to another cycle option to achieve the most optimal clean.

Always check the use and care instructions on your appliance and clothing labels before washing.

Choose the cycle, temperature, spin speed and extras:

Select a cycle that best matches your specific load. You may select a different wash temperature based on the soil level and the type of fabric you need to wash. If you don’t know which cycle to use, see this Laundry Cycle Guide to find out.

Someone selecting a setting on the black control panel of a washing machine.

Some typical cycle options include:

Cold water wash: generally used to wash bright or darkly coloured cotton, linens, casual items, mixed loads or clothes with cold water stains.

Delicate cycle: a popular cycle for lightly soiled sheer fabrics, lingerie, sweaters, blouses, pants or anything where the tag recommends a “gentle” cycle. It usually brings together gentle wash action with low-speed spin for gentle cleaning and often reduces wrinkling.

Wrinkle Control/Permanent Press Cycle: Often used for any item with this specific symbol on its care tag such as fabrics that are prone to wrinkling like button-up shirts, professional clothes, linens, activewear or non-iron clothing. It utilizes warm water and slower spin cycles to release existing wrinkles while also preventing new ones from setting.

The next step is to select add-ons like steam or a longer soak to help with loads that require additional cleaning power.

Someone selecting a cycle option on a washing machine.

Cycle options on select Whirlpool® washing machines:

On select Whirlpool® front load washers, you can add the FanFresh® Option. This uses a built-in fan once the wash cycle is over, usually tumbling clothes for up to 12 hours.

The sanitize cycle on select Whirlpool® washers uses hot/extra-hot water temperatures to remove 99.9% of common household bacteria (Bacteria tested were K. pneumoniae, P. aeruginosa, S. aureus).

For more customizable laundry cycles, consider Whirlpool® washers and dryers with Intuitive Touch Controls. These models make it easy to select the appropriate settings for a load. Learn more here.

Through the window on the washing machine door: white arrows indicating that clothes of various colours are turning as they are being washed.

When washing bulky single items like a jacket, add a few extra items around the tub to balance the weight.

Step 7: Get Ready to Dry

You always want to transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer as soon as they are ready to lessen the potential for wrinkles and to help prevent the build-up of any odour.

Consider doing the following:

  • As you load, set aside stained articles of and anything that requires air drying per the tag.
  • Fill the dryer about halfway for permanent press loads and three-quarters of the way for normal loads. Tightly balled up clothes or an overly packed drum will slow dry times and could wrinkle items.
  • Clean the dryer’s lint screen with your fingers by rolling off the lint. Never use water to remove lint. A clean lint screen can help maintain good air circulation and produce fast dry times.

Step 8: Select the Dryer Settings

Many dryer models have an array of features and cycle options that can both increase efficiency and optimize performance. Always consult your clothing’s care tag and you can refer to this quick guide to understand what the symbols mean.

Typical cycle options may include:

Regular/Automatic: typically a high heat setting best suited for cotton and other items that take longer to dry like sweatshirts, jeans, sheets, to name a few.

Delicate/Gentle: usually a lower heat setting that is perfect for loosely woven fabrics or anything with embellishment like beading, or the iron-on decals often found on sport jerseys. Always dry spandex or workout attire on low heat as this prevents the fabric from fraying, fading and stretching.

Permanent Press: this is usually a medium heat setting that can work well for clothes made of synthetic fibers or specially treated to protect against wrinkles. It also typically can employ a cool down period close to the end of the cycle, switching from warm air to room temperature air, in an effort to keep clothes from wrinkling or creasing.

To further aid wrinkle prevention, certain dryers will periodically tumble the load at the end of the cycle (usually without adding more heat) to help keep wrinkles from forming and setting. The periodic tumbling can continue for anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the dryer model.

Inside a washing machine: pink, purple, grey and yellow articles of clothing.

Some dryer models also offer a Steam Cycle that utilizes water and heat to help release wrinkles without the need to rewash. Generally, it can also help eliminate odours and some lighter stains. Select Whirlpool® Dryers have a Wrinkle Shield™ Plus Option with Steam. This uses tumbling and steam for up to 150 minutes once the cycle has concluded for improved wrinkle-fighting performance. Learn more about Whirlpool Dryers and their innovative features.

The hamper of a dryer is opened. Someone wearing a grey shirt is pulling out grey, pink and yellow laundry.

Many modern dryers are built with auto-sensing technology. Instead of ending the cycle once the set time is reached, the dryer uses a moisture sensor to determine if the items in the load are almost completely dry and stops the cycle then. Select Whirlpool® Dryers have a moisture sensing feature that uses 3 sensors to help prevent overdrying. They can track moisture and temperature, adapting drying times to end the cycle at just the right time.


The “tumble dry” symbols mean that you can dry the garment in your dryer instead of air drying it.

Step 9: Find Space to Neatly Fold

Inside a laundry room. Next to white cabinets are a washer and dryer. Above the washer and dryer are shelves filled with jars and baskets. On the floor, in front of the washer and dryer, is a wicker basket. A woman in a grey cardigan and jeans folds dish cloths next to a sink. Next to her is a white hamper filled with towels and/or dish cloths.

Once you use these steps to wash and dry your laundry, you want to find a clean, flat surface where you can fold. Designating a space for folding can make sure that items stay clean and wrinkle-free.

One helpful option are hamper doors, available on select Whirlpool® top load dryers. They offer a convenient place to get your clothes ready to be put away. Simply drop down the latch-free door and use it as a sturdy platform for unloading, folding and stacking.

You should now be all set to tackle laundry day! Keep this guide handy so that every load of laundry you wash and dry can be done efficiently and without damaging your favourite blouse or lucky pair of socks.

To further help you out, Whirlpool® laundry appliances come with a range of features to transform laundry into less of a chore. Learn more here.

Browse our full lineup of washers and dryers to find the right fit for your household and lifestyle

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