Five laundry habits to stop immediately

Are your whites not so brilliant anymore? Your darks and colours dulling? Clothes wearing out too soon? It could be because of how you’re washing and drying them.

Help make sure your clothes look pristine and fresh in the summer sun by taking heed of these five laundry no-nos.

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1. Using the same detergent for whites and darks

It’s best to use washing powder for white washes, and liquid detergent (whether liquids, gels or capsules) for darks and bright colours.

This is because most washing powders contain bleaching agents. This is an excellent way of keeping your white clothes bright but it could also make your dark clothes fade with repeated washing.

Liquid detergents, on the other hand, don’t use the same bleaching agents, so help your more colourful clothes keep their vibrancy.

Washing powder and laundry detergent reviews – the best blitz the toughest stains; the worst let them hang around.

2. Over or under-washing

While you don’t want to be known for wearing smelly clothes, you don’t always need to wash everything after wearing it once.

If you haven’t been doing something to get your clothes particularly dirty or smelly, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Underwear: 1 wear
  • Bra: 2-3 wears
  • T-shirt: 1-2 wears
  • Workout wear: 1 wear
  • Whites: 1-2 wears
  • Swimwear: 1 wear
  • Dress: 1-3 wears
  • Skirt: 5-7 wears

For jeans, Levi’s CEO and President Chip Bergh famously advocates for never washing them unless really necessary, instead just spot cleaning them and letting them air on a line to refresh them.

While it is ultimately down to you to use your best judgement, (failing all else, doing a ‘sniff test’ is a great fail safe) washing your clothes less often does have many perks.

Not only will it keep your clothes in good condition for longer but also mean you’re using your washing machine less often, saving energy and water. Speaking of which…

3. Washing everything at the same temperature

Most Which? members clean their clothes on a 40°C cycle, but it’s a good idea to adjust the temperature based on the load going into your washing machine.

For lightly soiled clothes, a 30°C or even 20°C wash could do the trick. A Which? investigation found that a 30°C wash uses a 38% less energy than a 40°C one. A 20°C wash will cut it down by 62%.

For bedding, towels, and clothes with lots of tough stains, you’ll probably want a hotter cycle.

For more guidelines, including at what temperatures you should wash underwear, bed sheets and baby clothes, consult our washing machine temperatures guide breakdown.

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4. Putting up with a smelly washing machine

Mould build-up in washing machines is tricky to avoid, but it looks unsightly and smells bad, so you probably don’t like cleaning your clothes in it.

To get rid of it and save your nostrils from smelly and musty odours, the good news is that you don’t need to buy any additional detergents or cleaning products; you just need to do a bit of regular cleaning of your machine.

Follow these step-by-step to oust smells:

  • Run a regular, hot, service wash every few months (with washing machine cleaner)
  • Gently clean the rubber seal with anti-bacterial wipe
  • Wash the detergent drawer (you can something completely remove it to wash in the sink)
  • Clean out the lint filter behind the latch just beneath the washing machine door
  • Leave your washing machine’s door and drawer open after washes to let humidity escape

For more info, watch our full step-by-step video guide on how to clean a smelly washing machine.

5. Throwing everything into the tumble dryer

Putting everything from your washing machine wash straight into the tumble dryer isn’t the best approach for getting dry clothes.

Firstly, it’s a waste of energy if you can just let your clothes air dry. We’ve tested hundreds of dryers, and you may be shocked to find out that on average condenser models cost £90 a year to run (based on drying three loads a week).

Plus, there are some clothes you should never tumble anyway – unless you want them to fray, sag, or ruin:

  • Bras: the heat could bend them out of shape.
  • Swimming costumes: the Lycra in them can distort and break.
  • Tights: the delicate material can tear.
  • Embellished clothes: sequins could put tiny rips into other clothes, and stones or beads can melt.
  • Shoes and trainers: the glue that attaches the sole to the rest of the shoe will melt in high temperatures

For more tumble dryer tips and tricks, take a look at our tumble dryer FAQs.

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More washing tips

Which? has tested and researched washing machines for decades, so we’re a good bet if you want to know how to keep your clothes clean and surviving for as long as possible.

Treat yourself to a browse of all our washing machine advice. We have everything you need to know, including how to fix a dodgy detergent drawer, how to deal with strange sounds from your washing machine, and who makes the most reliable washing machine brands.

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