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How to Separate Laundry (and Other Secrets to Laundry Success)

7 Minute Read / For your Home

Sometimes our days require quick thinking and a change of clothes—or three. First, you have morning yoga, then work, then lunch and an afternoon coffee run. Even after all that, there’s still a stop at soccer practice, a dinner with your parents, and a late-night Target run before you finally get to slip on your pajamas and slide into your long-awaited sheets. 

That’s a lot of wardrobe changes, and before you know it you have a mountain of multicolored clothes, which, of course, leads us to your weekend agenda: figuring out how to separate laundry.

Knowing how to separate all the different colors and fabrics in your laundry is a special skill—but one that’s essential to keeping your clothes bright and your fabrics lasting longer. Luckily, we have the tips to help make your laundry day successful, from separating your lights and darks to choosing the best eco friendly laundry detergent.

How to Properly Separate Laundry

The trick to keeping your garments and linens in top condition is knowing when and how to wash them and which pieces can be washed together. 

Fortunately, separating your laundry and sorting clothes isn’t difficult. Generally, it can be accomplished in four easy steps, which we’ll go through below:

  1. Read the label
  2. Separate by fabric and type
  3. Separate by color
  4. Separate by soil level

Properly categorizing and separating your laundry using these four steps ensures that every last sock, tee, towel, and sheet stays crisp and vibrant as long as possible.

Step 1: Read the Label

Did you know that most pieces of clothing actually come with their own how-to manual of washing instructions? That’s right—that tiny label sewn into your clothing contains all the secrets to keeping your clothing in prime condition during the wash cycle.

Care labels indicate several important facts about your garment, including:

Most of these facts are even depicted in international laundry care symbols (those mysterious circles, triangles, and squares) that you can take in at a glance with a little study and practice.

One factor we can go ahead and cross off that list? Machine wash temperature. Thanks to advances in detergent and washer technology, nearly all laundry can be done using cold water. This also has the double benefit of saving electricity and extending the lifespan of your clothing and washables.

As you start to sort that mountain into several smaller piles of clothes, it’s vital that you first check that an item can tolerate machine washing. If the care label indicates Hand Wash or Dry Clean Only, put the item aside to drop off at your local dry-cleaner (preferably an environmentally friendly one), or to wash it by hand. 


For the remaining items, move on to step two.


Step 2: Separate by Fabric or Type

Just like you organize your wardrobe to help you choose the most appropriate pairings for your daily activities, you’ll also need to classify which of your washables go together based on fabric type. This doesn’t mean that you need to scrutinize the exact fabric content or use of each item. Instead, we suggest you separate your machine-washable laundry into these broad groupings of different fabrics:


Step 3: Separate by Color

Want whites like snow and brights that don’t fade? Separating your clothes by color is the golden ticket to keeping those not-so-welcome color changes from happening inside the washer. 


Generally, this step applies only to casual clothing since it’s your largest and most diverse pile. But to keep those color tones as on-point as your sense of style, knowing how to wash white clothes and how to wash colored clothes are both very important steps to understand before putting them in the washing machine.



Step Four: Separate by Soil Level

The next step is to pull out any items that have been soiled. 


Make sure you look into how to get oil stains out of clothes along with any other stubborn stains that fall into the heavy soil category before you throw them into the washing machine, such as by pre-treating them with our ECOS OxoBrite Multi-Purpose Stain Remover


It’s Sorted! Now What?

Once your laundry is sorted, you can begin washing. This sounds easy, but between your washer’s various cycles, speeds, and temperatures (and your dryer’s multitudinous spaceship-like settings), it can start to feel overwhelming. 

While you should always refer to your garment label, here are some general laundry guidelines:

Other tips that will help you maximize your washing and drying power are:


Choosing a Detergent That’s Safer for You, Your Clothes, and the Environment

Before you head out to buy laundry detergent and complete your transformation into a laundry separating genius, you should know which ingredients to avoid, too. 

Some common detergents contain chemicals that can be toxic and irritating to both us and the environment, including:

Instead, choose something that’s skin-safe and earth-friendly, like laundry detergents from ECOS.


ECOS Detergents for a Safer Clean

We’ve been committed to creating eco-friendly cleaning products for over 50 years. Our laundry detergents are made with readily biodegradable formulas to get you the best wash while still keeping our planet safe from harmful ingredients. In fact, we’ve even created a list of over 500 harmful chemicals to watch out for, called The Nasties.

What’s on our mind?