Separate Lights and DarksNever the twain shall meet: That’s Laundry 101. Start with the lightest articles and move through to the darkest in a basin of soapy water. When it’s time to rinse, give anything that’s bleeding color its own separate basin (that new purple polo definitely gets a solo bath).
Use the Right Water Temperature“The best for hand washing is about 85 degrees, just warm to the touch,” says Steve Boorstein, host of the national radio show The Clothing Doctor and author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping & Caring for Clothing (Boutique, $20, amazon.com). Hot water can make dyes bleed. Cold doesn’t remove stains as effectively but is better for garments that can shrink or aren’t colorfast. To spot-test, dab the corner of a damp white cloth on an inconspicuous area. If it comes away with any dye on it, your garment is not colorfast.
Don’t Oversoak“The longer you soak clothes, the greater the chance you’ll cause bleeding or fading or alter sizings, which give a garment its drape,” says Boorstein. “Plus, glues and embellishments like beading and fancy buttons have a greater chance of breaking down.” About 98 percent of dirt comes out in the first two minutes of a washing-machine cycle; with hand washing, it takes about five minutes. To freshen slightly soiled delicates, two to three minutes is all you need.
Reshape Fine Knits Before DryingIt’s labor-intensive, no argument, but the only foolproof way to ensure that a fine-gauge knit doesn’t lose its shape is to first place it, when dry, on butcher paper and trace its outline with a pencil, says Jane Rising, manager of education and training for the International Fabricare Institute, in Laurel, Maryland. Reshape the wet garment by fitting it into the outline, then carefully transfer it to a towel or a rack (or leave it on the paper but turn it once as it dries).