If you pre-sort laundry, you’re likely doing it by color, or maaaaaaaybe fabric. But there are lots of other ways you can sort your laundry before you wash it, if you like to be extra careful with your stuff.
Starting with the tried-and-true basics, here’s a list of some of the many ways you might want to sort your laundry. You should choose whatever method seems to fit your lifestyle and your wardrobe, or mix and match two methods if you have a lot of clothes to look out for.
Tried-and-true (but not essential): Sort by Color
Tried-and-true for a reason, separating your laundry by whites, brights, and darks is a surefire way to prevent colors from bleeding and minimize fading effects. You can trust this classic method to keep your whites bright and your colorful clothing looking newer for longer.
But as long as you’re using color-safe detergents and not-super-hot water, it’s ok to wash whites, darks, and colors together. So maybe try another combination…
For extra-gritty lifestyles: Sort by How Soiled It Is
Not only does separating your very-dirty from your not-so-dirty clothes allow you to customize the amount of detergent you use for each load, it ensures that you can send your super sweaty gym gear through a heavy-duty cycle without worrying about the less soiled stuff in your load. You might also want to have a separate load for whatever super-gross items (bloody dressings? cloth diapers?) are accompanying you on your current stage of life.
If it seems to never dry: Sort Items by Size
Anyone who’s washed king size bedding with their socks knows how disproportionately sized loads can do an irregular job of washing, rinsing, and drying your stuff. You might want to do yourself a favor and wash small items (undies, socks, tank tops) separate from bigger ones (sheets, towels, oversized sweaters) to clean and dry them all quickly and effortlessly.
If you live with a lot of people: Sort by Person
If you have a bigger household, you might want to consider sorting your laundry by person to make sure your stuff doesn’t get mixed up—and your socks don’t go missing. Even better, assign each person in your home their own laundry day to keep things moving throughout the week.
If you hate your lint roller: Sort by Lint-Likeliness
Nothing’s worse than discovering that your freshly washed leggings are covered in lint. Separate items that are likely to generate lint (towels, fuzzy sweaters, etc.) from ones that tend to attract it (like spandex and corduroy) before you wash and dry them so you won’t have to pull out your lint roller later.
If you love to play with texture: Sort by fabric type
Wash heavier items, like towels and sheets, separately from your more delicate clothes to prevent abrasion and damage to finer fabrics. And since heavier items usually take longer to dry, you can bypass over-drying your lighter garments (which puts wear and tear on the fibers) and ensure your weighty stuff doesn’t come out of the dryer damp. Similar to sorting by fabric, separating your laundry by its texture—think stretchy cottons versus more delicate knits—is a smart way to ensure you won’t shrink your favorite sweater.
If your wardrobe is intricate: Sort by details
Ever touched a hot zipper straight out of the dryer? It sucks. But if you separate your laundry by its details, zippers, metal buttons, etc. you’ll have a better idea of what you’re dealing with before you open the dryer door. You can keep snaggy details like zippers and studs away from intricate details (like the lace on your camisole), preventing damage along the way. Then throw your durable items in with either load.