Laundry Debate: Should You Sort Laundry Before Washing?
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To sort or not to sort?
Whether you like to do laundry or not, you can’t avoid washing it! We’ve talked before about washing whites without bleach, which made me curious. Do you sort your laundry? Should you? I’m weighing the pros and cons of sorting clothes plus some laundry products we love!
Pros and cons of sorting your laundry.
- You don’t have to worry about colors being ruined.
- Clothes will last longer.
- Washing garments with like colors preserves the color.
- Materials are less likely to pill as quickly.
- Washing in proper water temperatures and spin cycles preserves various materials.
- Creating more balanced wash loads is better for clothes and your washing machine.
- Takes longer to sort.
- You’ll have multiple folding sessions as opposed to doing it all at once.
Pros and cons of not sorting your laundry.
- Saves time when you have fewer clothes to wash.
- Cheaper and more eco-friendly if you’re washing less frequently.
- Uses less water.
- Uses less electricity.
- Uses fewer detergents and softeners.
- Colors can bleed onto other clothing.
- Especially new items that haven’t been washed yet.
- Darker dyes from garments can bleed.
- Whites become dull or discolored more quickly.
- You’ll have to put it all away and fold at once.
Here are my thoughts on sorting laundry:
I tend to invest in most of my clothing since I consider myself a minimalist and enjoy a capsule wardrobe. I really love the pieces that I own, so I like to take the best care of them, which means sorting, washing in temperatures that are recommended, and drying as needed. I even started dedicated days to ironing so I will actually wear the pieces in my closet.
Additionally, white is one of my favorite colors to wear, so between the five of us, there are normally enough white clothes to make a load of wash all on their own. Overall, laundry isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but over the years, I’ve found that taking proper care of my clothing has allowed me to keep it longer and love them even more.
Related: Here are other ways I live like a minimalist.
Here’s how the rest of the Hip2Save team feels about sorting their laundry:
✅ Sorting vs. 👎 Throwing it all in
“I definitely separate my laundry, however, the rest of my family doesn’t. Luckily though, I do the majority of the laundry in the house, so my darks and whites aren’t being washed together. LOL!” – Jenna
“I separate any items that are new, so the colors don’t run on the first wash. I like to wash whites separately so that I can bleach them a bit to whiten them more and freshen them up. Everything else will get washed in cold water.” – Amber
“Laundry is not my favorite thing in the world, but I do separate the whites and super light items. The rest of the darks get thrown in together.” – Lina
“Yes! I separate darks, brights, lights, and whites since I wash them all with different heat settings and detergent amounts. Plus, I do a separate wash for my leggings and other activewear—having those in the same load as my jeans have led to faster material breakdown and pilling in the past.” – Emily
“I’m a laundry sorter all the way! I do three piles – whites, colors, and super darks like black and navy blue. I just throw the reds in with the super darks where they can’t hurt anything if the colors run.” – Jenna R.
✅ Throwing it all in vs. 👎 Sorting
“I will admit there are times when I am running so behind on laundry, I just pick up whatever I can get and throw it in! I really only separate an item if it’s new; otherwise, I wash each family member’s clothes as they come. This way seems to save me time.” – Jessica
“Nope – I don’t sort our laundry! I feel like it adds more wash loads to my day, and laundry is a total chore to me. Plus, it’s eco-friendly. At least that’s what I tell myself vs. being ‘lazy’. 😉“ – Alyssa
“Wishful thinking on the laundry sorting. LOL! I would, but nope, not for me! About once a month, I’m forced to bleach all of the whites because my son has to wear white polos on Tuesday for school and it never fails that it’s the day they give them Cheetos for a snack. HAH! That’s the extent of my sorting.” – Alana
“Omg! I’m so bad about sorting my laundry! I just throw it all in there, and if it gets folded on the same day that’s a huge win in my book!” – Tiffany
“I NEVER sort! With 5 people in my house, I do at least 1 load of laundry per day and if I sorted, that would result in 2 loads per day which would mean more time and energy wasted. I honestly always discourage my kids from buying anything white, as I do know that many of their white items ended up looking more gray in color after being washed with darker colors.” – Bryn
The verdict? Sorting colors – 5 vs. Throwing it all in – 5
It’s pretty clear that our team is totally torn on this one! Half of us prefers to sort our clothes, while the other half prefers to get it done fast and throw it all in!
Regardless of your sorting stance, here are laundry products we love:
1. Team favorite laundry detergent.
Many of us used to be Tide lovers, but read why we now love Persil!
2. Stacy’s favorite laundry sorter.
“I love this laundry sorter! We had hampers in our hall, and they were taking up so much of the walking space. This thing is compact enough to slide next to our dryer, and each bag holds more than a load of wash!” – Stacy
3. Sara’s favorite stain remover.
I’ve been using this stuff for years, and it has been the most successful stain remover I’ve ever used! I rely on this stain remover to get out all of life’s messes, set-in stains, and even tough stains from sports.
Style your place and save on space with Collin’s favorite collapsible laundry basket.
I don’t buy any light colors and therefore do not have to sort. 🤷🏻
I used to only buy light clothing because my white dog shed so much on everything 😂
I don’t sort. The only time I was something separate is if it’s extremely soiled (muddy, very gross cleaning rags, etc)
We never sort. We wash everything together in cold water and have never had any issues. (Now, if someone gets a new pair of denim, especially dark wash, I will launder those separately, just to be safe,)
This is what I do. Otherwise, I’d be running the washer all the time with small loads. I’m more about saving electricity/water/time and with a kid who grows out of clothes in under a year, I don’t worry about keeping them in great shape for a long period of time. (Heck, my own clothes I’m ready to replace in that time also!)
I have to sort, whites and towels go together and colors go together, I have so much washing to do anyway that I do multiple loads, we also have different baskets so it is mostly sorted out before I begin.
I love the idea of different baskets to help with sorting. Thanks for sharing!
We have a lot of laundry and I sort as follows: white, black, dark colors, light colors, every other week or so we’ll have enough for a load of red/bright pinks (almost all from my daughter), and then usually a load of gentle cycle black/dark. Taking good care of our clothes keeps the colors and fabrics good for a long time.
I sort all the way as well! I wash my kids’ clothes separately; light colors another; and my whites and darks are segregated further into delicates and regular wash – so about 5 piles or so. For each I use different detergents and heat settings. May sound like a lot, but this method has kept our clothes from getting ruined. I have clothes I’ve owned for over 10 years and still look brand new.
I stopped sorting over a year ago, and no looking back. Not had a single problem!
I sort a little. I wash denim separately. I throw in a color catcher to help with bleeding dyes.
Straight ammonia works the best on most stains, imo. It’s significantly cheaper too.
Thanks for the tips! I’ll have to try ammonia on any future stains!
I only sort when there is a new clothing item then I will wash it with like colors but any other day, no sorting.
I wear all black or gray so my laundry is easy. 😂 As for my kids though, I’ve learned that color isn’t as important as material. I sort by materials rather than colors. That active wear material does best when it’s only washed with similar fabrics, cotton seems to be the same and so do jeans. If I wash them all together I notice they’ll get little balls of fuzzies or wear out sooner.
Thanks for taking the time to share what has worked best for you, VRae!
Sort. Whites and towels need hot water! My husband is a machinist and I was his clothes in warm water a lot because coolant stinks. Not to mention it’s hard on your nice clothes to just wash it with whatever like jeans. My mom always taught me to sort.
OMG! My post also states my mom taught me! LOL MOMS for the win!
I don’t know if many people know this, but our high efficiency washing machines do NOT have put in enough hot water to make it “hot”. I found this out when our almost 30 year old washing machine finally died and we bought a new top loading machine. I put it on “hot” and the “hot” water ran for about 10 seconds then switched to cold. We thought it was broken, but nope. If you google it, you’ll find that washing machines no longer keep “hot” on for long because it affects their “efficiency” ratings or something like that. So don’t be fooled into thinking that if you choose “hot” the water will be hot–it’s not. I don’t like that–I feel like we’re being duped. And if you have a front loading machine, you’ll never know how long the “hot” water runs because you can’t open it. That’s why all clothes soap says “works in cold”–because our machines, unfortunately, wash in cold now.
It depends on the washer brand. My Maytag top load machine “hot” water never got hot and it barely ran enough water to even cover my clothes. I HATED that machine. Finally after many years of being unhappy with my clothes not seeming clean, I replaced it with a GE top load and my clothes actually get clean and the hot water is really hot. So hot that you can feel the steam coming out of the top cover while closed.
Most homes automatically have their water heaters set to a level that will prevent burns/scalds. Depending on the bug, it may not be hot enough or sustain enough heat to kill. Or better yet, it may kill only the weak ones, resulting in its own little form of heat resistance akin to antibiotic resistance.
I’m super inconsistent about this. If we have a lot of laundry and it’s the weekend, I will take the time to sort lights vs. darks. Otherwise, I just throw it all in on cold, and will add a color catcher sheet if I’m concerned about any potential bleed. Whites get Oxycleaned separately every couple of weeks.
I always sort because of our jobs and types of clothing we have. A few years ago I purchased two inexpensive 3 basket sorters and it was the best investment! They separate hubby’s filthy work clothes, my scrubs, towels, reds, delicates and whites. It saves so much time and I just throw in the load when the basket is full at the end of the week so no excess water used on a lot of small loads.
Same exact way here. I can’t imagine my clothes mixed with his LOL 😆
Whites get bleach, towels get ammonia, everything else goes in together.
I always sort my laundry and I was taught by my mom. Think of your socks touching everything and anything, maybe dog poop particles, or a pee drip from your child in the bathroom, maybe a snot-spit. You don’t want to wash that with your underwear or anything that touches your face. So me and my fiance create a “sock bucket” and it works well because no socks get left behind! AND I will never forget the time my grandma washed my little cousin’s brand new red Ralph Lauren shirt with lights. All of her lights turned pink. DARKS – SOCKS – LIGHTS – WHITES/CREAM
I do separate based on “ick” factor as well, but recognize that lots of bugs have probably already taken up residence in everyone’s washer. E. coli can’t just be washed away. It has grippers that make is “stick” and most washers high temps and nooks and crannies mean we all have it living in our washers. That’s why I always wash my hands after moving something from the washer to the dryer. 🤢
My family has two baskets in each room. One for light and one for dark. Easy to wash when it’s time to do it.
No sorting here. I also actively discourage light colored clothing for the kids. Although, I think I stopped sorting when I moved to college. I wasn’t going to waste a precious $2 on an extra load! That could buy several packs of ramen! 😂
My toes and Jean’s are washed in cold and hung up on a rack!
Towels and sheets are separate, washed in hot to kill dust mites!
I was outraged when I discovered that some people wash their towels with their clothes! I wash towels on sanitary to keep them from smelling musty. I don’t want my clothes to smell like a washcloth, and mixing towels with clothes has to wear out the clothes faster! We don’t wear a ton of delicate items in our house of 6, so I wash clothes, whites, and towels. I do try to put all the jeans together during cooler months. I’m also mindful of new items that are very dark or light.
Sheets are their own load too!
I always assumed everyone washed their towels separately!🤦 We have a separate hamper for towels… doesn’t everyone?😬
“Outraged” (?) 🤦🏻♀️
I am a color sorter! I like to bleach my whites, because I feel they get cleaner and (and nothing beats crawling into bed with freshly washed sheets that smell faintly like bleach!) We always seem to have enough laundry to make full loads!
We also aren’t a fabric softener (or scented detergent for that matter) household – I have contact dermatitis, and get itchy itchy bumps from it. I loved the unscented persil, but Target in my area stopped carrying it 🙁 I’ve seen it online, but I feel like detergent is so expensive without a coupon, so we’ve switched to Tide. So interesting how we all have laundry habits!
I also like unsented laundry soap but can’t use Tide as it causes me to itch.
What brand of laundry detergent do you use? I am actually super interested since I am not 100% in love with Tide, but it’s the best now that unscented persil isn’t available near me.
I am ok with the white bottle Tide (what we’ve been using), but I have never had an orange bottle of Tide not make me itchy.
I use All Free & Clear liquid soap. Hope that helps.
I use Seventh Generation free & clear.
Ain’t nobody got time for that! 😂
I always sort. I have a laundry sorter I got free from a neighbor who wasn’t using it. Everyone tosses everything into its spot so we don’t have to sort later. Sheets & towels are separate since I have too much for 1 load. For clothes, it’s darks, whites and my daughter wears all colorful clothes so I sort hers out into pinks/reds & purples/blues.
Hubby and son do dirty work so their clothes get washed separately. Colors get cold water, gentle detergent, spot treat stains. Everything else gets warm water with an unscented oxi detergent. Also dry clothes on low, towels and other sturdy things on medium. No fabric softener and rarely an unscented dryer sheet.
I don’t sort to wash but I sort to dry. If I dry my towels with regular clothes, the black or dark clothes all get fluff balls and fuzz and it is difficult to get out. So I wash and dry sheets and towels separately, because I don’t care about those getting fluff on them.
Life is way too short to sort.
No sorting here. If you want your clothes to last, I recommend hanging them to dry vs. using your dryer! You know how you clean out that lint trap? Well, that is just all your clothes’ fabric getting thinner and thinner! I have a hanging rod in my laundry room with clothes hangers and hang all the shirts straight out of the washer. I have two drying racks and also hang all the undies, socks, washcloths, towels, shorts, etc.
I usually wait for a warm (or at least sunny) day and hang my sheets and blankets on the railing of my deck and they dry pretty well. I get outside and enjoy the sunshine and my bed smells like fresh air — win-win! Bonus — saving electricity. I understand not everyone can do this, but it works for me.
Yes I hang dry almost everything! Makes them last so much longer.
Agree! I have not used my gas dryer for many years. Everything gets hung out on the clothesline. I don’t have tons of laundry so it’s doable. But I wish folks would hang out clothes at least some of the time. It’s a win-win. Better for the environment (less energy usage) and better for our wallets. Plus, now I know exactly the tune the red cardinal sings as he’s hanging out near the clothesline.
I do sort darks and lights. My washer drains into the utility sink, so I can see the water exiting. The waste water when I do dark items is pretty dark, and there’s no way I would want light stuff to be washed in that. Seems to work pretty well for me.
Not everyone has someplace to dry their clothes outside. For me personally I don’t need pollen getting on my clothes and causing me to sneeze.
I wash new dark jeans and anything red by themselves for first wash. Occasionally I will bleach whites or even colored towels if need refreshed. Towels usually not with my clothes but sometimes will throw in one. I also was hardcore tide and now love Persil. I don’t know if products have changed but my hubby and I itch if under clothing is washed in tide. Never did before, but it’s cheaper so we wash towels blankets and sometimes clothes in tide. Persil fresh scent amazing. Peroxide for blood and zout for stains.
Yea for Zout!
It’s just me, and I still sort into darks and lights; it takes about 2 minutes to separate. I don’t do any more washes – I just wait until I have a load full. It doesn’t take many days to get a full load of either. I try not to put anything delicate in with jeans. I always hang delicates so they don’t go through the dryer and last longer. Sheets/towels get their own load.
I have a family of four and I do so many loads of laundry. My husband is tall and his work clothes take a toll on a washer because of his height, size, and the soils from everyday work which I do not want to mix with other clothing. I sort darks, lighter clothes, his work clothes, towels, and sheets, as well as I do separate loads for my business work clothes and gym clothes. None of these get dried; I place them on hangers (bought a bunch from a closing department store for pennies). I am fortunate that I have a basement to hang up everything. It cuts down on electricity, it helps eliminate the need to not iron them, they look better & hold their color. On pretty days, I actually hang them outside. When they are dry, I simply carry the hangers into the basement and onto a rack which my hubby made for all my business work clothes. The greatest stain remover I have ever used is by Norwex. It is a bit pricey, but worth every dime!
I started buying all whites for beds, bath towels and kitchen towels. I do those in 1 load with bleach hot water. Darks in cold. I too have the Maytag washer that senses water load and I hate it. The tub is barely full with water and I do not see how the clothes get clean, but they do.
I wash new clothes by themselves once, and try to avoid red items lol. Whites get washed with everything else, but will separate and bleach occasionally. Kids have their own hamper & get washed in different detergent (they have eczema), mine & hubby’s all washed together. Towels washed by themselves, sheets & blankets washed together (if a kid has an accident, I’ll throw their PJs in with their sheets.) If we have dirty clothes from yard work or something, I’ll wash them separately or sometimes throw in with towels(usually old clothes anyway). Despite washing most colors/fabrics together, our clothes hold up a long time, and I contribute that to hanging a lot to dry.
I just sort as I’m throwing things in so I don’t see it as a big time thing. I focus more on keeping clothes separate from towels or blankets. I do try to separate clothes by colors. But if I’m not washing a lot I don’t worry about that unless I have a new item. Outside of dark jeans I can’t remember ever really having something bleed
I always sort. I do towels, bed sheets, darks, whites, active wear, delicate (which are mostly my tee’s) school uniforms & hubby’s work clothes. My HE machine has a quick cycle for small loads, so I can wash without having to wait for a bigger load. I tend to use that setting for my youngest son as his clothes are washed in fragrance free detergent.
I sort now- I didn’t do a very good job in college. More than anything, I need to sort so I can make sure everything concealed in my pockets make their way out of the pockets: there two most dreaded things that might still be in there include chapstick and flow pens.
Sort! Whites and lights (hot); darks (cold); reds–if not enough for their own, they go in with darks; and towels, sweats, and jeans. I had NO idea that anyone (other than my 2 lazy–I taught you better than that–23 and 21 YO sons) didn’t sort!
Where’s the option to sort except when there’s not enough clothes to make a full load? 🙂
Isn’t that what the water level selector on the washing machine for?
I don’t sort by color, but rather type (clothes: synthetic, light weight, heavy) or type of fabric so that they wash and dry more evenly. I do wash clothes for the first time with a Shout Color Catcher Sheet.
My sorting categories are reds/pinks, blues/greens, greys, dark and black, white towels, colored towels, dog towels, microfiber, jeans/heavy duty, bleach whites, non bleach whites. I don’t like to shop and I want my clothes to stay looking new so I take really good care of them, also I have 3 teen daughters who are constantly passing things down to each other.
Doing laundry is not a big chore for me. The washing machine does all the work! I sort whites with whites, use Clorox, and for colors I toss in a color catching sheet just in case. I’m single so I only do laundry maybe once or twice a month.
Lucky you. When I was single I still did several loads a week.
Is it just me or are clothes less likely to bleed colors versus 15 years ago? I’ve had color transfer once in the last maybe 6 years (from something pink to something white). I still separate most things though. Also, does anyone know the best commercial stain remover for old blood stains? Spray n Wash works better than Oxi remover imo, but if anyone has a suggestion I’d appreciate it.
I don’t know about old blood stains but I really like Zout.
We have two laundry baskets and I have trained my husband and kids to put whites in one and colors in the other. Already sorted 👍🏼
I have 3 hampers in my main bathroom closet. Lights, darks and towels. I wash everything on cold. I do about 2 loads of each per week.
Throw it in the wash, it’ll be grand! -Leap Year
I didn’t realize there were so many people that didn’t sort their laundry. Small family so usually it is whites/lights, colors, denim, bed sheets, towels, and kitchen & place mats. Usually wash my tops in mesh bags to help keep the tops looking better longer. So they may not be all the way dry when the rest of the clothes are dry so those get hung to finish drying. Also the clothes washed in the bags don’t shrink as much.
NO SORTING? That’s crazy. It’s not a matter of “if”, but “how”- sorting by color, thickness, type, etc.
I would never wash stinky dish towels with clothes, or thick denim with a thin cotton tee, or my sons’ stinky clothes with anything of mine. My boys all do their own laundry and their lack of sorting shows in their pink socks and tee shirts 😀
I live in an area where the water is unpredictable – it can come out of the tap yellow at times, and has high mineral content, so white clothes don’t stay white very long, even with bleach. The only white clothing I buy is socks, and I wash most of my clothing in warm/cold, so everything gets tossed in together. I used to sort clothes when I had a lot more to wash, but it’s just me, I work from home, and I don’t have “fancy” work clothes anymore – so I don’t bother.
You should always use got water.
Got should be hot
Hot water fades colors much more quickly.
We use “Color Catchers.” They look like little dryer sheets, but you put them in the wash. All colors can go in the wash together. It’s amazing how some clothes that have been washed many times can still “lose” color. It’s all caught on the sheet. Especially great for reds, and jeans. That being said, I do separate by type of clothing, for the temperature setting.
Like Jtaylorsmith, we also use the Shout Color Catcher. When we lived overseas, the washer in our apartment took TWO HOURS to do a single load–ugh! So we would throw in lights and darks together along with a color catcher and it was amazing how much ended up on the sheet.
Since we didn’t have a dryer in our apartment, we hung up everything outside to dry. Because we were living in the Middle East at the time, the extremely hot weather conditions were in our favor. Our sheets and towels would be dry in half an hour–amazing!
As far as stains are concerned, I swear by the stain remover from the Dollar Tree. It’s cheap but works better than the name brand stuff.