We’ve all been there, it’s already laundry day again, and your overflowing hamper seems to taunt you. You’re out of laundry detergent, and you just remembered that you accidentally knocked your box of dryer sheets behind your washer and dryer the last time you used them.

Tackling your laundry can feel like one big endless headache. But it doesn’t have to be. The key is understanding how to do laundry the right way, and we’ve included tons of laundry tips and tricks for you below. Avoid the following laundry mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to laundry zen in no time!

1. Using the Wrong Detergent

You’re at the store, staring at a brightly colored wall of overwhelming detergent options. Of course, it’s easy just to grab any old thing and call it a day. But choosing the right detergent for your needs can be the difference between laundry perfection and less-than-stellar results.

Ok, so how do you choose? Here are a few tips:

Consider your water type

If you have hard water, you may have noticed certain stubborn, less-than-fresh odors that linger wash after wash. That’s because of mineral residues from hard water that build up and trap oils and grime from your body. Higher-end detergents often work better with hard water, and detergents formulated with vinegar can help release the minerals, and the odors, so your laundry smells fresh again.

Know your fabrics

Not all laundry detergents are created equal. Some can actually damage your clothes if you’re not careful. For example, laundry detergent for delicate fabrics usually is less alkaline than regular laundry detergent and is easier on your more delicate threads.

Pay attention to the amount you use

It might seem like adding more laundry detergent to the load will get your clothes cleaner, but that’s not necessarily true. Using too much laundry detergent can have the opposite effect and leave your clothes feeling stiff and looking dull.

Powder vs. Liquid

There’s nothing wrong with powdered detergent, but when using it, stay away from the cold water setting because it may not dissolve properly. Best practice is to add powder detergent to the washer while it’s filling before you add the clothes. Liquid detergents penetrate stains and can double as a stain pre-treatment. In addition, they may contain enzymes that increase their cleaning power.

2. Selecting the Wrong Water Temperature for the Job

Many people wash everything in a cold setting because it’s the most economical. Unfortunately, that’s not always the best idea, as it may not do the best job of removing soils and stains. Here’s a quick guide to the best temperature settings for different types of loads.

  • Hot- whites (especially if they are heavily soiled), sheets, bedding, towels, and heavily soiled or greasy work clothes.
  • Warm – most cotton and synthetic laundry like jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts.
  • Cold – delicate fabrics, or anything that might shrink.

3. Overloading the Washing Machine

Sometimes the urge to add just a few more items to your load is too powerful to resist. But overloading your washer can lead to subpar results. When you stuff your washer with too many clothes, they form a solid mass and don’t have enough room to swish back and forth to work out soils and stains. The extra weight can also reduce the life span of your washing machine motor.

Try washing smaller loads more often instead of one large load when things pile up for maximum laundry day efficiency and freshness. Your clothes will come out cleaner, and your washing machine will thank you!

4. Not Cleaning Your Washing Machine

You might not realize it, but laundry isn’t the only thing that gets dirty. Over time, laundry detergent residue, fabric softener buildup, soap scum, and mineral deposits from hard water can all take a toll on your washing machine, making it less effective.

To keep your washer running like new, clean it regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Not Separating Clothes Properly

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often people throw all their laundry together without giving it a second thought. But the truth is, separating your laundry by color is key to ensuring all your clothes look their best. After all, you don’t want dark colors to bleed and ruin lighter items.

But color sorting isn’t the only thing to consider. Sorting your dirtier and less soiled clothes into separate loads allows you to dial in the settings on your washer more accurately. Heavy-duty washes are tougher on fabrics, and there’s no need to subject your lightly soiled items to them.

One more thing, don’t mix heavy fabrics (like denim) with soft materials since they can have an abrasive effect on your delicates.

6. Putting Stained Clothes in the Hamper

Stains are an inevitable law of nature, but if you treat them before they dry out, you’ll have a much better chance of removing them. So whenever a stain hits your favorite garment (yes, it’s always your favorite), saturate it with a stain pre-treatment or a bit of laundry detergent and fire up the washer without delay.

After the wash cycle, don’t assume the stain is history. Carefully check that it’s gone without a trace before you put it in the dryer. Drying can further set the stain, making it even more difficult to remove. If your stain is stubborn, you might have to repeat the treatment and washing process a few times before it finally disappears, or consider dry cleaning to remove the stain.

7. Overusing the Dryer

We all love the smell of laundry fresh out of the dryer, but the high heat and the tumbling action weakens clothing fibers and speeds up fading. The alternative is hanging your clothes to dry. Yes, hanging clothes on a clothesline or a drying rack might be a little tedious, but it dramatically increases your wardrobe’s longevity and is easy on the planet. Don’t forget: turn your clothes inside out to avoid UV damage.

Let’s be honest. Line drying clothes isn’t always an option. If you must use the dryer, set it to a low setting and remove clothes while they’re still slightly damp. Just like with washing, you don’t want to overload the dryer. Make sure the clothes in the dryer have room to tumble freely. It makes drying faster and reduces wrinkling.

Bonus tip: Add a clean, dry towel to the load. You’ll be surprised how much it speeds up the drying cycle!

8. Not Cleaning the Lint Trap

Clean your lint trap every time you use your dryer. A clogged lint trap not only lengthens drying times (putting unnecessary wear and tear on your garments) but is also a fire hazard.

9. Ignoring Care Labels

We get it, laundry can be a pain, and we’re all guilty of just throwing our clothes in the washer without paying attention to the labels on the tags. But if you want your clothes to stay looking new for as long as possible, it’s essential to heed care label instructions.

Care labels are your friend and tell you everything you need to know about how a garment should be cared for: water temperature, cycle type (standard or delicate), whether or not to bleach, and more.

10. Home Washing Dry Clean-Only Clothes

Dry clean-only garments might seem intimidating, but the best way to protect your investment is to take them to the cleaners. Why? Because high-quality fabrics and garments don’t fare well when they come into contact with water. When in doubt, take them to your nearest ZIPS Cleaners!

11. Thinking You Can’t Have Your Machine Washable Clothes Taken to a Dry Cleaner

If you’re like many people, you might think dry cleaners are just for fancy duds like formal suits and evening gowns, but did you know you can take just about any clothing item to the cleaners? Yep! Kilts, capes, coats, ugly Christmas sweaters, comforters, duvet covers, your favorite pair of jeans, you name it. Even everyday wear like t-shirts, hoodies, khakis, polos, and kids clothes. Dry cleaning services are easier on your clothes than machine washing and keeps them looking bright and new for longer.

ZIPS cleaners also offers a wash and fold service for just $1.49/lb. (A 10-lb minimum is required). So the next time you’re overwhelmed by a heap of clothing threatening to become its own mountain range, give yourself (and your clothes) a break—head to your local ZIPS Cleaners. Kick back, relax, and let us give your wardrobe a spa day.

We hope these laundry tips help you avoid laundry pitfalls and make your laundry days a breeze. And remember, for even more great garment care advice, check out ZIPS Tips!