After removing any delicate or hand-washable items from your laundry pile, **sort the laundry according to color** -- one pile for light colors, one pile for dark colors and one pile for bleachable colors. It's important to keep light colors separate because they can turn dingy if washed with darks, or pick up color bleed if laundered with brighter colors.
Also note that most lights cannot be bleached with chlorine like some whites can. Really light colors, however, and even light blues, can be washed with whites when a non-chlorine, color-safe bleach is used.
To keep your laundry looking its best, **sort your lights by both color intensity and fabric type,** as well as by water temperature. Sheets and towels can be laundered together; t-shirts, socks, underwear and other lightweight items can be mixed as well.
Try to wash heavier items only with other heavy items.
Once you have your colors separated, sort your laundry by water temperature needs. In general, fabric type should be the primary factor for determining water temperature.
Cool or cold water is best for t-shirts and any items you worry might shrink. Warm water is best for most light colors and synthetic fabrics.
Using hot water on bed linens and towels will help kill any mites or bacteria in the fabric. When in doubt, check the care label on the item you're washing.
It's important to note, however, that **cold water is almost always an acceptable option** for any dye or fabric type, and can add years to the life of your clothes.
As with water temperature selection, an item's care instructions are your best source for determining which wash cycle you should use. The **normal cycle is ideal for almost all clothing**, towels and bedding.
Lightweight shirts, thin cotton items and soft synthetic fabrics can be washed on the synthetic or permanent press cycle, which is sometimes called "light wash" Heavier items, like pants, jeans, heavier shirts and outerwear, can be washed on the heavy duty cycle (if there is one) or the normal cycle.
Detergents and Additives
If you're washing in cold water, a liquid detergent will dissolve more readily than a powdered detergent will. Liquids are also ideal for cleaning body oils, sweat and body odor from clothing.
Powdered detergents do well with general dirt. To keep your lights from turning dingy, use a detergent that has color-safe bleach added.
Or, you can **use a color-safe bleach** in addition to your regular detergent. Oxygen-based cleaners and sodium borate are alternatives to color-safe bleach that can help brighten your lights.
**Do not use chlorine bleach** on light fabrics. Also, if you use a liquid fabric softener, use a small amount to avoid buildup -- especially on your towels.