How To Wash Every Item In Your Wardrobe (The ULTIMATE Guide)

How To Wash Every Item In Your Wardrobe (The ULTIMATE Guide)

 Are you doing the laundry correctly? If you're experiencing dull whites, colour runs, shrinking, and pulls, we're here to help.

Although chucking all your washing in on the same cycle is the easiest option in the short term, it could end up costing you time and money in the long run.

Today we're going to rifle through every item in your wardrobe, and advise the best way to wash it, including the correct temperature, cycle, and detergent to use.

Make your clothes last longer, colours stay brighter, and stains come cleaner today with our guide.

General laundry tips

laundry bag
It's that time of week again!

Before we get started, let's go through some essential, general laundry knowledge.

These tips will help prevent fading, running and make your clothes last longer.

1. Use white vinegar

New clothes? Don't throw them straight in with your old ones - you'll end up with all kind of colour combinations.

Instead, try this!

Pop a cup of white vinegar in the drum the first time you wash new clothes to prevent colours from running.

2. Sort your colours (especially lights & darks)

white & black laundry sorting
Never wash whites with darks!

If you are only willing to do minimal sorting when washing, prioritise on separating your lightest lights from your darkest darks.

Even after several washes, black dye will still seep into your white t-shirts, pants and bras, leaving them a murky-grey colour - yuck.

3. How to wash dark & bright colours

Don't let your favourite deep red dress go dull. High temperatures will take their toll on strong colours and fade them over time.

For navies, blacks and other darks, as well as bright reds, oranges and pinks, a lower temperature (30ºC) is best.

4. Don't wash your clothes too often

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as washing your clothes too much. Every time we wash our clothes, we reduce their lifespan a bit.

Have a read of our guide to find out how often you should really be washing your clothes.

5. Use less detergent

laundry detergent in washing machine
You probably don't need as much laundry detergent as you think.

More isn't always better, especially in the case of detergent.

Detergent can contain harsh chemicals, which will get your clothes clean, but also take a toll on fabrics.

Using too much detergent can also lead to a build-up of suds in the machine, causing residue to be left on your clothing.

Our advice? Reduce your usual detergent quantities by about a third and see how you get on (it will save you money too!)

6. Use a variety of detergents

Detergent selection
Better detergents = better results.

If you really want to preserve delicate items whilst washing at home, it's important to have a variety of detergents at your disposal.

An everyday detergent will be too harsh for your underwear, and could ruin wool and silk.

Pick up a designated wool detergent, as well as a delicates detergent.

Deal with stains first

Got a nasty stain on your lovely, white silk shirt? Don't just throw it in the wash and pray it will come out.

Although washing machines are great, they don't offer targeted stain removal. The washing process may remove some of the stain and reduce its intensity, but it will also wash the stain in, making it almost impossible to remove from then on.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with stains is, the quicker, the better.

Learn how to treat the 15 most common stains now in our handy guide.

How to wash tops, t-shirts & shirts

Everyday tops, t-shirts and shirts are arguably the easiest items to wash - unless you're dressed head-to-toe in silk, that is.

Having said that, no two tops are made equal, and it's largely the material your top is made of that will determine the best way to wash it.

Most fabrics, such as cotton, modal, nylon and polyester will fair fine on a 30ºC wash and an everyday detergent.

If you're unsure, it's always best to check the care label first, which will advise you on the recommended temperature.

How to wash occasion wear

ocassionwear miss selfridge jumpsuit
Take care of your ocassionwear.

Occasion wear is slightly trickier to wash, and for that reason it's always best to take some time before throwing your party dress into the wash - unless you want it to come out half the size, that is.

If the material of your item is easy-care (cotton, polyester, viscose etc) then, technically, it's good to go at 30ºC. However, detailing such as beads, thin straps or delicate fabrics mean it's better to opt for a more gentle wash.

Pop your occasion wear on a 'delicates' cycle, to avoid any pulling or bead loss.

Care labels of sumptuous fabrics, such as silk dresses and blouses will often tell you to take them to the dry cleaners. If you are washing them at home, be sure to wash on a cold, 'hand wash' cycle with a mild detergent.

If you're wondering how to wash viscose to avoid shrinking, read our handy guide now.

How to wash jeans

Don't overwash your jeans.

The first thing to note when washing jeans, is the less often, the better. In order to preserve their colour and fit, jeans should be washed as little as possible.

Spot-cleaning is recommended for minor stains, and when you do need to give them a thorough clean, some strict guidelines are advised:

  • Set the temperature to cold.
  • Opt for a delicate cycle.
  • Use a mild detergent.
  • Wash your jeans inside out.

Top Tip: It's likely your jeans will run, especially during the first few washes. Don't throw them in with lights, unless you are after a washed-out denim effect.

How to wash jumpers, sweaters & cardigans

Wool knitwear

We've all shrunk a wool jumper or two during our time.

Don't let this put you off - washing jumpers at home is surprisingly easy when you know how. The key is using a mild, wool detergent, on a wool cycle and cold temperature.

Oh, and remembering to sort your jumpers from your everyday cotton items, of course!

Synthetic knitwear

Most high-street jumpers don't actually contain any wool at all these days, Whilst this isn't great for your body temperature, it does make laundry much easier.

In fact, most cotton or synthetic jumpers can be washed along with your everyday t-shirts at 30ºC. 

How to wash underwear

Underwear drawer
Take care of your undies.

Is your lingerie starting to look faded, tired and discoloured? Chances are, you're not washing it gently enough.

Not only can overwashing reduce the lifespan on your lingerie, but washing it at too high a temperature, on an aggressive wash will also lead to damage and wear.

In an ideal world, we'd wash all our underwear by hand - but who has time for that?

When done correctly, your washing machine can make fine work of washing delicates. Here are some rules to follow to ensure great results:

  • Wash whites with whites to avoid greying bras.
  • Use a mild detergent.
  • Wash on a low temperature to avoid fading bright/dark colours.
  • Use net bags to protect delicate items.

Take a look at our other article for even more bra-whitening tips!

How to wash coats & jackets at home

washing machine
Keep that temperature LOW.

Guess what? You actually don't need to take all your coats and jackets to the launderettes to be washed professionally.

How to wash jackets

Lots of outerwear, such denim jackets, blazers, and even waterproofs can be washed in the washing machine. Just be sure to check the care label first before washing.

Washing wool coats at home

We don't recommend using your washing machine for washing wool coats, however, that's not to say you can't wash them at home.

All you need is a big sink or clean bath and wool detergent.

  1. Fill the sink with cold water, and add a quarter cup of detergent.
  2. Add the coat, and swish it around to ensure its fully saturated. Depending on the texture and state of the coat, you may want to gently rub the fabric together to remove dirt marks.
  3. Leave to soak for 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the sink, and rinse the coat in clean, cold water.
  5. Gently drain the coat, taking care not to wring it out as this will damage the fabric.
  6. Lay the coat on a large towel and roll it up. This will help extract some of the excess water from the coat.
  7. Dry the coat flat if possible, either by laying on top of a drying rack, or on a dry towel.
  8. Be sure to leave it to dry at room temperature - the combination of heat and moisture could shrink the fabric!

How to wash skirts & trousers

Similarly to tops and dresses, the best way to wash skirt and trousers will largely depend on the material they're made of.

We recommend sorting skirts and trousers into 'seasonal' categories. Winter skirts made from leather and wool will need an entirely different treatment to a light pair of Summer culottes.

Wool items should be washed similarly to your jumpers - on a cold, wool wash with a wool detergent.

Everyday, multi-season skirts and trouser made from synthetic materials should be fine washed on 30ºC with an everyday detergent.

Washing workout clothes

workout gear
Worked up a sweat?

Workout clothes should be washed after every use, so it's important to do it right if you want them to last a while.

Stinky gym clothes - you're probably thinking, extra detergent, right?

Actually, too much detergent will cause your workout gear to smell worse, as the suds aren't always washed out, clogging up fibres and preventing sweat from evaporating.

For best result, wash gym gear on cold with about a tablespoon of detergent - nothing more, nothing less.

Speaking of sweat, learn how to clean sweat-stained hats in our other article.

What do you hate washing the most? Tell us in the comments below and we'll share our best laundry tips with you to make things easier.

Stephanie C


Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author Carol Anne Lilley on March 5, 2018 at 1:55 pm


    1. Author Stephanie C on March 8, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Hi Carol. I too absolutely love getting into bed with freshly pressed sheets. Unfortunately, there is no magic fix to get them looking and feeling crisp. However, what may help is using an 'anti-crease' setting on your washer/dryer, if you have one. Additionally, if you can, always hang your sheets up to dry, preferably outside in the dry wind. This will help the creases to fall out. I hope this helps :)

  2. Author wendy on March 7, 2018 at 9:40 am

    I hate washing cotton and linen as they both crease a lot, which leaves a load of ironing and I HATE IRONING>

    1. Author Stephanie C on March 8, 2018 at 10:05 am

      Hi Wendy. Do you hang your clothes up to dry? This will help the creases fall out of them and remove the need for ironing. I hope this helps! Steph

  3. Author Nessa Hughes on March 7, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Like many women, I suffer from a weak bladder. Occasionally the situation arises that the pantie liners are not enough to cope, and I end up with urine on underwear and sometimes on jeans. I wash as soon as I can, but the smell seems to linger after washing. I've tried adding bicarb, borax and vinegar to my washes, but these do not seem to help, so I end up throwing good clothing away, as I am horrified that I might be unpleasant to be near. Can you offer any advice? Thank You, Nessa

    1. Author Stephanie C on March 8, 2018 at 10:17 am

      Hi Nessa, Sorry to hear you're having problems getting the smell out of your clothes - we'll try and help as best we can :) We recommend trying Iodine Scrub (about 1 tbsp) to your washes. This should help neutralise the smell. Additionally, you could try actually soaking the affected area in very lightly diluted vinegar, before washing. Finally, and if all else fails, there are special products which contain enzymes to fight urine odours: I hope this helps :)

    2. Author Susan Bowden on June 4, 2020 at 11:24 am

      Try soaking in water with Zoflora added. It kills the bacteria and smells nice. Then wash as usual. Alternatively add it to the wash or with the fabric conditioner if you use it. I do this with all underwear anyway and it works for me.

    3. Author Joanne A on June 15, 2020 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Author Josie G on June 4, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Are people really so incapable of reading garment washing labels, washing machine manuals, and making decisions? Is washing more complicated and more of a struggle than people can manage without needing to resort to "Expert" help? As for ironing, I'm no expert; I haven't ironed anything for the last 30 years and I highly recommend not wasting your time and your life on ironing, or even worrying about it. Alternatively, when you're at the end of your life perhaps you'll wish you had spent more of your time doing the ironing.

    1. Author Joanne A on June 22, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Josie! Thanks for sharing your opinion on this. We hope we can help those who need it!

  5. Author Anne on April 28, 2021 at 9:09 am

    I dont own a washing machine, so absolutely everything is hand washed. I do the laundry every day & usually dry outside but in bad weather I dry it indoors. I wash my top ie jumper or blouse every day as it is so easy. My clothes last for a very long time & are always immaculate as they are not bashed around in a machine. I am nearly 80 & hope to keep going.

    1. Author Joanne A on May 10, 2021 at 5:21 pm

      That's fantastic, Anne!

  6. Author Beanie on October 27, 2022 at 9:58 am

    How do you wash silk ties PLEASE?

    1. Author Joanne A on November 10, 2022 at 2:58 pm

      They will need to be dry-cleaned by a specialist.

  7. Author CG on November 18, 2022 at 11:40 am

    Not true that silk has to be dry cleaned. Look at the care label, most silk can be washed at 30 degrees. I do this with good results.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 21, 2022 at 11:25 am

      It will depend on what the care label says. If you do machine wash it, we recommend putting the garment in a mesh laundry bag for extra protection.

  8. Author Carol Tate on March 27, 2023 at 6:53 pm

    When washing knit wear in the washing machine.l fold them up and put in a pillow case to help keep their shape.

    1. Author Joanne A on April 5, 2023 at 3:25 pm

      Great suggestion! To protect knitwear in the washing machine, fold the garment and place it in a pillowcase. Use a gentle cycle, mild detergent, and air dry flat to prevent stretching and damage to the fibres.


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