Clothes being washed in a Maytag® top load washing machine

How to Do Laundry Step by Step

With so many ways to do laundry, it can feel like an overwhelming chore. Understanding the different settings, temperatures, fabrics and colors may seem like an intimidating task, but you can use this guide to master the steps to do laundry and learn a few tricks along the way. Whether you’re a beginner or a laundry veteran, this guide will help you through the specific steps to properly wash your clothes in a washing machine, ensuring that nothing gets damaged in the process.

How to do Laundry in 7 Easy Steps

Before you begin doing laundry, take a look around your laundry room to make sure you have all the necessary supplies.  
 

Supplies

  • Laundry basket

  • Detergent

  • Stain remover (optional)

  • Fabric softener (optional)

  • Dryer Sheets or dryer balls (optional)

Close up of a pair of denim jeans

Step 1: Read the Labels and Prep Clothes

Learning how to wash clothes in a washing machine starts with laundry basics, like getting clothes washer-ready.

  • Empty pockets, close zippers, fasten hooks and tie strings.

  • Check clothing labels for washing instructions like heat levels, cleaning solvents and approved washing methods. Never wash a garment without checking the label.

  • Pretreat any stains that may need it. Learn more with this laundry how-to stain removal guide.

  • Turn sweaters inside out to help avoid pilling—the little fuzz balls.

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How to Wash Gym Clothes

Washing heavily soiled athletic wear inside out will help soapy water reach the inside surface where sweat and odor get trapped.

A hamper filled with laundry sorted by color

Step 2: Separate Laundry by Color, Fabric Type, and Level of Soil

Another important part of how to wash clothes step by step is learning about the three ways to sort. Sort by color first, then consider fabric type and soil level until you have full loads of similar clothes. Check your item’s tag for any special needs that may affect sorting.

COLOR:

Whites, lights or darks
 

FABRIC TYPE:

Denim, cotton, synthetics, blends, delicates, towels and bedding
 

SOIL LEVEL:

Heavily soiled or lightly soiled

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SEPARATE LINT-GIVERS FROM LINT-TAKERS

Keep lint off clothes by washing lint-giving fabrics like towels and rugs separately from lint-takers like synthetics, knits and corduroy.

Adding detergent to a Maytag® washing machine

Step 3: Add Detergent

  • If your washer requires high-efficiency (HE) detergent, check that you’re using HE detergent. Learn more about HE detergent with this quick guide.

  • All-purpose detergent comes in powder, liquid or pod form and can be used on many types of fabrics. Liquid detergent is recommended for use as a pre-treatment.

  • Before placing dirty laundry in the washer, pretreat challenging stains with stain treatment approved by the item’s laundry tag.

  • Pour detergent in the dispenser or, if there isn’t one, directly into the tub. Follow the instructions on the packaging when measuring.

  • If using a detergent pod, place it in the bottom of the tub.

Swash™ detergent bottle in a laundry cabinet

The Smart Way to Wash

Swash® Laundry Detergent, recommended by Maytag brand, features a Precision Pour Cap that dispenses the detergent for you, so you only pour what you need. Use one squeeze for regular loads and two for large loads.

Clothes inside a Maytag® top load washer

Step 4: Load Washer

  • Load items into the washer loosely and evenly around the tub, giving them room to move.

  • When washing bulky single items like a rug or jacket, add a few extra items around the tub to balance the weight. 

Closeup of a washing machine cycle dial

Step 5: Select Wash Settings

Maytag® top load washer and dryer in a laundry room

Step 6: Get Ready to Dry

  • Start transferring clothes to the dryer as soon as possible.

  • As you load, leave out stained items and anything that recommends air drying on the tag.
  • Clean the dryer’s lint screen by rolling lint off with your fingers. Do not use water to remove lint.

Clean the dryer’s lint screen by rolling lint off with your fingers. Do not use water to remove lint. Make sure to regularly deep clean your dryer’s lint trap.

Maytag® dryer tumbling blue clothes

Step 7: Select Dry Settings

Select temperature:

  • Low: casuals, delicates, synthetics, lightweight fabrics, shirts, pants or athletic wear

  • Medium: work clothes, medium weight fabrics or sheets

  • High: jeans, heavy fabrics or towels

Select time:

  • Pick a specific dry time or a sensor setting that automatically stops the cycle when the load is done, like Advanced Moisture Sensing by Maytag.
Woman loading a washer and dryer with laundry

COMMON LAUNDRY concerns

How to Brighten White Clothes

To brighten white clothes that have become dark and dingy over time, it is recommended to use the prewash and/or presoak option on your washing machine with an oxygen-based bleach. Be sure to wash using the warmest water allowed for your garments per the instructions on the care tags. If your machine does not have a presoak setting, soak your garments in a mix of warm water and oxygen-based bleach for a few hours.

Hand grabbing a blue shirt

How to Prevent Clothes from Fading

You can keep your clothes looking fresh and new for years with some tips and tricks to prevent the color from fading in the wash. Separating your laundry by whites, colors and darks can reduce the risk of fabric color bleeding and fading as each type of load has a different recommended water temperature. If you don’t separate your laundry, wash using the cold water setting as warmer water can lead to faster fading.

Clothes in a washing machine drum filling up with water

How to Remove Odor from Clothes

Some odors are tougher to remove and need more help than the standard wash and rinse cycle. Some odors can be knocked out by washing items in the warmest water based on your garment's care tag. Always consult your clothing’s laundry tag to determine which method is safest for your garments.

FINISHING THE JOB

Now that you know how to do laundry like a pro, finish the job by finding a clean, flat surface for folding. Creating a designated space for folding helps clothes stay clean by keeping them off the floor or the tops of your washer and dryer. Folding clothes correctly is an easy skill to learn that pays off big. Learn some shirt and pant folding techniques with this folding guide. Once you’ve mastered the basics of doing laundry, you can explore more advanced techniques, like laundry stripping, to get a deep clean on tougher stains (like removing set-in oil stains) and odors. If you’re looking for a hand removing tough wax stains from clothes, this guide will help. Learn how to handle tough jobs like washing soiled dog blankets and different types of dog toys.

Shop Maytag® washers and dryers

You can fight everyday stains and keep your clothes fresh with Maytag® washers and dryers. Browse options with innovative features like the Pet Pro System designed to remove pet hair or the 16-Hr Fresh Hold® option which uses a fan and extra tumbling cycles to circulate air throughout your laundry for up to 16 hours.

More Laundry How-To Guides

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  1. Swash and the recommending brands are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.