Adulting 101: do laundry like a pro - because mum can't be doing it for you forever

Your mum or helper might take care of your clothes now, but if you’re off to uni or school somewhere else, you need to know how to do it. Here’s our step-by-step guide.

Susan RamsayKarly Cox |

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Every week, we’ll teach you a new soft skill that’ll help you get ahead in life as an adult – whether that’s learning how to do your own laundry, managing your time better, or dealing with conflict within your social circle.

1) Have a designated laundry bag or basket to put your dirty clothes in, because you’re not going to be doing a load of laundry every day, and keeping them in a pile on the floor is just gross – it will get smelly.

2) When you’re ready to do a load, tip the contents of the basket onto the floor or another convenient flat surface.

3) Decide what kind of wash you need to do. There are two things to consider: colour, and the temperature needed to wash.

Separate your pile into white, light and dark. “Light” can be anything pale in colour, but not pure white. If you don’t separate, the colours from darker clothes can stain your lighter coloured stuff.

Towels, bedding, sports clothes and underwear – stuff that’s likely to be “soiled” – is one sort of load, and is best washed warm (40C) or even hot (60C or more).


Everything else, white, light or dark, can be washed (separately) at 30C. Using a liquid detergent is even better than powder, which sometimes needs warm water to work.

You need to be careful with delicates – thin fabric, or stuff like silk, wool and linen. Some of those fabrics can’t go in the washing machine, so read the label inside. If they can, wash them with other delicates of similar colours, on cold (30C). Also be aware that clothes with metal decorations, or transfers should be washed inside-out, and on cold.

4) Go through each item of clothing and turn the pockets inside out. You might think this is silly but it will make sure you don’t accidentally wash your pocket money, notes from your last lecture, or phone (true story). It also ensures that you catch anything like tissues which can leave a nasty way of breaking apart and leaving fibres over everything, or pens, which will leak. The purpose of washing is to get stuff clean, not make it worse.

5) Fasten any zips, hooks and eyes, or studs before you throw clothes in the machine. This helps the garment keep its shape, but more importantly, it prevents loose hooks from clawing holes in your other clothes.

6) Throw everything into the washing machine. If it’s more than two-thirds full, take some stuff out, otherwise it won’t be clean. We mentioned detergent – liquid is easier and more likely to clean at lower temperatures. The label on the bottle will tell you how much to use, but it’s usually a capful or less per load.

In a front-loading machine (with a door on the front), it goes in the drawer. In a top-loading machine (where you open the top), it usually goes in a compartment on the inside of the lid. In both cases, it’s the compartment with a “II” symbol.

7) When the washing is finished, it needs to be dried. If you don’t have a washing machine, hang everything up except knitted items, which you should lay flat so it doesn’t lose its shape. If you have a dryer, you still need to remove anything delicate, and woollen, or denim, as these may tear or shrink in the heat of the dryer.