9 Things You Never Knew Could Ruin Your Clothes

Laundry Habits That Ruin Your Clothes

There’s a difference between simply washing your clothes and actually caring for them properly. It’s the difference between accidentally shrinking your new favorite shirt in the wash, and washing that shirt gently so it stays nice for a long time to come. Even though the latter approach takes a bit more time and effort in the short term, it will save you plenty of time, money, and effort in the long run!

Today I’ll be sharing 9 common laundry habits that can end up ruining your clothes. This isn’t meant to shame anyone or imply that you’re failing at laundry in some way. The purpose of this post is to provide you with useful alternatives to these laundry habits that will help you keep your clothes in great condition! We all want to take good care of the things we own, and kicking these bad laundry habits is sure to help! :-)

And for more tips and tricks for mastering the art of laundry, check out my eBook How To Wash Everything! You can buy it in my shop, or get it for free if you’re an OGT Plus member.

9 Laundry Habits That Ruin Your Clothes

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

1. You Hang Things That Should Be Folded

Gravity is the enemy of heavier clothing items like bulky sweaters, and hanging them in your closet allows gravity to pull and stretch them out of shape. Instead, fold your bulkier clothing items and store them on a shelf or in a drawer.

If you don’t have shelf or drawer space to spare, you could put your bulky clothing in a low-profile storage bag that’s easy to slide under your bed or another piece of furniture. Check out my post at the link below to learn which clothes you should hang and which you should fold.

Related: This Is The Most Important Decision To Make In Your Closet

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

2. You Don’t Sort Laundry By Soil Level

You probably already sort your light clothing from dark, but you should also be taking soil level into consideration. (“Soil level” just refers to how dirty a particular clothing item is.)

You should wash heavily soiled clothes, like your work, gardening, or exercise clothes, separately from your everyday clothes to help prevent the grime from spreading to your cleaner clothes. Using a laundry sorter cart with different bags is a great way to keep your dirtier clothes separate from the rest.

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

3. You Always Use Hot Water

It’s not just the heat from your dryer that can shrink your clothes! Hot water in your washing machine can also cause shrinkage, especially in fabrics like cotton and wool. Wash your cotton clothing in cool water instead to protect its shape.

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

4. You Don’t Zip Zippers Before Washing

Zippers have metal teeth that can easily snag on delicate items in the wash. Before you put your clothes in the washing machine, double check to make sure that any zippers are zipped up. It’s an easy way to keep those metal teeth tucked safely away during the wash cycle.

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

5. You Wipe Stains

If you spill something on your clothes, don’t wipe or rub it! Wiping or rubbing at stains can spread the stain around, and even heat it up and cause it to sink further into the fibers. Instead, dampen a cloth or paper towel with cool water and gently blot the stain to remove it.

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

6. You Don’t Wash Clothes Before Storing

If you store your clothes away when they’re not in season, be sure to wash them first. Storing clean clothes helps prevent damage from moths, and it will ensure that your clothes will be fresh and ready to wear when you pull them out of storage again.

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

7. You Use Fabric Softener On Workout Clothes

Fabric softener is a no-no when it comes to moisture-wicking fabrics like athletic clothing. Fabric softener leaves behind a residue that effectively cancels out those moisture-wicking properties. Not only will this make you sweatier during your workouts, but it can also lead to stubborn or even permanent odors in your gym clothes. Yuck!

Instead of using fabric softener on your workout clothes, use vinegar! It softens clothes without leaving any residue behind. Just add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle or fabric softener dispenser in your washer.

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

8. You Use Too Much Detergent

And speaking of residues, using too much laundry detergent can also leave behind residue on your clothing. That’s because using too much detergent means it won’t all get rinsed out, so some detergent remains in the fibers of your clothes and can cause clothing to attract more dirt over time.

To avoid this, just make sure you’re using the recommended amount of detergent for your load size, soil level, and washing machine.

Ways You're Ruining Your Clothes

9. You Don’t Understand Laundry Symbols

Those strange laundry symbols on the tags of your clothing can tell you everything you need to know about how to wash them. If you know what those symbols and codes mean, you’ll never have to wonder how to properly care for your any of your clothes. Visit the link below to download my printable laundry symbols cheat sheet to keep in your laundry room!

Related: You Need To Know How To Read Laundry Symbols On Clothing Tags, And Here’s Why

Do you have a tip for taking good care of your clothes, or having better laundry habits in general?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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  1. I never use fabric softener as it is bad for my very sensitive skin.
    I do hang out my wash when weather permits, it helps the environment and the wind keeps the clothes soft.
    I use the dryer for towels and the hard plastic dryer balls keep the towels soft.
    During the winter or on rainy, damp days, I will use the dryer.
    I use Tide Pods for Sensitive Skin.
    I use “Seventh Edition Bleach” which is hydrogen peroxide as that does not “Bleach Out” my colored clothing.
    I love some of your hints and your recipes. For your recipes I adjust them for people who are Gluten Intolerant,” like is my husband. There are many items in the supermarket that do not contain wheat.

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  2. I try to add 1T salt when washing my darks to keep the color from fading.

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  3. I learned a few years back, that you should never use liquid fabric softener or the softener sheets when laundering towels. As with workout clothing, it prevents proper moisture absorption, takes longer for your towels to dry after using them (i.e., hand towels in the bathroom, kitchen towels) and they start to smell funky sooner.
    Thanks Jillee, for the gentle reminders. I’m so guilty of not zipping zippers!

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  4. Turn jeans and brightly colored clothes inside out before washing and drying. . Colors fade less and stay bright and true longer.

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  5. I have one more to add; hang dry your tops and bottoms instead of putting them in the dryer. It saves on energy costs as well. I only use my dryer for towels and socks and underwear.

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  6. Never heard of using vinegar as a softer alternative. Have one of those fabric softener balls and will put the vinegar in that and see how it works.

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    • I have used vinegar as a fabric softener for many many years. Vinegar in the laundry has multiple uses AND it is chemical free. In fact, vinegar can be used for cooking, cleaning, laundry, and as a weed killer. Do an internet search for vinegar and discover how this versatile, all-natural, and inexpensive powerhouse really is.

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    • I haven’t used fabric softener for a couple of years now but do use wool dryer balls…if I choose to have a scent, I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to one of the balls. I also have noticed that my towels never seem to get that musty smell like before.

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      • I use them too , I started because of allergies but I can see the difference in my clothes .

    • It’s the best! I think you’ll really like it :-)

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    • I actually use water softener salt granules to soften clothes. Just a 1/4 cup per HE load. It works way better than vinegar and also kills germs like vinegar. Any salt will do, but water softener salt comes in big bags and is way more bang for your buck.

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