A Man's Guide To Doing Laundry

That look you get when you find the shredded hanky that was in your pocket!

That look you get when you find the shredded hanky that was in your pocket!

About a year ago I wrote an article in Man About Town entitled ‘A Man’s Guide To Ironing’ which, to this day, is the one that I get the most feedback and praise for. Not from men mind, but from the mothers of Limerick. About a week after it came out a former work colleague of mine noted “it would be great if you could write one that tells them how to wash the shirt as well”. Well Eimear Begley, true to my word, here is ‘A Man’s Guide To Doing Laundry’.


It doesn’t surprise me to learn that a lot of guys try to avoid doing their own washing because lets face it, it’s shit! It’s a never-ending job. No sooner are your clothes cleaned, folded and put away than it’s time to get them out and wear them again and the cycle begins all over. I’ve been washing my own clothes from a young age (due to family circumstances, not because I’m amazing) but I also know that for every guy that knows how to wash, dry, fold and iron their clothes, there are four to five who will leave it to their significant other or take a black bag full of dirty clothes home to their poor mother.


Since I’ve been doing my own laundry for years and since I’m writing a blog post about it you’d assume I’d be good at doing laundry. You’d assume wrong! After talking with my friend the lovely Siobhan Quin from the Zipyard Limerick (who provide an excellent dry cleaning service FYI) I learned all the reasons why I’ve destroyed some of my favourite items of clothing over the years. So armed with plenty of useful tips and suggestions, here is your guide to washing clothes like a man.


Sort It Out


This should really go without saying but I’m going to treat this as though everyone is at the beginner level. It’s a good idea to sort your clothes by colour to prevent colours running but you should also try to separate by fabric to prevent damage and shrinkage. For example, if you throw your Levis into the same load as your delicate going out shirt, the shirt can get damaged by the zipper of the jeans and could also shrink in the dryer (I’ve learned this the hard way in my time). A few sorting suggestions are as follows...


Whites                                   (shirts, t-shirts)

Darks                                     (blacks, grays, navys, purples)

Light Colours                        (pinks, yellows, light greens, light blues)

Bright Colours                      (reds, blues, greens, yellows)

Denim                                   (all jeans and any other denims)

Delicates                              (linens and cotton blends)

Gym gear                             (well... gym gear obviously)

Socks & Jocks                      (whites can go with whites)


Act Fast


Your future self will love you if you take the time to immediately treat stains when they happen and pre treat stains with a stain remover before putting the garment in the wash. And as for your stinky, sweaty gym gear, wash it as soon as possible and don’t leave it to fester in your gear bag for too long as this can result in bacteria growth.


Don’t Overload


This, as I’ve come to learn, is where I go wrong. Apart from potentially damaging your appliances, cramming too many items in will prevent them from getting fully cleaned and dried. Too many clothes make it difficult for the water and detergent to penetrate your dirty clothes and stuffing your dryer too full will result in soggy, wrinkled clothes. The solution is pretty easy on this one, resist the temptation to jam everything into a single load and follow the manufacturers recommended load size.


Pick The Right Setting


All those settings can seem very daunting and give rise to the temptation to make that phone call to your poor mother but selecting the right ones will help keep your good clothes looking like good clothes and keep them big enough to fit you. Always check the care labels on your clothes for the recommended wash and dry settings but if that too looks like gobbledygook then here’s a few helpful hints...


Whites – Most people will tell you to wash whites at a high temperature since they are colour fast and show dirt easily. But you should also pay attention to the type of material as well as the colour. White 100% cottons shirts, for example, might shrink in a hot wash white wool needs a cool wash. Play it safe by pre treating stains and washing at 40 degrees.

Bright/Dark Colours/Jeans – Higher temperatures encourage the loss of dye and fade black and bright clothes by opening up the fibres, so a warm or cool wash is your best bet. The same goes for jeans. As long as they are really filthy, cleaning denim at a cooler temperature (30 degrees or lower) and as infrequently as possible will help them last longer and look better.

Wool – Technically wool doesn’t shrink in a hot wash, it felts. Like most animal hair, individual woolen strands have cuticle scales. Once it’s shorn, the process of turning raw wool into a jumper lifts these scales, creating tiny ridges on the fibres that leave them vulnerable to snagging fusing. Heat and agitation exacerbate the problem, causing woolen clothes to shrink as the fibres cling tighter together. So think of wool as you would the hair on your head and wash it in a gentle, cool wash with a good conditioner.

Towels and Bed Sheets – We spend a lot of time in contact with these two so they tend to become dirty quite quickly. They should really be washed at a fairly high temperature in order to kill bacteria and potential mould. A 60 degree was is recommended in order to kills germs.

Drying – I’m not going to give you any cheats on this one as you really do have to read the care label here. Pay special attention to the words DRY CLEAN ONLY as they mean what they say.


No Dryer Sheets With Sports Wear


Tumble dryer sheets can leave a residue that clogs the fibres on athletic clothing, preventing them from wicking sweat while encouraging odors. Again, check the care label on your gym gear.


Prevent Shrinking & Fading


Let’s assume you’ve heeded all this advice and you’ve tried to be a functioning adult male and you’ve done your own laundry for the first time only to discover that you’ve shrunk your favourite going out shirt down to toddler proportions. Send your hate tweets to @iammcloughney and then remember what I said about reading labels. Why does shrinkage happen? Well all cotton will shrink, so drying cotton clothing with high heat will most likely result in shrunken, faded clothes. Check the label on the garment and read your dryers manual for best results. If that’s too much effort then air-dry everything to be safe.

Patrick McLoughney