Separating whites from colours was once a necessity. We separated whites so we could bleach them, and washed colours in cold water to protect them from running and fading. Clothes were expensive, as were washers and dryers, and care was taken with both. Since laundry habits are typically passed down through the family and not through school, if your grandparents separated clothes for the laundry, chances are your parents did too. But do you need to? As it turns out, no, you don’t.
Why people stopped sorting laundry
To be clear, there is some benefit in the long run to continuing to pre-sort and wash separately, according to most laundry experts. But we should quantify how much benefit. There’s no actual threat to your clothes or machines by washing everything together — the life of your clothes may be shortened slightly, but that’s all. Since most of the clothes we wear are now a byproduct of fast fashion, there’s less investment into each piece, and they’re not really built for the long haul the way clothes once were, anyways.
Also, the natural fibres and dyes that used to be mainstream have been long replaced by synthetic fibres and better dye processes, which result in much more colourfast garments. These garments also generally stand up to wash processes better. Advancements in detergents also focused on using less of it, stopping colours from fading, keeping whites bright, and washing everything in cold water to save on energy. As a result, laundry in general is a much gentler on clothes.
It seems that Millennials have caught on, like this viral twitter thread resulting in many revealing that they, too, have stopped separating laundry. But there’s one surprising exception to the “just throw it all in together” approach.
Why you should still wash your athletic gear separately
Performance wear is likely treated to be water repellant, and often needs a special detergent that I bet you aren’t using, because this was all news to me. But it makes sense, when you think about it — our sports wear is likely the grossest clothes we throw in the wash, and they’re also likely to be some of the more expensive clothes we own. Look for anything with a label that says “moisture-wicking,” “breathable,” or “high-endurance,” and make sure to separate that stuff from the rest of your laundry. And if you can, spring for the sports wash.
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