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The washing machine is one of the humblest appliances in our homes. You take a week’s worth of laundry, pop in some detergent, turn a few knobs and voilà, it comes out fresh and clean like the day you bought it.

But are you looking for better laundry results that will extend the wearable life of your clothing and save you money with lower energy bills?

RELATED: 12 things you didn’t know you could clean in the washing machine

1. Sort your clothing by fabric type

You probably know to wash a new red garment all by itself or with other red clothing the first time you run it through the wash. If you don’t, it will probably bleed and stain your white socks pink!


But Consumer Reports says that in addition to sorting by lights and darks, you’ll want to sort by fabric type too. You should never wash heavy lint producers like towels and sweatshirts with smooth fabrics like sheets and dress shirts. Follow this rule and you’ll avoid that annoying pilling that makes your clothes look awful before their time!

2. Pre-treat stains in a timely manner

It sounds old-school, but pre-treating a stain is the way to go. Consumer Reports says Shout, Resolve, OxiClean or even simple liquid detergent is effective for pre-treating.

3. Don’t use too much detergent

Don’t mindlessly fill the cap to the brim or just dump a bunch of detergent in without thinking about. Click here to read about recommended detergents for high-efficiency (HE) and standard washers.

4. Don’t pack the washer to the brim

Consumer Reports says conventional top-loaders hold six to 16 pounds of laundry, while high-­efficiency top- and front-loaders hold 20 pounds or more.

The best bet? Never overstuff the machine and check your owner’s manual for recommendations if in doubt.

5. Choose the proper temperature

Did you know somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees is the optimal temperature to wash clothes? No need to waste money on super-hot water!

“Detergents are formulated with enzymes that kick into action even at 60 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Pat Slaven, a chemical engineer who spent 10 years working as a detergent tester for Consumer Reports.

RELATED: Fake laundry detergent exists — here’s how to avoid buying it

Once the water temperature reaches above 75 degrees, detergents becomes less effective, and the heat can actually help stains set into the clothing. Hotter water can also damage some fabrics and colors.

Clark Howard Staff |