Preparing the Clothes. Some commonsense precautions are necessary to prepare the clothes for the machine or washtub:
Turn inside out any blue jeans or other articles that may fade or whose color may abrade (if you wish to prevent that); also turn inside out articles made of synthetic fibers, knits, and other articles prone to pilling or that have poor abrasion resistance. The creases of cotton fabrics that have received resin treatment to prevent wrinkling are particularly vulnerable to abrasion. Turn corduroys inside out to avoid wearing down the pile and to reduce lint. Heat-transfer, pigment, or other prints that might rub off will also be safer turned inside out. But remember that turning a garment inside out can make it hard to get heavy soil or stains off the protected right side; sometimes you will want to omit this step for the sake of a cleaner outcome.
Check pockets, cuffs, pleats, and folds for coins, keys, crayons, pens, tissues, papers, lint, and so on. Hard objects, such as coins and keys, can damage the smooth surfaces of the washer and dryer tubs, leaving rough places that might snag, tear, or abrade clothes. Crayons and pens can mark much of the load. Tissues, paper, lint, and the like will adhere to the laundered clothes and prove troublesome to remove.
In a mesh bag, place hosiery, articles that tear and snag such as lace, articles with fringe that might fray, tangle, or become detached, and small items that might otherwise get lost. A zippered pillow cover or a pillowcase with the opening secured can be used in place of a mesh bag. (Contrary to what you may have heard, small items like baby socks are never actually sucked down the drain pipes, which have filters to prevent this; they disappear into sleeves, pant legs, and dresses and are folded, unnoticed, into towels and sheets.) Hosiery can get twisted or knotted or can snag on almost any rough surface. Heavily soiled pieces may not wash clean, however, in a mesh bag. You may have to hand-wash them.
Pins should usually be removed before washing because of the possibility that they will rust or that the pinned fabric will tear. Cuff links, buckles, and other metal attachments pose the same dangers—and the additional danger, according to washing machine manufacturers, that they can damage the enamel inside the machine—and, if possible, should be removed. Buckles on sturdy fabrics that will not be harmed by pins could be fastened inside pant legs instead. Or, if you can, place such potentially hazardous items in mesh bags for laundering.
Tie together sashes or other long pieces that might knot and tangle the wash. Button long sleeves to each other or to shirt fronts to prevent them from tangling. Fasten bras. Pin things together only if you are certain that the pin will not rust and that the fabric around the pin will not tear during the wash. Some people like to pin little items to a bigger one, such as a towel, to be sure that they are not lost, but do this only if you are sure that it will not tear. Again, the easiest solution is to remove sashes and similar items and tuck them into a mesh bag for laundering. Mend tears and tighten loose buttons before laundering. Tears will grow larger and buttons may come off and be lost in the wash.
Remove detachable decorations, linings, buttons, and other trim or attachments on a garment that are not washable. Of course you can do this only if you know how to reattach them. If sewn-in linings are not washable, few of us are up to undertaking to remove them and sew them back in later; such garments should be dry-cleaned. If you are astonished to learn that someone might go to the trouble of removing and then resewing a delicate button or piece of lace trim for the sake of laundering something safely, the perspective of the nineteenth century may help. Good washing practice then called at times for taking a dress apart entirely for washing or other cleaning and sewing it back together later! Removing collars, buttons, or lace for laundering was commonplace.
Check each load for matching: does it contain any pieces that belong in sets? If so, add the missing pieces, even if they are clean, so that all will fade to the same degree. Always wash sock mates together, too, or they may become different colors.
When you are worried about an item’s colorfastness, you should usually test its fastness to any substance with which you plan to launder it: bleach, boosters, pretreatments, stain removers, and even detergents if they contain bleach or other additives that raise questions in your mind. Some dyes will run or fade in a solution of water and detergent but would not be affected by plain water; some will bleed when you use hot water but not warm. Some will bleed in a pretreatment solution or in bleach but would not run in a solution of mere detergent and water. Test with hot or warm water if you will be washing in hot or warm water; the action of oxygen bleaches and some other laundry additives is greatly increased in hotter water.
Pretreatments and stain removers sometimes have special ingredients that can cause some dyes, especially fluorescent dyes, to run, so be particularly careful to test neon pinks, electric blues, and other fluorescent colors.
Choose an inconspicuous area for testing, such as the wrong side of a hem or on a seam allowance, so that if your test leaves a spot, it will not show. Be sure to lay the cloth in such a way that the solution does not penetrate through to visible areas