5. Check for stains.
They will need to be pretreated or soaked before washing and drying. If you dry a stain, you will most likely have a stain for life.
6. Sort the clothing.
There are many different methods to sorting. Some people sort by color. Others sort by fabric type. There are some adventurous souls who actually never sort clothing. Your sorting method will likely be determined by the size of your family and contents of your wardrobes. Here are some of the sorting categories that may demand special attention.
Whites- Whites go separate because we want them to stay white. One red sock that is not colorfast can turn an entire white load pink. More often than not whites need a warmer water temperature than other clothing to ensure proper cleaning.
Reds and or Bright Colors- Colorfast pinks, purples, reds, and oranges can be mixed together to make a full load. Warning, red clothing is notorious for losing its color and bleeding onto other fabrics. When in doubt wash reds separately. Other bright colors can fade or lose their color onto other lighter clothing.
Towels- Towels are lint producers. The lint they give off sticks to other types of clothing. You can wash towels with blankets, sheets, and robes as long as everything is colorfast.
Specialty Items- These are things that have to be washed separately, are not colorfast, cant be dried, or have otherwise special instructions that keep them separate.
Some people like to sort everything else into its color category to get a nice mix of small and large items for each load. For example, with a large family you may end up with a blue load, green load, khaki load, black load, etc. If your items are colorfast, (most clothing will be) you can combine colors together.
This is not by any means the only way to sort clothing. I know of families who sort clothing by the owner to make it easier to put away. They pull out problem and specialty items, but on the whole one child's green shirt, khaki pants, blue shorts, etc are all colorfast and can be washed together. This can be a great time-saving method for families that seem to have all of their clean laundry piled in one place. As long as your method gets your clothes clean and keeps them intact, it is best to develop a system that fits your family.
Follow these six steps at the beginning of a laundry session and you avoid most of the common pitfalls that can ruin your clothing.