Prewashing Your Laundry: When and How to Do It

How to Use Prewash on Laundry

There’s more to doing your laundry than just loading in your clothes, letting them spin around the washer with all the suds, and then rinsing and repeating.

Let us introduce to you the concept of prewashing — an extra step to your laundry game that just might change the way you launder forever!

If you’ve ever been frustrated at a stubborn coffee stain or a mud stain that just won’t leave your whites alone no matter how many times you spin them in the washer, then this extra step is perfect for you!

Read on to find out more about it.

What does prewashing mean?

What does prewashing mean

Prewashing is an extra step that you typically run before your main washing cycle. It involves running a short, cold cycle to rinse away heavy stains or dirt.

Running your laundry on prewash also prepares your appliance to tumble and spin smoothly during its regular cycle — think of priming a filter or starting your car engine.

This extra step fills the compartment with water and spins your load for a couple of minutes to soften any particularly stubborn soiling on your clothes that would otherwise give you a hard time during a regular cycle.

When to Prewash Your Laundry

When to Prewash Your Laundry

Prewashing is most effective for clothes that are heavily stained with mud, dirt, or other kinds of soiling. However, this could also depend on the type of fabric of your clothes.

Leather, polyester, and some silk do not need to be prewashed.

While prewashing might sound like a huge helping hand — and it is! — it’s unfortunately not for every fabric. 

It’s most effective for clothes heavily stained with mud, dirt, urine, or other kinds of soiling.

It’s an optional step in your laundry process. Depending on the clothes you’ll have to wash, sometimes it might be better to opt out of using it.

So when exactly is the right opportunity to prewash your clothes? We’ve made you a short list of it below!

1. For Excessively Stained Clothes

If members of your household are active under the sun — being a football player, for example, or a construction worker, or even a baby who needs changing every hour! — you might be no stranger to heavy soiling.

Clothes that are excessively stained with mud, dirt, or any similar elements often need to be laundered manually to soften the staining, and then washed again to be disinfected.

Prewashing clothes essentially replaces the manual laundry process in this scenario. It saves you time and effort, and might even work twice as effectively as when you’d do the washing by hand!

2. For Cotton, Linen, Denim, Rayon, and Natural and/or Synthetic Fibers

Most fabrics could do with a prewashing cycle to help maintain their quality. 

Materials like cotton, denim, and other natural fabrics typically shrink when you wash them. Prewashing helps prevent clothes made of these materials from shrinking significantly.

It also reduces the risk of color bleeding in dyed fabrics. 

The cold water and gentle spinning from a prewash cycle can get rid of the excess dyes in your clothes that will otherwise lead to heavy bleeding if you throw your clothes into a main wash cycle from the get-go.

Prewashing also gets rid of other excess fibers from low-quality fabrics. This can help you estimate and reassess which clothes would survive a regular wash cycle and which ones are better off manually laundered.

Though, we do recommend getting rid of low-quality fabric for sustainability purposes. 

But we understand if the clothes are just too preppy to throw out or if finding an alternative seems impossible in the meantime — in that case, prewashing them can help protect the items from extreme fraying.

Quick Tip:
• While prewashing helps with fabrics listed above, as we’ve mentioned, some fabrics just don’t get along with this cycle.
• Polyester and leather — faux or real — can make do without this extra step.
• Moreover, while it’s ideal for silk fabrics to be prewashed, it’s best to check the product label for any warnings first. Some brands might recommend skipping the prewashing for their silk items!

3. For Product Testing Before Sewing

Any good seamstress or tailor should always go through the process of testing their materials first before committing to a project.

Fabrics hardly ever stay the same throughout the process of transforming them into new clothes, as well as after being worn. They’re susceptible to changes brought on by external elements, often by washing.

Prewashing your fabric materials before starting to sew them into a new shape works as a cautionary measure to ensure the quality of both the material and your work. In general, you need to prewash the fabric for the same reasons we relayed above.

To recount, here’s a list of how prewashing can help you test out the materials you’re fixing to use:

  • Shrinkage: Most fabrics tend to shrink with every wash. Prewashing them first helps shrink them down to their true size, ergo allowing you to work with the material in its most accurate fitting.
  • Color Bleeding: Prewashing dyed fabrics helps reduce the risk of excess dyes bleeding into one another and altering the colors of your materials.
  • Quality Test: Prewashing helps in eliminating low-quality materials as the process exposes cheap fabric. It also helps eliminate frayed or distorted materials.
  • Dirt Removal: Putting your fabrics in a prewash cycle first ensures that you’re working with a clean product.

Moreover, chemicals and other materials — such as starch — are used as finishing touches on the fabric to make them look crisp and brand new.

These materials can cause skin sensitivities, hence it’s necessary to wash them out first before using the fabric.

  • Material Softening: As mentioned above, some fabrics make use of other materials to appear crisp. 

Prewashing them not only removes chemicals and dirt but also restores their soft texture and makes them easier to work with.

How to Prewash Your Laundry

How to Prewash Your Laundry

To prewash your laundry, load the clothes into the washer and put some detergent in the prewash compartment.

Then, choose the wash cycle you want and press the prewash button to begin the cycle.

Most washer models already have a built-in prewash button you can easily locate on the control panel. The process is also as straightforward as doing a regular wash cycle.

In fact, you can set your prewash cycle to seamlessly transition into the main wash cycle for a smoother process!

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make the most of your prewash cycle:

Step 1: Double-check the labels on your clothes. 

As we’ve briefly mentioned above, some clothes aren’t suited for prewashing.

Aside from the regular sorting of clothes according to their fabric, you’d also want to separate clothes that can be prewashed from those that are better off not being prewashed.

Step 2: Load the clothes into the washer. 

Washers don’t come with a separate clothes compartment for prewashing, so you’ll be fine with loading them into where you usually load your regular-cycled laundry!

Step 3: Load your detergent in both the detergent compartment and the prewash compartment.

As we’ve mentioned above, we’re looking to smoothly transition from prewash to regular wash.

Putting detergent in both compartments guarantees that the cycles won’t be interrupted during that transition.

You can also load in your fabric conditioner but note that only the main wash cycle uses this.

Step 4: Select the necessary Wash Cycle. 

This, of course, depends on the material of the laundry you just loaded.

This also determines the kind of cycle your washer will run after prewashing is done. Choose between Normal, Heavy, Bedding, Towels, et cetera.

Step 5: Press the Prewash button. 

Most washer models would have this alongside other wash cycles or settings.

Step 6: Press Start. 

Don’t forget to make sure all the doors and lids in your washer are closed!

Once you press start, prewashing will run, immediately followed by the main wash cycle as indicated by the setting you selected.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I put the detergent in prewash or main wash?

It’s best to put them in both!
Prewashing makes use of detergent to soften particularly hard stains. After the cycle is done, it flushes out the water and detergent it used and starts the main wash cycle with a fresh batch.
Hence, you have to put a separate batch of detergent in the main wash compartment as well for your washer to use during the regular cycle.
Using detergent during the main wash not only guarantees a sparkly clean batch of laundry, but it also disinfects the clothes that were otherwise heavily soiled before you put them in prewash!

What should you put in the prewash compartment?

Only detergent goes into the prewash compartment.
Fabric conditioner is stored in a separate compartment and isn’t used until the regular wash cycle.
Moreover, make sure to consult the detergent label for the appropriate amount of detergent to be used on certain types of fabric during prewash and regular wash. Putting in too much detergent might end up damaging the material of your laundry load.

How long does a prewash cycle last?

The duration of a prewash cycle may vary depending on the washer model you’re using and the type of laundry in the cycle. Larger laundry loads like bedsheets tend to consume more time than good ol’ t-shirts.
In general, prewash cycles last for an estimated three to five minutes. You’d hardly even notice it once it’s integrated with the regular wash cycle!

If up until this point, you’ve been contemplating how prewashing feels like an unnecessary extra step in your laundry, then we’re here to assure you that while it is an extra step, it’s a beneficial one.

Of all its advantages, it primarily ensures that your clothes come out soft and flexible for main washing, and twice as squeaky clean. It also helps you maintain the quality of your clothes in the long run.

So the next time you find yourself with your weekly laundry load, don’t be afraid to throw the right clothes into a prewash cycle!

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