Everything you need to know about washing whites with colors

The hot laundry question, answered

A pile of colorful laundry on a rainbow background
(Image credit: Future)

Let’s face it: Doing laundry isn’t as simple as just throwing everything in the washing machine and hoping for the best. You have to be seriously careful with what you put in there, and what you put together in there. Otherwise, you can damage the machine or even damage your pretty clothes (bad for your deposit and bad for your wardrobe? NTY).

You’re probs reading this article because you want to know whether you can wash whites with colors. This is either because you’re thinking about doing it or have just read the headline and are a li’l bit curious. Plus, all those laundry symbols on your clothes can be confusing.

No matter why you’re here, I’ve got the answers. I’ve chatted to cleaning expert and brand director Maria Mooney, from the plant-based laundry detergent brand Truly Free, to find out whether you can wash whites with colors, whether you can wash whites with detergent for colors, and whether you can dry whites and colors together.

Whether you’re a laundry beginner or looking for laundry shortcuts, this is all you need to know.

Can you wash white and colored clothes together?

To answer this question in short: you can, but not always. “Though many people swear by sorting laundry before washing it, you can wash your darks and lights together with little risk of your lights changing color,” Mooney explains. For washing without sorting, Mooney suggests using cold water and keeping brand-new colored clothing away from light clothing.

She also says that it’s important to remember that over time, colors will begin to fade if you always wash darks and lights together. Washing whites and colors separately is therefore best, especially if you want to keep your clothing fabric looking new and eliminate the risk of dye transfer. 

Can you wash white clothes with detergent for colored clothes?

If you’ve only got one kind of laundry detergent in, you’re in luck. “Most detergents are used for white and colored clothing,” Mooney says. All out of detergent? Tide’s all-in-one is Amazon’s Choice for laundry detergent.

That being said, you might need more than laundry detergent, or your whites will turn gray. “Adding sodium percarbonate — a technical-grade oxygen booster — will leave your whites the whitest they can be without using a harmful chemical like bleach,” she explains. “It's a myth that you can’t get your clothes clean without using harmful chemicals on your clothes.” Good to know — we ain’t a fan of anything toxic here.

Can you dry white clothes with colors?

There's a serious science behind why you can't dry white clothes with colors. Mooney says: “Drying clothes with colors can cause the colors to bleed and mix, ruining both the clothes and the dryer.” She continues, “It's best to dry whites and colors separately to ensure the quality of your fabrics stays intact.”

Not only this, but she recommends drying clothes with the natural aroma of essential oils (Amazon reviewers love this P&J Trading Romance Fragrance Oil set), instead of using dryer sheets which aren’t so good for the environment. An easy way that you could do this is by placing an essential oil diffuser nearby, emitting your fave scent so your clothes smell totally gorgeous.

So, there you have it peeps. Be careful when washing whites with colors as it can damage your clothes, use any detergent but pay special attention to whites, and definitely don’t dry whites with colors.

Looking to step up your laundry game even more after reading this? These are our best laundry hacks.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.