Twenty-four programmes on the washing machine, six mysterious symbols on your T-shirt, washing powders, liquids, balls ? when did laundry get so complicated? Here's how to make it simple again
7 tips for getting the perfect wash
1. Get clothes wash-ready. Do up bra straps to stop the catches snagging other clothes; zip up zips; empty pockets and use net bags for delicates.
2. Read the labels. The tags on most items of clothing tell you how to wash and dry for best results (see our guide overleaf). Read and obey!
3. Use your machine properly It's tempting to wash everything at 40ºC, but for best results, use the correct wash programme for different clothes items.
4. Pre-treat stains. If clothes are stained, make sure you apply a stain remover before you wash, otherwise the stains may set.
5. Use the right amount of detergent. Too little won't get everything clean, but too much will leave a residue on your clothing. The correct amount varies depending on how hard your water is, how dirty the washing, whether you're using powder or liquid and the size of your washing machine. If in doubt, follow the guidelines on the packaging.
6. Don't cut corners. Machine-washing items that should be hand-washed or dry-cleaned just to save time will only end in tears and ruined clothes.
7. Clean your machine. Every few months add a cup of white wine vinegar to the detergent dispenser and put the empty machine on a 95ºC wash to clean it.