What Does “Wash With Like Colours” Even Mean Anyway?

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Confused by that wash with like colours” laundry label on a new item of clothing? Let me help solve your laundry enigmas to help keep your clothes looking better for longer.

The last thing anyone wants when they are quickly trying to do their laundry is a quiz. Yet some clothing care labels can very much feel like a conundrum wrapped in an enigma.

Getting a riddle wrong generally doesn’t have any consequences. However, get a laundry label wrong and there’s a good chance you could ruin your favourite items of clothing. It’s high-stakes stuff. And let’s face it, most of us don’t need any high-stakes situations when we are just trying to get our clothes clean.

Take “wash with like colours” for example. What does that even mean?

Let’s take a look to help avoid playing laundry Russian roulette with your best clothes.

So What Does “Wash With Like Colours” Mean?

A washing machine and laundry basket with a blue text box that reads what does "wash with like colours" mean when it comes to laundry?

If your laundry care label says “wash with like colours” this means that you should wash those clothes with clothes of a very similar colour. This will help to avoid any transfer of dye from ruining other clothing items.

This is because the dyes in clothes with this label on them are prone to running and potentially ruining other clothes in the load. Especially for the first few washes, when the most dye tends to come out of new clothes.

So, for example, if you’ve bought a red top and the care label says you should wash it with like colours, then make sure you wash it with other red-coloured items.

Avoid adding any light-coloured items to this wash. If you don’t, these could come out of your washing machine with at best a very pale pink tinge. At worst your whites could have a whole new bright pink look. Red dye is prone to bleeding when wet, and transferring to lighter colours, hence the need to keep it separate.

Other offenders where you are likely to find this label include new indigo or black jeans. These should only be washed with other dark colours. Unless that is, you want your laundry to turn a blue or grey hue.

In case you are wondering, washing similar colours together doesn’t stop the dye from running. It just means any ill effects shouldn’t be noticeable.

What About Colour Catchers?

I remain unconvinced that colour catchers – those sheets that you pop in each wash to supposedly absorb any dye released from your clothing – actually work.

Even colour catcher manufacturers stipulate that new coloured garments should be laundered separately for at least the first six washes.

It also adds an additional cost to each laundry load. And let’s face it, most of us could do without any additional costs right now.

Instead, save yourself some cash. Take a minute to sort your laundry into white, dark and coloured piles. Then take a quick glance at the care labels of any new items of clothing to make sure you are washing them correctly.

What About Striped Clothes?

The care labels on striped clothes often helpfully say “wash with like colours“. To which I always found myself shouting at the label “which similar sodding colour“?! White and red striped tops are 50% white and 50% red after all.

After a laundry error of the highest order, I now only ever wash new red-striped clothing in cold water, with other red-coloured items. Never with whites.

I’ve also learned a lot about washing striped clothing. With clothes with dark-coloured stripes, I wash these in a coloured load. And when it comes to pale-coloured stripes, I wash these with whites.

See my guide on how to wash striped clothes for the full run-down on different coloured stripes and how to wash them.

Hopefully, you can feel more confident about tackling tricky clothing care labels and wash with confidence. After all, the longer we can keep our clothes looking good, and the less often we need to buy new clothes, the more sustainable our wardrobes can be.

And if you have any other laundry woes, then do take a look through my laundry tag! I have two kids so I do A LOT of laundry.

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