There’s no question that the advent of washing machines has made an unavoidable life chore a heck of a lot easier. You could throw in your dirty clothes, dump in some detergent, and not have to worry about it until it’s time to switch them to the dryer.

At least, that’s what many people probably think. For as much as washing machines can make things less time-consuming, there are still some precautions that most folks should take—but don’t.

Here are 11 of the most common mistakes that people make when doing laundry. The solutions are sure to help you out in the long run!

1. Cleaning the washing machine: Just because a device is used for cleaning clothes, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also need to be cleaned from time to time! Once a year, you should run it with just a bit of vinegar and plenty of hot water. You’ll still have to clean the detergent drawer by hand, and don’t forget to keep the door open between cycles to dry it. If it’s a front load washer, you’ll also have to check the rubber ring around the door for mold.

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2. Removing stains: You’ll eventually get holes in your clothes if you rub stains too aggressively, especially with certain fabrics. Instead, you’re much better off soaking the stains and blotting them gently.

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3. Sorting your clothes: Sort clothes not just by color, but by material. For example, fabrics that require gentler cycles, like fleece, should be washed separately, and you should never, ever wash regular clothes with towels!

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4. Zippers and buttons: Close your zippers before you wash your clothes; this protects both the “teeth” and the clothing itself. Similarly, buttons should always be unbuttoned, because otherwise they could rip the clothing.

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5. Go easy on the detergent: Too much soap could actually be a negative. In fact, you may find your clothes with white spots when you take them out, forcing you to wash them again. Mold can form from excess detergent as well.

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6. Save money: You probably don’t need expensive detergents no matter what the ads say. There are even everyday items that you could use to enhance your washing, too. For example, you could use salt to bleach, or use lemon as a natural fabric softener!

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7. Don’t wash too Many clothes at once: Sure, it can always be tempting to squeeze as many articles into the washing machine as possible so you can save time, but going overboard like that could actually break the washer!

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8. Hand-wash elastics: You should try not to wash items with spandex, like bathing suits or bicycle shorts, in the washing machine. It may be a real pain in the neck, but hand washing them in cold water instead will always help them retain their stretch.

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9. Washing pillows and duvet fillers: These tend to be made of thicker material, so one wash won’t necessarily rinse all the detergent. With that in mind, consider washing them twice—once with soap, and then again without.

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10. Never use softener on towels: Everyone loves soft towels, but they should never have fabric softener applied to them; that’s because it decreases their ability to absorb water and weaken the fibers. They’ll soften anyway after a few uses, don’t worry!

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11. Wash undergarments separately: Bra hooks and wires can easily poke holes in the rest of your clothes, so unless you’re putting them in a mesh bag, you shouldn’t wash bras with your other clothes. Similarly, velcro could ruin your other fabrics. While you’re at it, protect pantyhose by putting them in a mesh bag or by washing them by hand!

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These tips may mean that you have to put some more thought into your laundry than usual, but they’re worth the trouble. Having to buy new garments entirely (or even a new washing machine!) would be much more of a hassle.

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