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Laundry day usually makes itself known when the hampers are overflowing and you find yourself sniffing a shirt to make sure it's clean enough. Once you've gathered up all the stray socks, gym clothes, and guest towels that someone dared to use, sorted it all by color, and dragged it to the washing machine, do you know the right way to load your top-loading washing machine?

While many people have switched to front-loading machines, which can save on water, energy, and soap use, many of us still love the classic top-loading models. They are big enough for large items (hello, comforters), easy to use, and allow for last-minute additions to the load. However, there are some tricks to make the most of them and ensure your clothes get as clean as possible.

Top-Load Washing Machine and Dryer in Laundry Room
Credit: Getty/eyecrave

For starters, you want to make sure the laundry soap actually gets on the clothing. "You should put the soap in as the top loader is filling with water, so the soap is disbursed throughout," says Sacha Dunn, founder and CEO of Common Good, a soap and cleaning supply company. This is particularly true if you use powdered detergent.

Dunn also recommends following the manufacturer's directions closely when it comes to doling out detergent. "Don't use more detergent than recommended by the manufacturer," Dunn says. "Excess detergent can leave a residue which will attract dirt and soil. The opposite of what you want!"

That means, start the water, add the detergent, and as it's filling put in the laundry items. This way the soap gets distributed throughout the water and you can avoid the dreaded floating clothing problem that can happen if you wait to add clothing until the water has filled the wash tub.

As you load in the laundry items, try to evenly distribute the items around the center agitator keeping things as balanced as possible. According to the appliance pros at Sears, "If your load is unbalanced, it can cause vibrations strong enough to actually move the machine, which in turn can lead to a costly repair." They also recommend placing sheets and towels on either side of the agitator instead of twisting them around that center column.

If your top-loading washer doesn't have a center agitator, place your clothes around the sides of the agitator plate, not in the middle. As the machine fills with water and the agitator kicks into action, the clothes will naturally distribute themselves for cleaning.

The most important thing to remember is to not overload the machine. Clothes should be distributed evenly and loosely inside the machine. If you find yourself cramming three duvet covers into your washer, they will most likely not get very clean, because they don't have room to agitate a.k.a. get the dirt off. Plus, a crowded wash tub creates more opportunities for zippers and buttons to rub against other garments, potentially causing holes and tears.

So how full should your washer be? Better Homes and Gardens suggests, "Even a large load of laundry should not fill the washer tub more than three-quarters full." They also point out that if a load is too heavy it can damage the items on the bottom.

Another tip? According to CNN, it's a smart idea to put socks in the washer first, which they claim will make them "less likely to attach themselves to other garments and then go missing." And contrary to what your mother may have told you, it's okay to mix small and big items in a wash load. In fact, the combination can help keep the machine balanced and give clothes more room to move, which helps them get cleaner.