A vital yet often overlooked aspect of doing your laundry is finding the optimal load size. 

If you stuff too many items into the same load, it can prevent them from getting cleaned properly. Worse still, it can even throw your laundry machine’s drum off balance and potentially cause damage to the machine itself, or even the clothes within which can become traped and rip during the spin cycle.

But if you put too few items into a wash, you’re simply wasting water, detergent, time, and electricity which could be made better use of by adding more clothes to the load.

To help you out, we’ve put together this quick guide on how much laundry you should fill your machine with for optimum results.

Finding the Optimal Laundry Load Size

washing machine dimensions

The amount of space available for a load of laundry varies between different washing machines. Different brands and models of washing machines have different amounts of space available inside, within the washing machine drum.

The drum size isn’t the only factor in this equation, either. Another thing to think about is the type of washing machine you’re using. High Efficiency (HE) machines can wash more clothes in a single load than regular washing machines, which means they can be filled differently.

To get your laundry clean, there needs to be enough free space within the washing machine to allow water to circulate and for your laundry to move around during the wash. Packing it too tightly will prevent this, leading to your laundry not getting as clean as it could.

For some tailor made instructions, you can consult your washing machine’s operating manual, which probably has some suggestions for the optimal load size for your washer.

But for those of us who don’t have their washing machine manual handy (who does, really?) we have a few simple methods of determining the right size.

Three Methods for Quickly Determining the Right Load Size

1. Proportion of Drum

You can pretty easily determine a good load size by just eyeballing how much laundry you’ve loaded into the drum.

For a medium load, fill your washer until it’s about half-way full. For a large load, fill it up to three quarters full.

If you’re trying to do an extra large load and want to pack in as much as you can, fill the washer with clothes an insert the palm of your hand. If you can comfortably fit the palm of you hand in between the clothes and the wall of the drum, it should be okay.

2. Weighing Your Laundry

If you happen to have a scale handy, you can weigh your laundry to get an idea of the load size. This isn’t a perfect solution, since the weight of a load isn’t always directly proportional to the size of the items in the load.

This is a slight issue because the main thing we are concerned with when filling the washing machine drum is volume, not weight. Too much weight can be bad for your washing machine as well, but typically the limiting factor is the volume of the load.

However, here are a few rules of thumb if you want to weigh your laundry:

  • A medium load is around 6-7lbs of laundry
  • A large load is around 11lbs of laundry
  • An extra large load is up to 21lbs of laundry

3. Count Your Items

If you don’t trust eyeballing it and don’t have a scale handy, you can count the garments and items in your load to get an idea of your load size.

Here are some rough figures on how many of each type of item can be fit into a given load size. Note that these are just rough estimates, as the sizes of these items can vary widely based on other factors.

  • Medium or Regular Load: 5 T-shirts, 2 Sweaters, 3 Pairs of Pants, 3 Pairs of Underwear, 2 Skirts, 1 Pair of Socks.
  • Large Load: 12 T-Shirts, 2 Sweaters, 5 Pairs of Pants, 5 Pairs of Underwear, 3 Skirts, 6 Pairs of Socks.
  • Extra-Large Load: 12 T-Shirts, 15 Sweaters, 6 Pairs of Pants, 6 Pairs of Underwear, 6 Skirts, 12 Pairs of Pants, 12 Pairs of Socks.


How much does a load of laundry cost?

In the United States, it costs around $3 to wash and dry a load of laundry at a laundromat. Doing the same load of laundry at home would cost around $1-$2 in electricity and water expenses, depending on where in the country you live.

How often should you do laundry?

You should organize your laundry schedule to ensure you never run out of clean clothes. How often will depend on how many outfits you have in your wardrobe that are regularly worn. Any time you only have two or three outfits left, be sure to start up a load or two of laundry.

What size washer do I need for a family of 4?

For a family of four, you want a large washer which can tackle a high volume of laundry. Look for something with a capacity of at least 4 cubic feet.