Reader Amanda recently e-mailed and asked a few questions about laundry maintenance for a family of four. She wanted to know how many loads of laundry a typical family might do in one week, how long this would take, and what routines could be put into place to handle these loads. After doing some research, math, and making a few estimations, I think I finally have a few answers for her questions.
1. How many clothes can a washing machine hold in a single wash?
First off, know that there are not standard load sizes for washing machines. Phrases like “mid-size capacity” or “ultra capacity” mean different things from manufacturer to manufacturer. The number you need to determine how many clothes a washing machine can effectively handle at a time is its pounds of clothing per load.
For example, Whirlpool states that their top-loading washing machines can handle 12 to 18 pounds based on model. And, their front-loading machines vary from 12 to 20 pounds based on model. But, Whirlpool doesn’t provide in their product descriptions anything other than drum sizes of models in cubic feet. A machine’s drum size is irrelevant because it has no bearing on the motor’s ability to handle the weight of the clothing in the drum. To find out the weight your washing machine can handle, you may have to do what I did and call the store where the washing machine was purchased. I learned that my “large capacity” washer can hold just 12 pounds of clothing.
To learn how much 12 pounds of clothing is (or whatever your washer can handle), stand on a scale empty handed and weigh yourself. Then, have someone pile into your arms pairs of jeans. When the number on the scale increases 12 pounds over your empty-handed weight, you’ll have an idea of your washing machine’s capacity. For me, this came out to be between 9 and 10 pairs of jeans. Try the same thing with other clothing items to get a full picture of what your machine can handle.
2. How many clothes does an average person wear in a seven day period?
Obviously, this number varies based on the person. However, I was curious about how much clothing I dirty in a week. So, I abandoned my normal twice-weekly washing routine and weighed all of my dirty clothes at the end of the week. Turns out, I wore 16 pounds of clothing last week. My husband’s clothing came in at 17.5 pounds. Honestly, I was blown away that we dirty so much clothing in a single week. But, since we both started working out every day in 2009, we now dirty at least two sets of clothes a day. Between the two of us, we had three loads of clothing in a week (well, actually four because I had a delicates load).
3. How many towels and sheets does an average person go through in a seven day period?
Again, this number will vary based on personal preference. In our house, my husband and I combined go through 1 set of queen sheets, six washcloths, two kitchen towels, four bath towels, and two hand towels per week. This turns out to be less than 12 pounds, but unfortunately all of it won’t physically fit in a single load in our washing machine. So, the sheets get their own load and the towels get another. If you’re keeping track, this means that our family of two generates five or six loads of laundry most weeks.
4. What is your best guess for how many loads a family of four would generate in a week?
Kids seem to generate a lot of clothing — spills, sports practices, uniforms for after-school jobs, indecision about what to wear, etc. If I generate 16 pounds of clothing in a week, I imagine that a middle schooler or high schooler could easily create 14 to 15 pounds of clothing in a week. Multiply that by two and add in two adults, and a family of four probably generates between 60 and 65 pounds of clothing per week. In our washing machine, that would be five to six loads of clothing.
Then, figure in a load for all of the bedding for a week (three sets of sheets can probably fit in one load), and two loads for towels (12 washcloths, two kitchen towels, eight bath towels, and four hand towels), and a typical family of four probably generates between 8 and 10 loads of laundry per week.
5. How long does it take to do the laundry?
Again, this varies based on the machine you have and what you’re laundering. But … in our home, a full cycle in the washing machine is 35 minutes and most everything is dry in 55 minutes. A single load from start to finish in the machines takes 1.5 hours and then another 15-20 minutes to fold and put away. It can be a two-hour chore for a single load of laundry.
Eight loads of laundry would take roughly 10 hours to complete. (That is estimating 35 minutes to wash the first load without anything in the dryer, 440 minutes to dry 8 loads of laundry, and 120 minutes of folding and putting away time.) Ten loads of laundry would take just over 12 hours to complete.
6. What is a reasonable laundry routine for a family of four?
Reasonable is a pretty vague term in this instance, so feel welcome to offer up alternatives in the comments section.
Monday: Launder all the sheets from all three beds. (1 load)
Tuesday: Launder child #1 and child #2’s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Wednesday: Launder adult’s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Thursday: Launder towels. (2 loads)
Friday: Launder child #1 and child #2’s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Saturday: Launder adult’s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Sunday: Rest, or launder a load of delicates.
7. What are some additional tips and tricks?
Check out my previous posts on getting laundry under control for additional suggestions for tackling this beast.