Seven ways to manage laundry

If you struggle to keep up with the laundry, you’re not alone. People have different approaches to laundry based on their number of family members, the convenience of laundry facilities, and their personal preferences — but feeling overwhelmed by laundry is common to all types of households. The following suggestions may help make laundry less onerous.

  1. Wear clothes multiple times between washes, assuming they didn’t get dirty and they don’t smell bad. Real Simple has some suggestions on how many times you might wear an item before washing it, as does Consumer Reports. Besides saving time, less frequent washing also saves on water, power, and detergent.Steve Boorstein, who wrote a book on clothing care, recommends washing white clothes after each wearing because body oils and time-released stains (such as perfumes) can make even a clean-looking white item begin to turn yellow. But that’s not a concern with dark clothes, which will fade less quickly when washed less frequently.
  2. Consider washing each person’s clothes separately. Doing so avoids the post-laundry sorting problem. (If all family members do their own laundry, this is already how things work.)
  3. Examine your laundry process to see where you get stalled. One person noticed she was always dealing with her young son’s clothes after he was asleep, so the clothes piled up since she didn’t want to enter his room and possibly wake him. As a work-around, she started storing his clothes in the guest bedroom, and the problem disappeared.
  4. If folding is the part that slows you down, minimize the folding. If possible, arrange your storage so you can hang clothes rather than fold them. Many things that don’t get hung will still be fine without any folding. I fold my cloth napkins and my towels, but that’s about it. T-shirts are hung; underwear is tossed in a drawer with no folding. I worked with one person where we stored all her sweatshirts in a large lidded basket — no folding required.
  5. If ironing is the task you despise, you could join Erin and me in giving away our irons. I generally buy clothes that don’t require ironing. The very few that do need ironing get handled at the dry cleaner.
  6. It’s been said before, but it’s worth reiterating: Make sure you have plenty of room to store your clothes. If your closets and dressers are overly full, it will always be a challenge to put clothes away. Either eliminate some clothes or add storage pieces.
  7. To the extent you’re able to do so, have tools that work well for you and that you enjoy using. That would include laundry bags, baskets, hampers, or sorters. It could be a great iron, if you do ironing — Wirecutter recommends the T-fal Ultraglide Easycord FV4495. If you have your own home and your budget allows, it could mean a superb washer and dryer.If you’re going to be folding, try to have a large table at a comfortable height. Anita Perr, an occupational therapist, suggests it should be about waist high. Also consider standing on an anti-fatigue mat.

13 Comments for “Seven ways to manage laundry”

  1. posted by Liz on

    I agree with NONE about the article on the number of times to wear clothes. I prefer to assume , after 8-16 hours wearing stuff, that the clothes have dirt and smell. It’s better to inspect, treat and wash than just assume that they are “clean” and get into a habit of putting the clothes away. Your nose gets used to your smell and you also lose the sense of smell as you get older. Remember how Granny smelled – well, she probably didn’t wash as often (her body as well as her clothes).

    Laundry habits need to change over time – what worked for me as an auditor traveling around in northern urban areas does not work now that I am retired, in the warm south and active in a wide variety of projects. I agree that having the correct tools is important. One change I made recently was to get two smaller, more flexible baskets to carry laundry. They stack when not in use. One holds extra hangers so they are ready to be used and the second one is used to carry items back to the kitchen, bath or bedroom.

    If you have your own laundry room, the type of washers may also impact your laundry habits. I got used to filling up the tub with water and letting the real dirty clothes soak overnight. When I switched to an energy efficient machine, I lost that ability. The darn machine drains itself if water is left in the tub. So, I have to set the load for heavy soil plus an extra soak period which uses 1 hour and 41 minutes of time. Then you have to watch out for the spin cycle – too high and it seems to imprint wrinkles into even the no-wrinkle fabric. Even with the low setting, I have to take each piece out to “snap” it before putting it into the dryer. And, one has to watch for the timing of the dry cycle to get the clothes out fast. I seem to spend more time dealing with laundry with my “efficient” machines that before with the 20 year old models. But, I’ve been told to expect only 7-8 years life for these new machines.

  2. posted by SC on

    Nope, it’s not.
    If your clothes are gross. Wash them. My kids usually only wear clothes once, because they are messy.

  3. posted by [email protected] on

    Great post. I am particularly fond of the point about washing each person’s clothes separately. I started doing that years ago when my kids were pre-teens. I washed my daughter’s chap stick one too many times (and ruined my clothes) so SHE started doing her own laundry. I made my son do his, too. It was GREAT!

  4. posted by Andrew (@ A Life with Grace) on

    My attitude towards laundry varies depending on what item of clothing it is, where I was wearing it, & the weather.

    Regarding work trousers/jeans, I will generally wear them for up to a week in winter as body sweat is generally minimal. In summer I would change these every 2-4 days (two pairs per week) depending on activities during the day. Shirts (business, polo & t-shirts) in general I change daily. Undergarments is a given that it must be daily.

    If something is stained, no matter how many days I have worn it, I will change it as I have found that wearing them just makes the stain more permanent.

  5. posted by Andy Chow on

    I might be considered gross for admitting this, but I rarely wash my jeans. By that, I mean every 3 months or so. You can read many articles that confirm you never need to wash jeans.

    I also usually wear wool pants and jackets, and I never wash those, just steam them. Wool should not washed in a machine anyway, just soaked for a long time then hand washed, or dry cleaned. I’ve found that steam works like magic and removes any smell.

  6. posted by Abby on

    I do all the wash and am very particular about drying. Many of my items are line dry and they last a long time.

    I consider Color Catcher up there with sliced bread machines. My husband had some shirts which I was never able to stop the running. He loved them and wore them once a week for probably close to 5 years or more. I was able to stop washing 3 shirts separately.

    I don’t mind ironing either. I put on a movie and grab a glass of wine. I might as well make the time enjoyable.

  7. posted by JC on

    I live in a colder climate so I usually wear three or more layers of clothing. The clothing closest to the body gets changed/washed everyday. The other layers, especially those that never touch skin, are washed far less frequently.

    My favorite time to do laundry is during the short summer when I can hang it out. Unfortunately, that has often been curtailed by rain (45 consecutive days one summer), wildfire smoke, and twice volcanic ash. We have a lot of clothes that are line dry that get draped over the woodstove and on racks in the winter.

  8. posted by Her from There on

    I wash all the clothes in colour batches, then line dry. I can get away with that living in Perth, Western Australia because its warm and dry for 9 months of the year (for the couple of weeks a year when its too wet for clothes to dry, I hang them on airers and put them in the house. The heaters are on anyway so it doesnt cost any extra to dry the clothes). Then I put each person’s clothes in their own ‘clean clothes’ basket and put them in their room for them to put away. Takes a bit of nagging to get the process completed but at least the clothes stay contained to the basket until its done. It’s not perfect, but it works for us.

    As for ironing, it rarely happens. I buy clothes using the scrunch test (scrunch a bit in your hand. If its very crinkled when you let go, don’t buy it) and hang things immediately out of the machine in ways that force the creases to drop out.

    I try to wash twice a week, but bought my sons enough school uniforms to last the week so that if we’re very busy one week, it can wait until the weekend.

  9. posted by Gypsy packer on

    I use a tie hanger for panties. It takes up little closet space and no folding is required.
    For work/casuals, I recommend the Ranger roll. YouTube instruction is available, it takes little more time than folding, and uses far less space.
    Time your washer and then check your dryer in 15 minute increments. Then schedule other tasks by time slot. This saves stress and utilities. Nothing can make the job pleasant, but it is possible to keep it from being a time suck.

  10. posted by RayeEllen on

    As a single mom, I taught my son how to wash his own clothes, starting at age 7. He learned to sort them, wash them, and which ones should not be placed in the dryer. He learned to fold them and place them on hangers. By the age of nine, he was expert at washing and caring for his clothes. This good habit has lasted him some thirty years later. I firmly believe that all children should be taught to care for their own clothing at a young age,especially boys, so that they will not become a ‘child’ for a wife. He loved going to the laundromat, and I loved him taking responsibility. Of course, any ironing was done by me. This article is also great for me, because I have far too many clothes to care for, so starting today, I am going to toss some of them. Thanks for this article!

  11. posted by JES on

    1. Pre-sort your laundry using color-coded bins or bags (whites, blacks, colors, hand-wash).
    2. Inspect and pre-treat after wearing.
    3. Do your laundry on a schedule. Do all your housework on a schedule. My mom’s secret to never being overwhelmed by housework and having time for her own life.
    4. Consider dropping it off– factor in the cost of your time.
    5. It’s just laundry.

  12. posted by Bas on

    If you wash it all seperatly you use too much washings. Imagine doing the bed linnen, underwear and normal clothes of all persons (for ease take 4 family members) then your washingmachine is used non-stop.

  13. posted by TV James on

    As the dad-who-does-laundry, here’s a whole bunch of my productivity tips:

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