Considering that 100 years ago, doing the laundry involved some serious arm muscles, I feel pretty lucky to be able to toss clothes into a machine and have them come out clean. That said, keeping a busy household in fresh garments, sheets and towels isn’t always easy. For a smooth laundry day (and no more missing socks!), here are 10 tips and tricks. Try one or try them all.
1. Do laundry more often. This may be counterintuitive, but if you count laundry among your least favorite chores, it may be time to shake things up. If you’ve been saving up your laundry all week to do in one go, try dividing the task into smaller chunks throughout the week (for example, towels on Monday, sheets on Tuesday, clothes on Wednesday, delicates on Thursday).
Or, if you feel as though you’re always doing laundry, see if you can get away with cutting back to twice a week. If you have a large household, there may simply be no way of getting around doing tons of laundry. The tips that follow will make the work lighter, but remember that you can also use laundering as an excuse to take some downtime for yourself. Put on a podcast or audiobook, listen to music, or catch up on a favorite show while you wash, dry, and fold.
2. Do separate loads for each person. One of the more time-consuming parts of doing laundry is sorting out whose clothes are whose when they come out of the dryer. Avoid this issue entirely by giving each person their own laundry basket and only running one person’s clothes at a time. Of course, it won’t always work out this way, but trying to stick with a one-family-member-per-load policy can help cut down on folding frustration.
3. Use baskets to presort laundry. Who hasn’t experienced the dreaded laundry room floor pileup? This tends to happen while laundry is in progress and the person doing the laundry is attempting to get things sorted out—and it gets worse when the laundry is then left there to “finish later” for some indeterminate period of time. A simple solution is to use a three- or four-bin laundry sorter and toss clothes into the appropriate bin from the get-go.
4. Turn clothes right side out before folding. This is a habit that some people will pick up faster than others, but it can make a big difference in the speed with which you can fold a load of clothing. In a totally unscientific experiment, I found that I was able to fold a load of laundry in nearly half the time when the contents were all right side out to begin with.
5. Put socks in mesh bags. If trying to match socks from the laundry is your idea of hell, treat yourself to a few zippered mesh bags—they will change your life (at least when it comes to laundry). The idea is that each person puts his or her socks into a mesh bag, zips it up and tosses it in the laundry. When the bags come out of the dryer, the socks are all together and ready to be returned to their rightful owner.
6. Set out some helpful extras. A bowl for pocket change, a small wastebasket, and a stain removal chart are nice little extras to have on hand. Here are everyday items that can remove stains. Also consider keeping a stack of sticky notes and a pen nearby. You can use these to stick a reminder on the washer if you need to remove an item to air-dry.
7. Keep your washer fresh by leaving the door ajar after each load. Washing machines, especially the new high-efficiency models, have a very tight seal, which means that moisture trapped after running a load of laundry can’t escape, leading to mildew (and stinky smells). Prevent this problem by leaving the washer door open a crack after each load. Some new models come with a magnetic door latch for this purpose.
8. Hang totes for dry cleaning and delicates. Keep items that need dry cleaning or special treatment from getting mixed in with the regular laundry by dedicating a few big totes to this purpose. Tossing dry cleaning directly into a tote also means that it’s ready to grab and go when it gets full. Store the wire hangers that come back with your dry cleaning in the tote as well, and they’ll be in one place to return them.
9. Dedicate a space to dry delicates. Hand washing itself isn’t too difficult (and some new washing machines even include a hand-wash cycle), but figuring out where to dry delicate items can prove tricky. If you have the space, installing a permanent drying rack in the laundry room is a wonderful solution. If that isn’t possible, invest in a slim folding rack that can slide away when not in use. When choosing a rack, be sure to look for a model that includes space to dry items that need to lie flat (like sweaters). A mesh surface is ideal because it allows air to flow underneath.
10. Corral your supplies. Sure, you can decant your detergent into pretty jars if you like, but if you quickly want to make things look neat, tuck your necessary supplies inside a basket or plop them on a tray. This keeps them together in one accessible place and makes it easy to move everything aside to clean.