Spend less time doing laundry and more time doing the things you love. Here are 13 ways to make your laundry routine easier.
Carve out the best time for you to do the laundry. Unless you live in a small household, you probably don't have enough time to do it all from start to finish in a single sitting.
Here's another option for breaking your laundry chores into smaller tasks. Schedule loads of laundry -- by type -- throughout the week. You might want to wash sheets on Monday so you can freshen bedrooms. Then do the towels on Tuesday, darks on Wednesday, and so on. This system works well for allowing you to be completely done with laundry by the weekend.
Laundry is often accomplished while doing other household chores or watching television. Time for a commercial? Then take five minutes to sort laundry into white, light, and dark loads. Ready to do a load of clothes? Plan for 25-35 minutes per wash load -- enough time to unload the dishwasher and sweep the kitchen floor. Allow 30-50 minutes per dryer load -- enough time to remake the beds with fresh linens. Waiting for something baking in the oven? Take five to 10 minutes to fold or hang laundry, depending on the items.
Streamline sorting tasks by setting up a laundry cart on wheels. Ideally, keep the cart near the bedroom or bath so you can toss dirty clothes and linens into the appropriate bag -- whites, darks, and delicates -- as you go.
Avoid ruining clothing through careless sorting. New garments can bleed and stain other clothing. Wash color clothing, especially red, by itself the first time; use cold or cool water with detergent. For stains, use a bleach alternative formulated for colorfastness.
Change and launder sheets and pillowcases once a week. (The exception is those in guest rooms, which should be freshened after the guests leave.) Protect pillows with washable zip-on covers. For even wear, rotate sheets, storing fresh sheets at the bottom of the stack. Wash sheets in warm water, and use nonchlorine bleach when needed. Wash all-cotton spreads, blankets, and coverlets in cold water to avoid shrinkage.
Make it a habit to check -- and empty -- the lint trap before each load. A full lint trap reduces efficiency and becomes a fire hazard. Do lightweight, quick-drying items first in a separate load. Placing these in a cold dryer to start reduces shrinkage risk while preheating the dryer for later, heavier loads. Avoid wrinkling by doing several small loads rather than one large, crammed load. You’ll save energy with the shorter drying times and make use of the residual heat.
Take advantage of sunny, breezy days to refresh pillows, comforters, and duvets the natural way -- by setting them outside for a few hours. This is especially important if your bedcovers are filled with down. Many manufacturers of down-filled items recommend dry-cleaning rather than washing, so it helps your budget by minimizing trips to the dry cleaner.
Good-quality bath towels can last 10 years with proper care. Here’s how to get the most from your towels. Wash and dry new towels before use to remove finishes and excess dyes. Launder on a normal wash cycle. Use warm water (not hot) to wash towels. Do not overdry because it destroys the integrity of the individual cotton fibers. Prevent waxy fabric softener buildup by using softeners (liquid or sheets) only every three or four washings. Use color-safe bleach for color towels. Wash white towels separately or with other white items to avoid subtle discoloration over time. Occasionally bleach white towels if needed. If you hang-dry towels, shake them while wet and again when dry to fluff the terry loops. Don’t iron terry towels, which will reduce absorbency. However, linen hand towels should be ironed.
Delegate chores to children based on their ages. Most preschoolers can put away clothes that have been washed, dried, and folded. Grade-schoolers can fold and put away their own clean clothes. Middle-school and high-school kids can handle all the responsibilities related to their own laundry. (So can significant others.) For older children and all adults living in the household, divide laundry by person. Simply assign each person his or her own hamper. When the hamper is full, or that person is out of clean clothes, a load is washed, dried, folded, and put away.
Cleaning out closets lightens your laundry routine in two ways. Clothing is less apt to wrinkle and need to be refreshed when stored in an uncrowded closet where air can circulate. Eliminating unwearable clothing means that there are fewer garments to end up on the floor needing attention (especially with teenagers in the house).
Keep your washing machine from redepositing dirt, hair, and odors by cleaning it monthly. You might need to clean the tub more frequently when washing blankets, sweaters, or other items that can shed fibers during the wash cycle. Clean the dryer once a month, as well. And clean the lint trap after every load. Regular cleaning helps the dryer work more efficiently and prevents fire hazards.
Empty pockets before washing garments to save items and prevent damage to your washer, dryer, and laundry items. Check children's clothing for crayons and small items. Reduce fading in dark clothing by turning shirts, tops, sweat suits, slacks, and jeans inside out before washing in cool water. Read clothing labels. Use mesh garment bags for fragile items such as lingerie, hose, and tights. The garment bag cuts down on the abrasion with other garments in the washing machine.