Best Tips for Laundry Management for Families
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Death, taxes, and dirty laundry. Those three are pretty inevitable, especially if you have children. I do laundry differently than I did as a newlywed, but I still do laundry. And I’m constantly learning about laundry management. Here are some of my best tips.
Food and clothing are the basic necessities of running a home. If those systems are working well, it’s okay if other things slide from time to time.
Getting those systems running smoothly is the trick. In fact, after almost 25 years of marriage, I’m still tweaking my systems. Things change; kids grow; your schedule evolves. Tweaking systems is a part of life.
Tweaking laundry systems is SO MUCH a part of life. Once upon a time I could do laundry once a week. Then my family grew and grew and grew; once a week no longer cut it. I was doing multiple loads per day and constantly climbing Mount Foldalot, like Sisyphus, only the repeated action was folding, not pushing a rock up the hill.
Might as well be the same. Amiright?
My laundry management system has evolved as our life and schedules have changed over the years. I’ve had baby laundry and hockey laundry. I’ve had no one to help and lots of people to help. I’ve had my own laundry room, and I’ve washed socks in hotel bathroom sinks.
I’ve seen it all, baby. One husband, six kids, and 24 years later, I think I’m qualified to speak about laundry management, don’t you? Here are some of my best tips for laundry management.
Best Tips for Laundry Management
Find a rhythm that works for this season.
You may be a one day for laundry kind of person. Or a load a day kind of laundry person. You will know what works best for your family through trial and error.
When I found that our family of 8 was up to ten loads a week, including sheets and towels, I realized I needed to switch things up. I did 1-3 loads a day, Monday through Friday. My younger kids helped sort dirty kid laundry every morning, folded clean towels, and delivered clean clothes and towels to their appropriate locations. This kept things very manageable for a time.
Now we do something altogether different. The kids do their own laundry.
You have to find what works for your family this season. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Put a laundry hamper in every room.
Whether you do family laundry together or divide the laundry up by family member, make sure every bedroom and some common areas (kitchen, mud room, etc.) have receptacles for collecting dirty clothes.
I prefer the touch-it-once method, so I sort laundry as little as possible. Since we do laundry by bedroom, there shouldn’t be any sorting of clothes except to put it away in the drawers.
Throw away the hamper lids.
You want to make it as easy as possible for your kids to put their dirty laundry in the hamper. We found out early on that if we took away the lids, the kids would do a much better job hitting the target. We’ve never looked back. Might not be Pinterest picture-worthy, but at least there isn’t dirty clothes all over the place.
Limit color sorting.
Your mileage may vary, but I haven’t sorted darks and whites for at least five years, maybe longer. No one is running around with pink underwear who didn’t buy it that way. I do wash most thing in cold water, so that could be part of our success.l
Give every family member a laundry bag for travel.
Since I limit sorting whenever possible, I make sure everyone has a small laundry bag in his suitcase when we travel. When we get home, each person can just dump his dirty travel clothes in his own hamper instead of my doing a big family load and having to sort.
Make the laundry area for its sole purpose: cleaning.
Don’t let your laundry room become a catch all for dirty clothes, old shoes, and whatnot. It’s purpose is to clean clothes. If that’s how you set it up, cleaning clothes will be so much nicer and easier.
Use less detergent than the cup calls for.
In case you haven’t noticed, detergent companies give cups that are MUCH bigger than the amount specified to use per load. Is it a trick to get you to use more? I dunno. But, if I hadn’t read the bottle or squintingly examined the very fine print on the measuring cup, I know that I would be using twice as much soap than I needed to. Every bit adds up to extra costs.
Use easy to measure laundry detergent.
Once I started having the kids do their own laundry, I moved away from liquid and powder detergents. Too much was falling on the floor and being wasted. And who wants extra work to clean all that up?!
We’ve used Dizolve laundry strips and All Mighty Pacs with great success. Remember to use caution with all cleaners around small children.
Have clean baskets and dirty hampers.
I prefer to have separate baskets for clean clothes than for dirty ones. In this way, we’re never wondering what’s clean and what’s dirty.
Have a plan for stain fighting.
Again, stain fighting is a personal battle. I’ve found Oxi Clean Max Force spray to be the best. I can spray and let something sit for a few days without needing to wash it right away.
Buy each person one type of sock.
Matching socks will be the death of you if you have more than one child or a husband with an affinity for fresh socks twice a day. Make it easy on yourself — and them since they should be matching their own socks. Buy each person one type of sock that is unique to them.
Not only does this make matching easier, but it also helps you identify the lazy culprit who left his socks in the living room.
Wash jeans inside out to prevent fading.
Reduce friction and fading on your jeans by washing them inside out. Some say you can even freeze jeans to limit their washings. Haven’t tried it yet, but let me know!
Invest in drying racks, lingerie bags, and velvet hangers.
For the first 18 years of parenting, I rarely bought myself new clothes because I had little people who might muck it all up. Once I started to invest in nicer clothes for me and them, I found it worth it to also invest in drying racks, lingerie bags, and velvet hangers. All three make it easier for me to take care of fine washables the proper way.
Teach kids to help with the laundry as soon as possible.
I’m always surprised when I hear that Mom is doing all the laundry at her house. Unless this is something you REALLY REALLY LOVE TO DO, it’s time to stop it. Kids as young as two can help you load the machines, fold washcloths, sort clothes, and put things away in drawers.
Make it your mission in life to make sure your kids know how to do laundry. Not sure this is necessary? Go talk to the people who run your local laundromat and ask them about the college kids they see. Chances are they have seen plenty of clueless people when it comes to laundry.
Make your kids do their own laundry as soon as possible.
Once you’ve taught your kids to help with the laundry, make it your mission to let them do it themselves. This was a game-changer for me. About four years ago I finally got fed up with cajoling my older kids to come help, to come get their clothes, etc.
I decided I was done. I taught them how to use the machines, I wrote a laundry schedule, and I let them take care of their own laundry. I made it easy on myself, and you can, too.
Fold clothes as soon as the dryer is done.
Who wants wrinkled clothes? Who wants to fold laundry that’s been sitting for days? Take care of it while it’s hot and it’ll be so much easier.
Several smaller loads are easier to deal with than one ginormous pile.
Recently, I skipped a week of laundry. I can do this because I only do laundry for my husband and I. Apparently, we have enough underwear to last two weeks.
As nice as that might seem, I found it really annoying to do a double load this week. Everything took longer and felt like a chore. A week’s worth of clothes is pretty quick and easy to deal with. I’m for smaller loads from now on.
Change your systems when their effectiveness wanes.
Once you get your system smoothly running, you can bet that something will throw a wrench in it. That’s okay. That’s life. That’s laundry management for families. It’s ever-changing.
Enjoy a smooth-running system for as long as you can and then get ready to tweak it.
What are YOUR best tips for laundry management?
Originally published July 3, 2008. Updated February 5, 2018.
So I even have my 4 and 6 year old do their own laundry from start to finish. The washing, drying, folding and put it away. It’s not 100% perfect but it absolutely lessens my load with 4 kids and 2 parents!
Great job! I was just talking about chores with my college kids and they are so thankful to know how to do this stuff for themselves. You are investing in the future!
Thank you so much for these tips. I am also a mother of 6, four under age three one is special needs and a military husband and I just can’t seem to keep this house cleaned and laundry piles up constantly. I jus feel so hopeful when I see similar family sizes that I can get some realistic tips from
Nice article. I’ve read it a few times! I love the idea of simplifying socks.
Could you please check the link of the comment above?
Just looking at the comments and the dates and thinking how great it would be to see how some of their laundry routines have changed through the years especially the woman with two sets of twins 😁
Our house is on the smaller size and my three boys share a room so individual laundry hampers don’t really work for us. I’m sure that’ll change as they get older but one set of hampers in the linen closet next to all our doors works for us.
Our washer/dryer are in the garage so I don’t have the same laundry room worries others. If the baskets are there I can’t park in the garage.
I’m a recent laundry every day convert (and love it). I’m also a recent “no top sheets” convert. This has been AMAZING! My kids have never used top sheets only light blankets or thicker ones (depending on the weather) and thanks to a recent pinworms epidemic at our house we’re all top sheet free. It’s probably a mental thing but it makes sheet washing day so much easier.
We also hang up all our tops (shirts, jackets, dresses, etc). I started doing this when I had my first child and won’t go back.
Yes! I hope everyone put an update
Sounds like you’re doing a great job, Kara, honing your systems. Great job. And eww to the pinworms. I’m so sorry.
I’m curious. How does it help to use a blanket instead of a top sheet? Blankets need washed just the same as top sheets when they’re used for the same purpose. I’m guessing the convenience would be in not having to tuck them in . . .?
My family is my husband and me for now, my question is: Do I wash my clothes with his? Or do I have to separate them? Please help!
It’s up to you. If you’re the one doing all the wash, then it’s your choice as to if you want to separate them before or after washing.
Ugh. Laundry. I’m starting to teach my boys and it’s almost harder worse than actually doing the laundry. My eye is on the prize of teaching them a life skill and making one less thing for me to do.
Have you ever used Crystal Wash? No soap just these two balls with ceramic balls inside. It seems weird but look it up and try. They have a guarantee. I have found zero difference in performance since I switched.
Interesting! I have seen things like soap nuts and the like and wondered how they’d hold up around here.
I found this post through another post of yours –
It took awhile for me to devise a laundry schedule, but I found one that works for me – and better yet – the kiddos and the Man Beast have it memorized!
Monday – sheets and towels
Tuesday – Mom and Dad's clothes
Wednesday – Kiddos clothes
Thursday – NO LAUNDRY!
Friday – NO LAUNDRY!
Saturday – everyone's clothes
Sunday – NO LAUNDRY!
I just came across your website through Crystals’ links. I just posted about my recent laundry changes yesterday on my blog. I have reached the same place as you in terms of increased volume requiring more than one day a week.
One tip I have found helpful is to wash loads based on individuals, rather than sorting everything together. This saves from having 6 separate piles of folded clothes to deal with when you’re done. Each family member has a basket with their name written on it (except for Mom and Dad–we share). I’ll wash a week’s worth of dirty clothes for one kid, and when I fold it, it all goes in the same basket, which he can then put away himself. Then his basket is where he puts his dirty clothes.
Sometimes I pull out all the whites and wash them separately with bleach when needed. But sometimes they just get washed with everything else.
I’ve found it makes sorting dirty laundry almost unnecessary, and it’s easier to keep track of whose clothes belong to whom. Ever since doing this, I haven’t gone back to the old way.
Came to your blog from Biblical Womanhood.
I have 4 children, from almost 7 down to 1, and #5 is due in January.
The first thing I do with laundry management is minimize how much I wash. I would find laundry much more overwhelming if I were doing as many loads as many families our size (often almost double). I only wash 5 loads of laundry a week, plus 1 load of diapers.
Sheets are done every other week and towels once a week (with 3 towels between the 6 of us, since we all shower 2-3x/wk). Pants and skirts are usually worn at least 3 days, and tops and dresses at least 2 (except for my dh’s work shirts which are only worn 1). Jammies and nightgowns are worn 3 nights or more. And those under the age of two, of course, often only wear an outfit one day!
Then, I try to wash a load of laundry whenever I have one, so that’s one load most days. My almost-3-year-old empties the dryer (loves it!), and my older two fold and put away most of the laundry, except for sheets, bath towels, and grown-up stuff that has to hang. This makes laundry so much easier. I’d suggest considering enlisting children more if this is a dreaded chore.
I found you through moneysavingmom too. I have two children dd 4 yrs and ds 7yrs old. I do all clothes laundry once a week (day depends on the weather in the summer since I line dry everything) all towels and sheets on another day and dh’s work clothes on another day (I cannot wash his work clothes with ours since they are filthy, he is a commercial roofer and they get really filthy!) I have enough towels so I can do them every two weeks if necessary!
I also wash everything but whites on cold and have never had a problem with stains or anything (I also can only use Tide due to allergies in me and my dd)
You have to do what works best for your family, not every system works for everyone or for anyone forever!
Lynn, I can hear it in your voice. 😉 Glad to hear you found what works for you! Yeah!
Nil Zed, WOW! I need to be quiet if I am ever tempted to complain. I remember those machines from when I lived in France. Laundry in Europe does have its distinct challenges.
Honey, I’m amazed. Two sets of twins? By all means – all those kids need to be folding laundry. Sounds like they’re good ages to be doing so, too.
KaseyQ, love it! Thanks for sharing a laugh.
First, yay for FlyLady! I just love her!
Also, call me a dork, but the way I get through laundry is (you can laugh, I’ll understand, I do too) I imagine having sports announcers commentating on my performance. For example, “Oh, now here our competitor is facing a difficult challenge: the Onesie Fold. Dave, how do you think she’ll handle this one?” “Well Fred, the Onesie Fold is a tough one, but she has proven to be a worthy competitor today- let’s just take a look.” “A flip, a fold-over, a smooth, and- that’s amazing! She nailed it! Fantastic, Dave, I didn’t think she had it in her, but wow, what a performance here today!”
Yes, it’s sad. No, I’m not crazy. I just need the encouragement. 🙂
I got to your blog via the moneysavingmom blog. This topic caught my eye because I have recently changed the way I do laundry. I am married and have five small children (boy-age 7, girl twins-age 5 and boy twins-age 4). I have been in a habit of doing laundry (several loads) everyday. I, too, felt like it was the never-ending drudgery-of-my life. I decided to try to have daily chores beyond the dishwasher, kitchen,trash, tidying up (and other things that must be done constantly). Because I homeschool, I am also training my children to help. They need to learn to work and I need help! My new schedule is Mon.-meal planning, grocery list, clean out fridge and get the kitchen spotless, Tues. is bedrooms, Wed. is bathrooms, Thursday is laundry (trying to put away as much of it as possible, Friday is main level floors (sweep, mop, vacuum) and put away all the remaining laundry.(Weekends are for make-up work). This way laundry is totally done in less that two days. My husband likes it better that there are not laundry baskets everywhere, continuously. I like that I can get a break from it and even have a sabbath day(sort of). I think the key to making this work is to make sure you have enough clothing for 5-6 days per person, but not alot more or you will be overwhelmed and never able to put everything in its drawer/closet.
I don’t mind doing laundry either. I don’t LIKE it, but it’s not the job I hate.
Being as I am in the UK, I must keep a watch on the weather. If the weather is going to be sunny, I put the heaviest load (towels or jeans) in the night before and set the timer on the machine so it is done by the time we have finished breakfast, so I can hang it on the line as early in the day as possible. Then I wash another two or three loads (machines are smaller here) depending on how strong the sun and wind seem to be. The goal being to get the ‘airer’ filled by about 11 a.m., on subsequent days, I try to do at least 1 load to prevent too much laundry backlog.
I fold the clothes as they come off the line, and generally put them away while the kid is bathing, or as part of my bedtime tidy my room routine. Anything that needs ironing goes into the guest room until it is really, really needed, or outgrown. Whichever comes first.
If a backlog has developed, and the weather has turned, then I’ll have to dry the loads as they are washed. I have this weird machine that washes and dries. Even light weight loads (baby clothes, delicates) take upwards of 3 or 4 hours from start to finish, and cost a whole lot more than in U.S. too. Plus, for some reason I can’t fold as they come out of the machine. I just dump ’em in the basket and create ironing. I try to not use the dryer function at all!
When using the dryer, I like doing a load of laundry every day , if needed.
When line drying during the summer months, I try to do all I can on one or two days a week. Since we have a “laundry snatcher” (aka dog) in the backyard, it works best to cable him only a day or two versus me having laundry out every single day.
Like Life on 7th Avenue, I enjoy doing laundry! So I don’t mind doing it either way.:-)
I do two loads/day. I start first thing in the morning. I kind of like doing laundry, so I don’t mind the every day system. One thing that really helps me stay on track is to sort laundry daily. I have two of those sorter things and I just constantly sort dirty clothes.
I can’t stand doing laundry everyday. When I do it everyday it just seems like it is always around. There is always clothes to be folded. I know a lot of people do it that way but I just dread laundry when I have tried it that way. I do about 10 loads of laundry a week. I do it two or three days. Mondays and Thursday for clothes and towels and Wednesday for sheets. I would rather do five loads on one day and get all the folding and putting away done and not worry about it for a few days. And I like the fly lady this is just one thing I don’t do like her. But I am glad this works for you. We each have to figure out what works best. Thanks for sharing what you do for laundry.