If you wash your clothes then it’s likely you already follow some sort of laundry routine… but is it the ideal laundry routine? For years my laundry “routine” consisted of tossing all of my clothes (regardless of color) into a single cold cycle once a week and calling it a day.
Now, many years, a marriage, two children, and countless loads of laundry later I feel very confident about the laundry routine I have finally landed on.
Determine Your Laundry Schedule
The perfect laundry schedule for you and your family is likely going to look different than my laundry schedule or your neighbor’s laundry schedule. Laundry is so personal!
Your ideal laundry schedule will depend on the number of people in your household, your typical work hours, whether or not you choose to live paper-towel free, the sports gear, uniforms, and other activities of your household members, your access to a washer and dryer, etc.
Some people prefer to tackle one load of laundry every morning, others do it at night, and some people prefer to tackle it all in one day. Check out my post all about how to create your own customized laundry schedule to determine the best fit for your current lifestyle.
Organize Your Laundry Room
Few things inspire me to do laundry LESS than a messy and cluttered laundry room or laundry area. When my laundry room is clean, organized, and stocked with all of my favorite supplies then I am FAR more likely to stick to a consistent laundry schedule.
Start by removing everything from your laundry area. Categorize everything you pull out: detergents, laundry boosters, fabric softeners (side note: you don’t need these, so there’s an easy category to toss right off the bat), vinegar, dryer balls, stain removers, and the rest of it.
If you need to, invest in some inexpensive shelving and containers to store items by category. I also like investing in beautiful detergent dispensers for aesthetic and practicality reasons. If you have the space, I also really love having a laundry sorter in our laundry room so I can separate all of our darks, lights, and delicates to be washed over the course of the week.
Create a Laundry Sorting Routine
Speaking of sorting clothes… you already know to separate whites and colors. It’s also a good idea to sort fabrics by weight – towels, denim, and sweatshirts in one load. Thinner fabrics like t-shirts and socks in another load. Then delicate fabrics in their own load (ideally washed in mesh laundry bags for added protection).
Many people find that it saves them time to pre-sort their laundry. If you have the space in your room or your closet, invest in a multi-bin laundry hamper. In the past my husband and I shared a laundry hamper that had 4 separate bins – one for whites, darks, heavy fabrics, and delicate fabrics. When one bin was full, I simply pulled it out and added all of the contents to the wash.
Weekly Laundry Sorting
Once a pre-sorter, now I am a once weekly sorter. Our 4-bin laundry sorter now lives in our laundry room and once a week I gather ALL of the dirty laundry from everywhere in our house. Sheets, bath towels, kitchen towels, and clothes. I sort mine and my husband’s laundry first then tackle each category by washing 1-2 loads a day over the course of the week.
Strategic Capsule Closets for Easier Laundry
As a mom of two small boys, strategically curating their wardrobes for easier laundry has been game changing. I find it very helpful to buy only colorful clothes in relatively neutral colors and patterns. This way I combine both of my kids’ clothes into a single wash and dry cycle every week.
No sorting, no air drying, no thinking. Now, the only effort I have to make with their laundry is pre-treating stains (of which there are so so many…).
Prepare Laundry Before Washing
Before adding a load of laundry to your washing machine make sure you check each article of clothing for the following:
- Stains – You will want to pre-treat all stains before adding to a wash cycle
- Full Pockets – I have found loose change, small toys, boat loads of sand, rocks, hair ties, bobby pins, stickers, pieces of paper, and more in the pockets of my family’s laundry. NONE of these items are good for your washing machine (or your clothes) so make it a habit to always check pockets before loading your laundry.
- Embellishments – If you have clothes with any sort of graphic or embellishment, keep them protected by turning them inside-out before washing.
- Laundry Labels – Don’t forget to consult the laundry labels on your clothes tags. Not sure what those symbols mean? Don’t worry, I have you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about laundry labels.
You thought it was time to wash now, didn’t you? Not quite! As you were preparing your laundry in the previous step, I hope you took the time to separate any stained items. Now it’s time to treat those stains!
For most stains on most fabrics, I simply apply a tiny dab of laundry detergent or dish soap and rub it into the stain with my fingers. For more severe or older stains, I’ll actually soak the fabric in a basin with oxygen bleach for at least 15 minutes (ideally 30-60 and up to overnight depending on the stain).
Smelly laundry (think sweaty performance fabrics made for exercise) can be soaked in a basin with distilled white vinegar and water. I like using a ratio of about 1 part vinegar to 4 or 5 parts water.
Choose a Wash Cycle
Did you know that most laundry can be sufficiently cleaned on a quick wash cycle? Yep. Doing so is not only going to be gentler on your clothes, but it also saves time and water. Unless something is noticeably dirty (e.g. cleaning cloths) then almost all of our laundry is washed on either a quick cycle or delicate cycle.
Choose a Drying Method
Before dragging your wet laundry into the dryer try to give each item a little shake first. Tossing a tangled ball of fabrics into the dryer is going to result in tangled clothes that are not evenly dry.
Decrease the drying time by adding dryer balls. If the weather is nice, give line drying a try. I love to line dry linens like sheets, cloth napkins, and tablecloths. The sun naturally bleaches white fabrics and you’re always left with a fresh, crisp finish.
Fold and Put it Away
This is the step I always struggle to follow through on. Why is the last 10 percent of a project always the hardest to complete?
Something that helps is equipping myself with multiple laundry baskets. You can choose stackable plastic versions or more eco-friendly canvas-lined wicker or woven cotton baskets. I have seen wire mesh baskets used for this purpose too.
Once a load is finished in the dryer, dump it into a basket and immediately take it somewhere to fold and categorize. Place each pile of folded laundry back into the basket and drop it off at the appropriate final destination (clothes closet, linen closet, etc.).
Don’t Forget to Clean Your Machines
Once a month or so it’s a good idea to do some basic cleaning and maintenance on your laundry machines. Run a cleaning cycle on your washing machine. Empty your dryer lint compartment with a vacuum and lint brush. Then give your dryer a quick clean to prevent odors from building up.
After all of that information I hope you now feel armed and ready to tackle your laundry! Need more help? Check out my post/podcast about laundry basics for more tips.