Jessica McFadden has a pretty good laundry routine going with her family of five. One child brings dirty clothes to the laundry room, one folds the clean clothes and delivers them to each bedroom, and one is a master sock sorter.
But once school starts, the laundry routine has to be retooled to accommodate the increased volume of sweaty tap class outfits, damp swim team uniforms and smelly taekwondo clothes.
“I go bonkers each fall,” says the Maryland mom. “I have to get the kids into the routine of emptying activity bags and gym bags in the laundry room.”
In September, many of us re-evaluate how we do our chores. So now is a good time to go over how laundry is done in your home.
Is one person (maybe you) doing too much? Are the kids participating? Do your clothes look super-clean or might you do better with a different detergent? Are you getting the odors out of your workout clothes? Could your laundry room be better organized?
Many of us are stuck in a rut, doing laundry the way we’ve done it for years. Maybe even the way our moms did it. But our cleaning needs — and options — have evolved.
No one day wash day
Decades ago, having one official laundry day a week was good enough. But today people have more clothes, do smaller loads more often and take fewer things to the dry cleaners.
“Modern lifestyles have gotten more hectic, so people are doing laundry more often,” says Brian Sansoni, a vice president at the American Cleaning Institute, a trade association for the cleaning products industry. “It’s not just for Saturdays and Sundays anymore.”
In addition to loosening the laundry schedule, Sansoni says there are many ways to update and upgrade clothing care.
One detergent doesn’t fit all
Cotton was the most common fabric in the laundry basket years ago, but now there are many different materials, such as athletic-wear fabrics that can be tricky to clean and keep odor-free.
“As technology improves and some of the fabrics out there undergo changes, it’s important for consumers to take a fresh look at their washing conditions, their detergents and their usage habits,” says Pamela Lam, vice president of research and development for All laundry detergent. What worked a decade ago may not be the best solution today. Consider checking out newer laundry products that contain odor removers, give clean clothes a special scent or have no scent at all.
Clean the laundry room
Organized and attractive laundry rooms can make the process more enjoyable, says Leslie Yazel, editor in chief of Real Simple magazine. Yazel says fall is a good time to clean out your laundry room and remove everything that isn’t related to clothing care so it doesn’t become “a giant junk drawer.”
Organizing tips from Yazel include keeping a Mason jar on a shelf to hold loose change that comes out of pants pockets and installing a trash can with a cover so dryer lint doesn’t blow around the room.
If you have been hanging your air-dry clothing over the shower, install a telescoping valet rod in the laundry room instead. (Your family will thank you.)
Sort now, not later
You should also consider changing how you transport piles of dirty and clean clothes around your home.
About 86 percent of households sort laundry before washing, according to statistics from Henkel, a manufacturer of laundry and home-care products.
Women (90 percent) are also more likely to do so than men (75 percent). Yazel and her husband keep two hampers going at the same time: one for whites and one for colors. That way sorting is done in advance.