Jessica McFadden has a pretty good laundry routine going with her family of five — until the start of the school year, with its extra gym and activity clothes. One child brings dirty clothes to the laundry room, another folds the clean clothes and delivers them to each bedroom, and one is a master sock sorter. But once school begins, the routine gets retooled to accommodate the added sweaty tap-class outfits, damp swim-team uniforms and smelly tae kwon do clothes.
“I go bonkers each fall,” McFadden says. “I have to get the kids into the routine of emptying activity bags and gym bags in the laundry room.”
In September, the McFaddens and many other families reevaluate how they do chores. Now might be a good time to go over how laundry is done in your home. Is one person (maybe you) doing too much? Are kids participating enough, and are you educating them about the process? Do your clothes look super clean? Or might you do better with a different detergent? Could your laundry room be better organized? Are you getting the odors out of your workout clothes?
Many of us do laundry the same way for years. But our cleaning needs and options have evolved.
Decades ago, people had one official laundry day a week. But today people own more clothes, do more small loads and take fewer things to the dry cleaners. New buildings increasingly install washers and dryers in each apartment. If renters don’t have to schlep dirty clothes to a communal washer in a dusty basement or laundromat, they probably will do laundry more often.
“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.”
Sansoni says there are many ways to update and upgrade clothing care.
Cotton was the most common fabric in the laundry basket years ago, but many materials are used today.
“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 detergent. Some newer products contain odor removers, some give clean clothes a special scent and some have no scent at all.
Organized and attractive laundry rooms can make the process more enjoyable, says Leslie Yazel, editor in chief of Real Simple magazine. Fall is a good time to rid your laundry room of everything unrelated to clothing care so it doesn’t become “a giant junk drawer.”
When she lived in a rowhouse with a dedicated laundry room, Yazel said, she used a lemonade-style dispenser for liquid detergent and poured it directly into a measuring cup. She also suggests keeping a Mason jar on a shelf to hold loose change that comes out of 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 all over your bathroom, install a telescoping valet rod for that purpose. (Your family will thank you.)
More tips for laundry rooms are in the new book “The Real Simple Method to Organizing Every Room.”