by Jura Koncius, (c) 2018, The Washington Post
Maryland mom Jessica McFadden has a pretty good laundry routine going with her family of five - until the new school year, with its additional gym and activity clothes, begins. McFadden, who writes the blog A Parent in Silver Spring, has one child who brings dirty clothes to the laundry room, one who folds the clean clothes and delivers them to each bedroom, and one who is a master sock sorter. But once school starts, the laundry routine gets retooled to accommodate the increased volume of sweaty tap class outfits, damp swim team uniforms and smelly taekwondo 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." It's a challenge to collect everything and keep it moving through the system, she says.
In September, after the lazy days of summer, the McFaddens and many other households re-evaluate 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 odours out of your workout clothes?
Many of us are in a rut, doing laundry the same way for years. It may be the same way our parents did it. But our cleaning needs - and options - have evolved.
Decades ago, having one official laundry day a week was a popular routine. But today people own greater quantities of clothes; do more, smaller loads; and take fewer things to the dry cleaners. New buildings are increasingly installing washers and dryers in each apartment as an amenity. If renters don't have to schlep dirty clothes to a communal washer in a dusty basement or laundromat, they will probably do laundry more frequently, tossing in a load before work or bedtime.
"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.
Although cotton was the most common fabric in the laundry basket years ago, now there are many different materials, such as athletic-wear fabrics that can be tricky to clean and keep odour-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. Some newer products contain odour 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, according to 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." When she lived in a rowhouse with a dedicated laundry room, she used a lemonade-style dispenser for liquid laundry detergent and poured it directly into a measuring cup. Other 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 all over your bathroom, install a telescoping valet rod for that purpose. (Your family will thank you.) More tips for laundry rooms are included in the new book "The Real Simple Method to Organizing Every Room."
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 colours. That way sorting is done in advance.
McFadden, who does at least eight loads of laundry a week, says she's always looking for ways to make chores easier for her family. Finding products that multitask is key. She swears by the Ikea Fyllen collapsible mesh laundry hampers (she owns seven), which can hold dirty clothes and be used as baskets for sorting. "I love having a bunch of these so it doesn't matter who has which basket, as they rotate around the house," McFadden says.
Featured Image: Jack Gardner/Time Inc. Books