Laundry: Some love it, some hate it, but everyone has to do it. Whether you’re doing it in your home or at the laundromat, washing a load well means washing a load once (i.e. not having to go back and clean again). Here are some tips to save money and time on laundry day.
- Clean clothes when they’re dirty.
We can all agree that cleaning clean clothes is 100 percent a waste of time. Socks and underwear are one-wear garments, but denim, sweaters, and even shirts can be worn multiple times before cleaning. Some families find designating school/work clothes and around-the-house clothes to be helpful; hanging up the work blouse for a second workday means that it won’t get food prep or child care stains, which end up on the designated home T-shirt instead.
- Choose detergent to fit your needs.
Heavy stains with proteins (e.g. blood, dirt, poop, breast milk) require heavy-duty detergents with enzymes to get clothes clean. If you don’t have heavy stains, however, you don’t need to buy the (often more expensive) heavy-duty detergent. If you are a laundromat user, consider detergent pods for their convenience, but a word of caution: Keep pods out of reach of children, as they often look like a tasty snack. Alternatively, you can put just the amount you need into a plastic container so that you avoid lugging a full container of detergent with you.
Another important consideration is whether you are using a high efficiency (HE) washer or a traditional washer. High efficiency washers usually take specific HE detergent that makes less suds. HE detergents can be used in traditional washers with no problem.
- Cut down on detergent.
Using too much detergent can leave an icky residue behind in your washer and result in stiff, not-quite-clean clothes. To save detergent, try halving the amount recommended on the detergent packaging for a normal load. The measuring cup — marked with your preferred amount — is your best friend (with laundry, at least).
If you are using an HE washer, only two teaspoons of HE detergent is enough for a normal load; add any more and you may get sudsy and stiff clothes. To use HE detergent in a traditional washer, a normal load should require only 1/4 cup. (A normal load is 6 to 7 pounds, or filling the machine 3 /4 full.)
- If you have teammates, don’t fly solo.
If you have little ones who are old enough or a partner who is able, laundry can be a team sport. Depending on the age, small ones can help sort by color or match socks. Making it a weekly routine is a good strategy, too; maybe consider combining it with a movie or a routine order-in meal (with the added benefit of eliminating food prep time).
Look at teaching your kids how to do laundry as giving them the gift of independence (and giving yourself the gift of a capable team of helpers!).
- Choose your laundromat machines wisely.
Check for leftovers: leftover bleach and leftover garments. Leftover bleach can also be soaked up with a rag, and removing that leftover red sock from a previous user means saving your load of laundry from a pink tint (and maybe making the day of the owner of the lost sock). And whether you’re at home or at the laundromat, always clean out the lint catch before drying to save your clothes from funny smells.
- Use the downtime efficiently.
With multiple washers/dryers available at the laundromat, you can do all of your washing at once, taking a fraction of the time it would take with one washer and one dryer. If you want to further minimize laundromat time, consider sorting beforehand at home and folding afterwards also at home. The awkward hour or so that your clothes are flying around inside the machines can feel too short for you to actually do anything, but if you’re comfortable leaving your clothes unsupervised, setting a timer can make it possible to run errands and be back just in the nick of time to switch or pick up laundry loads.
If you’re like me and enjoy the white noise of laundromats, that downtime can be put to use doing homework, planning out the week, or reading!
By Annemarie Arnold