Set Up an Efficient Laundry Room

How to organize your laundry-room space so you can get the most out of it.

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Photo by William Abranowicz

Transporting and Sorting

Few moments are more absurd than the times you beg your loved ones for their dirty laundry. That's why you should put a few receptacles in strategic locations that will make transporting and sorting clothes easier, says Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty Laundry With the Queen of Clean.

  • A hamper, a basket, or a bin should go in each family member's bedroom or bathroom. Even if you can't get every family member to do his or her wash, you can save time by giving everyone a portable receptacle. Make sure the hamper has soft edges that won't mar paint or chip doorjambs.
  • Set up a central three-bin sorter in the laundry room where people bring their individual hampers. Laundry that doesn't make its way to the sorter doesn't get washed. (If your child's jeans du jour are left dirty, it's not your problem.) Any family member over four feet tall should be able to separate lights and darks. Hand-washables go into the third bin.
  • Keep dry cleaning away from the laundry room to avoid confusion. A bag with handles, kept in the closet, works well.

Dabbing, Pouring, Restoring

Keep everything you need near the washer, on a shelf preferably at eye level. If you don't have room, try a rolling caddie that slides between the washer and dryer.

  • Arrange products from left to right in the order you use them. For example, start with stain removers, then follow with bleaches and detergent, then fabric softener, and lastly spray-on starch and distilled water for ironing. Be sure to keep bleach and ammonia (this includes many window cleaners) away from each other; when mixed, they can produce toxic fumes.
  • Boxes or baskets on the shelf make grouped items more accessible and less likely to topple over and leak. For example, keep stain removers, both commercial and homemade, in one box.
  • Consider corralling all wardrobe-related items (sewing supplies, shoe polish, spot remover) on this one shelf. If there is room, rags, paper towels, and household-hint books can find a home here, too.

Drying

  • For clothes that might shrink in the dryer, get a folding drying rack or a collapsible drying mesh to avoid creases.
  • A set of pant stretchers will dry pants and make creases down the legs so you can spend less time ironing them ($20, vermontcountrystore.com).

Folding

  • When tumble-dried clothes are dry―preferably when they are still warm―hang them up or smooth them out and fold them right away. Avoid having them sit and cool in a crumpled state.
  • Clothes that should be folded include: T-shirts, sweaters, jeans, sweats―basically anything knit or stretchy.
  • Folded clothes are easier to transport (no Hansel-and-Gretel trail of socks).
  • Make sure your folding surface is high enough, be it on top of the washing machine or part of the sorter, so you don't have to stoop and strain your back.
  • Lone socks should never leave the laundry room. If a solo sock ends up in the wrong bedroom, it is less likely to be reunited with its mate. Have a collection bag for such socks in the laundry room or pin them to the bulletin board.

Hanging

  • Hanging certain garments as they emerge from the dryer can save on ironing time.
  • Clothes that should be hung include: creased or pleated items, button-down shirts, khakis―anything that wrinkles easily.
  • Wooden hangers with a rod work for most hangable items. Choose padded hangers for fragile items, and hangers with rubber clips for skirts (metal clips might dent the fabric).
  • Get in the habit of bringing empty hangers to the laundry room. You'll have a supply on hand, and you can rid your closet of extras.
  • Return wire hangers to the cleaners.

Ironing

  • Keep an ironing board for the few garments that must be pressed.
  • Get a wall-mounted rack that keeps the board out of the way and holds a hot iron; then you won't have to wait for it to cool.

The Ambience


The laundry room should emanate cleanliness. It should be bright and easy to clean. If it doesn't have a window, then flood the room with lights and make sure the walls are white or a luminous color. Clean the laundry room when you clean the house, not just when you clean the basement.

These touches can make the space as livable as any other room:

  • Music
  • A rug or carpet swatch to stand on. It absorbs splashed water and cushions your feet.
  • Framed art or photos
  • A pretty dish or bowl near the washing machine serves as a catchall for pocket contents. It's also a reminder to check pockets for lipsticks, pens, crayons, and other detergent-defeating culprits.
  • Bulletin board. Tack up care labels, extra buttons and thread, stain charts, and product samples.
  • Trash can for lint. But if you are planning on camping out this summer, collect dryer lint in a coffee can. Lint makes high-quality tinder because it is extremely combustible, which is a main reason you shouldn't let it build up in the dryer.
  • Ironing-board cover. Contrary to popular belief, these don't have to borrow patterns from tea cozies. Look for striking new styles instead.