Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Laundry Management

     Laundry is one of the household tasks that can quickly creep up and then take over. It certainly fulfills the notion that homemaking isn't just the cleaning of the home but moreover the maintenance of it. Keeping up with the laundry can not only be costly in time but also financially as there are many products used to perform the task. There are ways, however, to dig out of the mound of dirty/clean laundry piles and the expense and waste of associated purchased products. 

     The greatest way to ease the burdening load of piled up laundry is to use one of my favorite methods for work- divide and conquer. I try to keep to a weekly schedule so that the amount remains small and manageable each day. I'm also able to use a drying rack to dry the clothes instead of relying on the energy-consuming dryer. I use the following routine:
         Mondays- wash lights, and hang to dry
         Tuesdays- iron, fold and put away lights
         Wednesdays- wash whites (or anything needing 
hot water), and hang to dry
         Thursdays- iron, fold and put away whites
         Fridays- wash darks, and hang to dry
         Saturdays- iron, fold and put away darks
Do Less By... Wearing Less?
      Well..sort of. haha. Is it really necessary to wash every garment or bath towel for each day of use? Are blue jeans really soiled after a day's wear? What about bath towels? Necessity to have a fresh towel every day? (Goodness, I'd be washing fourteen towels a week if that were the case!). Yes, somethings need washing after each use, but others can withstand an extra day, but ultimately, to each his own on this one. 
     Multiple sets of bed sheets are another aspect of laundry that can really clog up the process. When my husband and I did our wedding registry it was recommended to get astonishing quantities of items. For instance, apparently one bed needs three sets of sheets. ...Really?! In practice, I've found that having back-ups for "just in case I didn't get the first set back on in time" permitted the excuse for doing just that. Instead, I've found that it's much simpler to just take them off, wash them, and stick them back on the same day. And yes, bed sheets fit into the Wednesday slot on the schedule. 

Homemade Soaps
     I have really enjoyed using homemade liquid laundry soap this past year. It is extremely cost effective and decreases waste. I'm not having to buy one product for the job, throw the packaging away when finished, and then buy more. The ingredients are simple and really extend the time between repurchasing. I may have only used two soap bars, a partial box of borax, and a partial box of washing soda over this course of this past year. That's about a year worth of laundry soap for under ten dollars! Again, there is also no waste of plastic containers in the trash. I love it!
      The part I haven't loved has had more to do with my distractable self than the product itself. I've had a tendency to neglect to flip the pour spout of my container close, and as you can imagine sizeable portions of several batches as ended up cleaning my floor instead of clothing. Consequently, I decided it was time to switch to a powder version. The ingredient portions are the same as the liquid, but you leave out the water. To make the powder:
                            1 bar Fels-Naptha soap + 1 c. washing soda + 1/2 c. borax
                       1) Cut the bar into small piece. Place into blender until it is a fine powder. 
                       2) Combine all powders in container of choice. 
                            (A gallon plastic bag works just fine for me).
                       3) Use 1 tbsp. (or 2 depending on the size and how soiled the load is) per load. 

Fabric Softener Alternative
      For fabric softener I use apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is a not only a great softener but also cleaning agent for your washer. Don't worry, your laundry won't come out smelling one bit like vinegar! I buy a large two quart bottle of ACV, pour half into another empty ACV bottle, and then top both off with water. I only use 1/4-1/2 cup per load. I really prefer this method over buying conventional liquid softener or dryer sheets because I can use ACV for other purposes in our home and there is far less waste.
     Note: There is another method for extending conventional liquid fabric softener that involves dilution and soaked sponges in the dryer in place of sheets. I tried this method and regardless of the amount of dilution, wherever the soaked sponge landed in the dryer that was where spots and splatters remained on the clothes. We lost some shirts to these stains, so I'd recommend avoiding this method.

Bleach Alternative
      A cup of lemon juice added to the wash can help brighten and clean your laundry. Adding bleach to the wash gives me that feeling of being extra clean, but unfortunately it also ruins the colors on my clothes and towels. I could go with a Bleach 2 alternative, but then again I'm still having to make a special purchase for a single use product. Note that lemon juice can be found in large bottles to make this method more economical.
*I have not tried this method as of yet, but plan to do so as soon as my conventional product on hand runs out. I share this information based solely on research for options for alternatives. Source: http://frugalliving.about.com/od/cleaningtipsandrecipes/qt/Natural_Bleach.htm *

Clothes Rack/Line Drying
     The dryer can use a large amount of energy to dry clothes. Moreover, the harsh heat can wear clothes out faster. A simple alternative is the use of drying racks or a clothes line if you have a yard. If the management of your current housing community doesn't permit clothes racks or lines outside, as mine does, there is still ample opportunity for drying by a window or under a ceiling fan. It takes a little planning and scheduling to allow only a small load to wash and dry per day, but it does save on electricity. 

Homemade Spray Starch
     The can of spray starch is only $.97, but there remains the issue of single use purchase and waste, not to mention the environmental impact of aerosol spray. The eco-friendly sprays are nice, but much more expensive. Instead, I again love homemade. For homemade starch:
                     1 heaping tbsp. corn starch + 1 pint cold water + 1-2 drops essential oil (optional)
    Just mix everything into a spray bottle and shake well before each use. 
*I have not tried this method as of yet, but plan to do so as soon as my conventional product on hand runs out. I share this information based solely on research for options for alternatives. Source: http://frugalliving.about.com/od/colthing/r/Spray_Starch.htm *

What are some of your methods or tips for keeping up with this aspect of homemaking?



  1. We love using homemade powdered detergent as well--I like that it takes up less space than the liquid. Stopping by from Women Living Well, thanks for the tips on laundry!

  2. So many great tips! We are definitely with you on wearing jeans and using towels more than once in our home. :)

  3. Haha! Sometimes my husband wears his jeans 4 or 5 days...yuck. but your ideas are so good. I esp. love using ACV for softener. I feel softeners have chemical fragrances that are toxic to many of us, so we haven't used it for over 25 years. Thank you for sharing your tips.

  4. Dear Whitney,

    Have you used the cup of lemon juice added to your whites as of yet, and did you find that it works as well as bleach in keeping the whites, white and not gray?

    Much thanks to you for all your great posts!


    1. Ruth, I had forgotten about that little trick! I have a load of whites needing washed, and so will try out the lemon juice idea. I'll let you know how it worked either here or through a new blog post next week. Thank you for the sweet compliment! :)


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