Let’s throw open the laundry doors

30 April 2018
May - week 1 in The Simple Home

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a kind of simple elegance in using and cleaning household linens. Clothes, sheets, towels, curtains and kitchen linens always look better when they’re well cared for. When I see them in homes I visit, fresh and neatly stored away, especially when they have quite an age to them, I get the feeling there is a lot of love in that home. My aim is to have a clean house, clothes and linens, but I know that it can take a lot of time to achieve that consistently. The answer is to make the laundry room your cleaning headquarters. If your laundry room is organised to support your general cleaning tasks, it will go a long way to helping you keep a clean house and stay on top of the laundry. 


If you organise your laundry and feel good about the products you make and use, if you understand your fabrics and have effective ways of dealing with cleaning problems, you’ll not only get through the washing more efficiently, you’ll be able to use the laundry room as the cleaning headquarters of your home. So let’s throw open the laundry doors and make friends with what’s in there.

Most of us have a small room or area in the house set aside for laundry and cleaning. It’s easy to shut the door on that room and go in only when you have to, but I encourage you to liberate yourself and the laundry room. You might not like cleaing, but unless you pay to have it done for you, cleaning and washing are a part of life. All of us prefer wearing clean clothes and living in a clean home. So to help you do those cleaning tasks, accept laundry as a part of what you do, organise your work space, create a cleaning stockpile, set up your cleaners, buckets and brushes, and take control of your washing and cleaning. When you have an organised space to work in, with everything you need to carry out your cleaning, you’ll probably spend less time doing so; you’ll have a clean house and clean clothes and more time to do the things you love doing.


I also encourage you to use homemade cleaners. They’re as effective as commercial cleaners; they’re easy to make; they’re much cheaper than anything you’ll buy at the supermarket and there will be far fewer chemicals in your home. You'll find a post about commonly used homemade household cleaners here. 

Cleaning and Organising the Laundry Room
Organising everything to maximise efficiency will help you stay on top of your laundry and cleaning more than anything else. So let’s start by cleaning the room, purging all those old, unsafe products you’ll never use and reintroducing the things you will keep in an organised manner. Most laundry rooms have a few things in common: 
  • Washing machine
  • Tumble dryer
  • Work bench 
  • Ironing board and iron
  • Drying rack/s
  • Dirty clothes hamper/s
  • Shelf space or cupboard
  • Rag bag
  • Floor-cleaning equipment such as broom, mop, bucket, vacuum cleaner
  • Large sink for cleaning and soaking
But even if you only have a washing machine and a shelf under the kitchen bench or in the bathroom, the area still needs to be clean and organised. In fact, smaller spaces must be better organised than larger spaces, as clutter will prevent you finding what you need. If your washing machine is in the kitchen, you’ll have to be careful not to spill laundry products near food. Find a small basket or plastic tub and store all your laundry products in it, away from your food prep area.


Make sure you dispose of all old and unwanted chemicals in a responsible manner. If you have something toxic or a large amount of any chemical, check with your local Council or PlanetArk’s website, about safe disposal methods. 

Customising your Laundry Room 
Now that everything is spotless, it’s time to customise the room to how you work and to help you get through your washing and cleaning. Have a good look at the space you have available, and reorganise it for maximum efficiency as you bring everything back in. But also make it a room you feel good in: don’t be afraid to add some artwork, children’s paintings or pretty shelf liners.


Keep all your cleaning tools, products and materials in the laundry. Organise your laundry liquids and powders and the ingredients you use to make them so you know what's there. Have a look under all the sinks in your house to see what cleaning equipment is lurking in there, and move everything except your dishwashing gear and your cleaning kits into the laundry. Then you and those you live with know all your cleaners and cleaning chemicals are in the one place. 

Using rags
Over the course of your lifetime, you’ll save hundreds of dollars by cutting up old towels, sheets, tea towels and T-shirts to make cleaning rags. Anything made from cotton or linen is suitable, and because they’re old and well used, they’ll be seasoned, absorbent and soft.

The wonderful thing about recycling household linens as rags is that you can use them for both wet and dry tasks, making your cleaning days easier, and you can just throw them in with the regular wash when you’re done. If there is a particularly nasty spill or the dog throws up, you can use the rags to completely clean and dry the carpet, then throw all the rags out. Don’t wash a rag that you’ve used for wiping up vomit or faeces – it will take too much of your time to deal with that rag properly, and it’s unhygienic to put it in with the regular washing.

Cut the old towels and sheets into squares with pinking shears or scissors and pack them into your rag bag, or a small basket stored on the shelf.  There is a post about creating a rag collection and making a ragbag here.

38 comments

  1. The laundry is definitely an often overlooked part of the house. I can totally relate to shutting the door on it until I need to go in there. For me though at the moment I'm in there several times a day home with the kids and cloth diapering - lots of rinsing of nappies! So, it definitely helps for it to be a clear uncluttered space.
    I've been making your laundry liquid for several years - it's been such a handy thing to make myself. Even though it is super quick to make I also occasionally use your powder recipe when I feel like I can't find the time to make the liquid up. I'd definitely encourage anyone who hasn't given it a go to go dive in.
    Rags are so handy to have around. In the past I've knitted dishcloths but lately I've just been cutting up old tea towels and t-shirts to use as dishcloths. I do hope to carve out some time to knit some new ones up but these are doing the job nicely for right now.
    Cheers,
    Laura

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  2. We don't have a separate laundry room - it is in a type of passage leading out the side door. One thing I have done is to create a photo wall opposite the washing area, and on that are photos of all our family. It is nice to know that I can look up at loved ones who live far away as I go about my daily tasks.

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  3. I think the best advice i ever got from you was the cutting up old towels to use as cleaning rags. they just clean so much better than anything else i have ever used and they are free and i can make more every time a towel gets a but tatty.

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  4. One of the projects this year is to make some sort of laundry area and have all the stuff in one place. Right now my washingmachine is downstairs in the hallway, the dryer is upstairs in the bathroom, cleaningproducts are in a seperate cupboard. Slowly but surely we are transforming and decluttering to make our house work for us. Weird how you can live with situations for years, not being practical at all. And then inspiration strikes and you look at your situation with new eyes!
    If you can, that would be my advise to everybody who struggles a bit, but can't quite get a grip. Small steps and looking at things with "new" eyes, as you would when you would buy a new house....:) Worked for us!

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    1. That's funny - the last home my parents had in Washington, DC was attached to the building of their business (what we call a mom-and-pop grocery). The washer was in the kitchen downstairs (the only part of the house downstairs) and everything else was upstairs and over the business. The dryer was in a little room upstairs that also housed the water heater, and maybe the furnace - I don't recall. The upstairs space also had access to a clothesline attached to reels between our house and the next one over. I was in 5th grade when we left there, and I don't think I ever asked why they did it that way.

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  5. Don’t laugh, but one of my favourite spaces in my home is my linen cupboard. It has shelves on two sides and is stacked with clean sheets, duvet covers, towels and table linen. It must be a throwback to my nursing training. I love to see everything folded neatly and arranged by colour and type. I can put my hands on anything I need quickly. It was made from a bit of space left over when we remodelled the layout upstairs in our new house. As it did not have a heat source like the hot water tank we made it into an airing cupboard by fitting a plug in, very low voltage tubular heater. Very low cost to run. So now we have a warm space to air everything too during the winter. Very satisfying!

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  6. At our house I do all the laundry. I love it, that's why I do it. After a tough day at work managing people, customers, complaints and deadlines spending an hour in the laundry is just bliss. It is my quiet time. The washing does not back-chat me, it does not whinge, it does not ask for leave, it doesn't persistently ask for a raise nor does it complain to the minister - it just allows itself to be 'done'. The most satisfying thing about doing the laundry is that it is a job I can start and finish - so different to much of what I do at work all day.
    I learnt early on that the washing is not truly done till it is all folded and put away. I get a weird satisfaction from a linen closet full of nicely folded towels.
    My laundry room became so much easier to keep clean when I decided to limit the use of the tumble dryer - so much fine lint escapes from the dryer clinging to walls and, well, everything. Sun-dried clothes whenever I possibly can nowadays.

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  7. Thank you for the tips. Where did you get that gorgeous mop and bucket. Also, I should hang my mop up too for air drying.

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    1. It's an Aldi mop, Zena. They come up on special every 3 or 4 months. I think it was $25.

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  8. Great timing, thank you. I've been decluttering over the past few months and the laundry cupboard is next on my hit list.

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  9. Our laundry room is quite small but we have done what we can to make it store what we need in a convenient way. We do have a small sink there and I am thankful for that. I keep a small bucket for soaking stained clothing. There are hooks on the wall for hanging clothes on hangers and some hooks over the door for drip drying items on hangers. Just a few steps out the back door and I am on the deck where I have a retractable clothes line that I can pull out and use for outdoor drying. We have a broom cupboard in our kitchen so that is where those items stay but we do have a cordless rechargeable vacuum on the wall in the laundry room along with a small hand held vac in it's charger. My ironing board hangs on hooks on the back of the laundry room door and gets used in the kitchen. It all works but I have hopes of a larger laundry room when we move to a smaller one story house some day.

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  10. A similar subject came up this week on another blog. At one time we lived in a townhouse apartment that had a large unfinished basement and the laundry (our washer and dryer) was down there. I bought 5 or 6 $1 round laundry baskets for sorting and had them in the basement, which worked great. When we moved into our house, the first floor laundry room had a space where we installed cleats along the walls, along with a Formica countertop and a shelf below it. The round baskets were not suitable, but I bought another 6 cheap baskets, and with 3 on the shelf and 3 on the floor below (short end parallel to the front of the countertop) I had a similar sorting arrangement. The shelf and countertop were longer and offered more storage at one end. We also added inexpensive kitchen cabinets over the counter for more storage. The room also had this odd shallow closet, which could have been a broom closet, but ended up as storage as well. The closet was shallow because the flue for the furnace travels up from the basement behind it. There was also a chase at one end that gave us a place to mount a towel bar on the vertical face, where you could hang hangars as though in a closet, not up against the wall or anything, so you could hang fresh laundry, or hang laundry to dry - not a huge space, but useful. It also has a double laundry tub. While it works quite well, the space is rather tight, and I could wish it were a foot wider.

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  11. I make our own liquid laundry solution from Marseille soap or use ecological washing liquid. We use washable nappies and sanitary towels. We even use washable toiletpaper for number one (and it's so much better than disposable toiletpaper). I wash it at 60 degrees C every 3 days. I like my laundry room nice ans clean so it is easy to sort the wash.

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    1. Hi Elgenwijzehuisje, My mom used cloth diapers on four children, and I used flannel moon pads that I made, too. I also use flannel squares for tp for number one. I tried to translate your blog to English, but couldn't figure it out.

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    2. Great post, Rhonda. I live in a tiny older home. My washer and dryer are in the kitchen. I really enjoy using homemade soap in my laundry detergent. The clothes dry so quickly here in our California desert heat. I rarely use the dryer. Whenever I cut up old towels into squares to use as rags, the ends fray. Do you sew yours? For now I've just been using them as they are, and knitting and crocheting lots of cotton dishcloths.

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    3. I usually pink my edges instead of using straight scissors. They still fray when you first cut them but it doesn't last long.

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  12. I live in an apt. building so my laundry room is in the basement of the building. Not ideal but - I can do my laundry at off times and there is more than one machine so I can do a few loads at a time.
    In my apt. I have a laundry "closet" - one side is lined with shelving and holds linens and extra hygiene supplies. Then I have two white "garbage" bins with lids for dirty laundry - 1 for clothing and 1 for linens. It also holds my large canvas tote for taking things downstairs, my ironing board and iron, drying rack and laundry supplies. Extra coat hangers hang from a rail and separate bags hold rags and clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners. It makes life so much easier to have everything in one place.

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  13. Your blog is such an inspiration. I live on a beef cattle farm in GA, USA, in an older house. We have a room called the "work room", & this has the laundry necessities as well as a spot for "dirty" boots, gloves, pantry shelves, cat food, trash cans, etc. It is not always neat, so you have inspired me. From your blog in the past I got the idea of cutting old knit shirts, sheets, to use as rags, & these as used widely for cleaning as well as for working on tractors, etc. Thanks for sharing such info. Mary Ann Cauthen

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  14. My laundry is as old as the house which was built in 1942ish and it looks as old 😨. It is with unbelievable excitement, lol, that we have organised for a builder to reorganise the space. I am soooo looking forward to a new sink, actual bench space and a spot where the washing machine won't continue taking steps out. It is my space though where things need to be done properly. Washing needs to be separated as my hubby and adult child remember my squeals through washed tissue! Really, if care is taken there and our clothing feels clean and neat, we are better for it. Same goes for your preferred cleaning products/solutions.

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  15. I'm lucky with my laundry. Although it's very small, it's situated directly below our bathroom, and the previous owner of the house installed a chute under the bathroom vanity down into the laundry for dirty clothes, etc. I have three hampers sitting under the chute: whites, coloureds and work clothes (my husband's work clothes are always covered in diesel and grime and need special treatment). The room is just high enough that I can have the tumble drier mounted directly over my front-loading washing machine with space to fit a laundry basket under it. We live in the tropics, in a very hot and humid climate, so drying clothes outside is virtually impossible in summer (the Wet season), and my tumble dryer is vital. It doesn't ry as nicely as sunshine, but as we have solar panels, at least we're not consuming fossil-fuel generated electricity. I have hanging space for shirts, a shelf for folding laundry, a hanging rack for brooms and mops, and a shelf for the cleaning materials. And all this in 2 square metres...

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  16. Thank you for this post. I guess I have never run across your homemade cleaning section before. I am glad you posted it as I can now make more homemade cleaners now.
    I make my own laundry soap in a slightly different way; I add OxiClean. May I ask a silly question? What is that elongated, dark teal, cloth scrubber used for?

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    1. Cate, it's a washable microfibre venetian blind cleaner.

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  17. I have a laundry room and pantry area combined. Cupboards on both sides, but the area for hook ups for laundry is on one side; storage for pantry goods on the other. It houses our washer and dryer perfectly and there is plenty of storage for cleaning products. I am grateful for this believe me; I had to take my laundry out to a laundromat for 40 years! I keep it well-stocked with soaps and cleaners that are all eco-friendly of course, and safe for my doggie. In the summer I line dry my clothes and linens outside. Love the fresh smell and the mild disinfecting qualities of bright sunlight.

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  18. Love all of these ideas...thanks for the well-thought suggestions.
    The biggest piece of advice that I can share is to share the laundry work load. I taught both of my children how to do laundry at a very early age. They started by matching socks, and folding face-cloths, dishtowels and bathroom towels, and putting all the laundry away. After a bit, they could fold all the laundry...shirts, pants, etc. (taking the time to show them how, and then letting them do their own job, the best that they could). By age 8 both my kids could complete the laundry from start to finish. My husband does regular laundry too..the bedding is usually what he gets done. (Deb V.)

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    1. That is great advice, Deb. Enabling our children to look after themselves as they grow up allows them to develop self-confidence and an understanding of the power of work.

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  19. Your laundry room looks so nice! My laundry area is primarily in one corner of my unfinished basement (washer, large double cement laundry tub in the middle, dryer) with an old bookcase next to the dryer. The top of the bookcase holds a large laundry basket to catch the laundry that comes down the laundry chute from the bathroom upstairs. The shelves of the bookcase hold laundry detergent, Woolite, a dishpan to use for hand washables, etc. I have an ironing board a few feet away from the washer and a wooden drying rack is nearby. I also hang clothes to dry on lines that the previous owner installed in another corner. There is a table I can use to fold laundry, but I almost always take it upstairs to fold. I sometimes think it would be nice to have a laundry room upstairs, but I've also gotten used to having quite a bit of room to spread out. There is something very satisfying about doing laundry and putting it away. I also associate it with my Mom because she was the queen of laundry, especially ironing and folding. When I was young, I would sit with her while she ironed and tell her about my day. The last couple of years I would do her laundry and had a special bag I'd put everything in to take it back to her apartment. I took a lot of satisfaction in doing that, knowing that she still loved her clothes and liked them to be ironed. Sometimes I would iron a few things at her apartment and she would offer suggestions to improve my technique - she was always right too! Beth in MN

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  20. My laundry contains an ultra water efficient front load washing machine that is plumbed to run off tank water. There's a laundry trough with a small cupboard underneath and a cabinet with lovely plastic fake amber bottle glass doors. And yesterday the tiles on the walls started falling off. It's a tiny space but I don't spend any time in there apart from putting the clothes in the machine and taking them out. I lam ok with doing the wash and hanging it outside on the good old Hills hoist but I hate ironing.
    I don't recall when I last used an iron. It seriously would be around 15 years ago. I never Even ironed my work uniform for the 10 years I wore it yet noone ever said I looked dishevelled.
    With the tiles now falling off it looks like the laundry needs to be added to the renovation list.
    Claire in Melbourne

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  21. Unfortunately, our kitchen is only slightly bigger than a closet and houses both the washing machine and the shower. I have to lean over the washer to put stuff in the microwave and can't reach the back corner of the kitchen counter (bench). Every few months, I move the washer out so I can clean and reorganize the counter behind the washer, but I keep trying to find ways to improve it. You've given me several ideas like the hanging rack. I recently bought a trashcan just for rags since I don't like them in with regular laundry and having them piled in the floor waiting to be washed wasn't good. I love your ragbag idea since that would take up less space than the rag basket I currently use. Thanks for the ideas!

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  22. I actually really like to do laundry. It feels like something I can get "completed. " At least until the next morning that is and then it all starts over again!

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  23. I have a separate laundry room but only a small bench which often is taken up by cleaning products etc. I must install some shelves above it like the ones you have in the photo.

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  24. Thank you for this post Rhonda! I am now feeling inspired to do a clean up and tidy in my laundry! The 2 best things I have in my laundry are floor to ceiling shelves which my husband built years ago to store shoes. (No more shoes left on the floor...) and the second one is a rod which we installed above the washing machine and laundry tub where I hang business shirts. I used to leave shirts to be ironed in a pile on the ironing board which was not practical and also creased the shirts even more. I also use that rod as a drying rack.

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  25. We are lucky to have a separate laundry room with double Belfast sinks so useful for soaking/ hand washing, a washing machine and tumble dryer which I try to use rarely, cupboards above which also hold vases and a kitchen worktop. On the back of the door is a roller huckaback towel and the central heating boiler is in here which helps dry things. In the adjoining hall is an overhead dryer( Sheila maid) which is so useful in our rainy climate. This all sounds like perfection but is far from it! The room has become a dumping ground and needs an overhaul/ declutter because it is really annoying me. It is next on the list of things to tackle. There is something so soothing about orderliness and fresh laundry - something to strive for.

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  26. My laundry is quite tiny and a thoroughfare to the back door! I have a washing machine, sink, a small cupboard and two overhead shelves. I have to keep it pretty organised otherwise no one can reach said back door! No dryer because we live in a climate where we really don't need one and our has has lots of areas where I can set out racks if weather is showery. My ironing board actually lives in our ensuite as there's just nowhere else to put it. That works though as I only iron sporadically and usually if I need something that morning to wear out. I think trying to find different ways to make things work best with the space you have is the key to a room like the laundry. Meg:)

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  27. My smallest laundry was when I was first married and there were only 2 of us. This one is the 2nd smallest and there are now 3. My grandson lives with us. I have had large laundries at times but with a family of 6 I appreciated that. I like to keep things organised in my laundry. I have a washing machine and dryer, which I hardly use here in SE Queensland. I also have a table which was in the kitchen in our home when I was a child. Under that I have 3 laundry baskets for sorting. I love that. Also cupboards for various purposes. The cupboard for my cleaning powders and liquids is in need of tidying and is edging up the to-do list. Kitchen first then books then laundry. Love the help given in these blogs as I often fall into bad habits and they pull me back or teach me something new.

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  28. Love the look and handiness of your laundry, Rhonda.
    A walk-in laundry is nice to have. But right now mine is off of my kitchen in a huge closet big enough to hold the washer & dryer, a cupboard on the back wall over top of the washer & dryer and also hanging space on the side walls for brooms & such. I do like it --- it is very handy being right by my kitchen.
    The thing I miss the most is I need a place to hang laundry outside to dry. When we were raising our kids I had a pulley line at several places we lived and I totally loved hanging all my laundry outside. Even in freezing cold weather when it froze stiff right after hanging it up! :)I could stand at one place to hang it up and just push the line out further as I needed more space. One of the places where we lived, the one end of the line was attached to the house and the other end to the barn. At the other place the line was attached to the house & then to the garage. I loved hanging everything up in order --- first towels, then hand towels, then wash cloths etc. The jeans would all hang together from biggest to smallest --- the shirts the same way. It was so lovely to stand back and watch as it all fluttered in the breeze arranged in perfect order!:) This included baby diapers and all. Nothing like the sun to bleach diaper stains! :) Works beautifully!
    I would love to have a line like that again sometime soon. But I have really no place to fasten the other end of it here where we live now.

    Thanks for the lovely post again, Rhonda.

    ~Sue

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  30. I really should take pictures of the doors to the laundry area, before we sell the house. My husband had this great idea to use interior doors with lots of small panes of glass, which he replaced with mirrored glass. When closed, they make the room look much larger. I do wish I had a folding table, so may put one into the next place.

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