Washing and folding

7 May 2018
Our laundries are mainly used for washing clothes and household fabrics but they also hold a place of importance as your home cleaning headquarters. I'm sure you don't like having too many harsh chemicals in your home and it makes sense to keep all cleaning chemicals in one place - this is vital if you have young children living in or visiting your home.  But today we're talking about washing clothes, next week, we'll go on to general cleaning and making your cleaners.



Dealing with Washing
I know it’s difficult remaining upbeat when you’re doing the fifth load of washing and you’re tired. I find that doing all the heavy chores like washing and ironing are easier in the morning. If you can organise yourself to have the washing ready to go when you get up and your energy is at its highest, you’ll get through it without having already worked a full day before you start. Maybe you can put a couple of loads through the machine in the evening and either leave them in the washing basket overnight or put them in the dryer to be folded just before bed time. Or just before you go to bed, fill the machine and soak a load to start in the morning.

It’s also a good idea to use products you like. I love using the laundry liquid I make because I know it’s safe on my skin. I don't like to add fragrance to anything, I'm very suspicious of products that are fragrant, and then, when the clothes are drying and brought in from the line, they smell of sunshine and cleanliness.

Sorting
It’s easy to become a bit obsessive about sorting pre-wash, so I like to keep it simple. Rather than having separate hampers for different kinds of washing, I have two hampers - one for us and one for floor rugs and Gracie's blankets and towels. I hang damp dishcloths and tea towels over the rim of the hampers so they can dry out.

When I’m about to do a wash, I empty the hamper and sort the items into heaps. Sometimes I have one heap, sometimes I have more. Most of our clothes are either cotton or linen and we have no permanent press to worry about. But you need to be familiar with your fabrics – every time you have something new to deal with, including secondhand items, read the care label. It will probably just confirm what you already know: that it can be washed along with the regular washing. But sometimes an item will require special care so that it doesn’t get damaged or pulled out of shape.

As you pick up each item for sorting, empty pockets, do up zippers and turn your darks inside out if you want to reduce fading. It’s a good idea to fasten the collar button on shirts and button long sleeves together to prevent tangling.

When you do your pre-wash sorting, decide what needs pre-treatment, such as stained or dirty garments, and what has to be handwashed. Small items such as pantyhose, bras and hankies can go into a small mesh bag. If there are a lot of small items I sort the whites from the darks and wash as two separate lots. If you only have one wool jumper or one pair of jeans and no other dark clothes, it would be prudent to wash the woollen jumper by hand and leave the jeans to be washed on the next washing day. It’s not environmentally sound or economically efficient to run a wash for only one item.
This is a general guide for sorting:

  • Whites and light colours
  • Darks and jeans
  • Towels, pillowcases and sheets
  • Small items and pantyhose 
  • Stained or very dirty items
  • Nappies
  • Wool, alpaca and knitted pure cotton
  • Delicate fabrics – silk, cashmere, embroidery, lace, etc.
We always hang the washing on the line and take it in when it's dry, folding and sorting as we go.  Dealing with the folding straight away makes the job easier because if you leave it for a few days, it will have new creases. Even if you can't put it all away immediately, try to fold everything and leave it in piles to be dealt with later.

Everyone has their own way to wash fabrics so if what you're doing is working, don't change.  Try to get into a routine with your laundry and work out the best way and time to do it.  Rethink how often you wash clothes - this is different for everyone. Don't automatically think everything needs to be washed after it's been worn once. If you can cut down on your washing, you'll save money, time, effort, water and electricity and that will help both your budget and your environment.

Next week will be the last of the laundry posts and it will be on general cleaning and how to make a few environmentally-friendly cleaners and pastes.

29 comments

  1. I always used to be a little uptight about my laundry sorting but now I'm much more relaxed - and there is no visible detriment to my clothes. I do keep pure white stuff separate and anything delicate or wool just goes into a mesh bag and in with the normal load. I've even washed 'dry clean only' stuff in a wash bag on a delicate or wool cycle with no major unintended consequences. I'm a big supporter of washing things a little less and only when necessary - I think this will be a challenge as my girls grow as I distinctly remember a tendency to throw things in the wash rather than pack them away when I was a kid!! We cloth nappy so these of course are done separately.
    My biggest time saver with packing away washing is two fold. First I try and hang things together on the line - shirts near shirts, smalls near smalls etc, oh and grouped by person in the household. Second when I take washing in I fold it straight in the basket and the things that go in the same drawer are now next to each other and each person's clothes are near each other too so I can pack them away more easily. No need to fold or sort once I'm inside, they just go straight away in rooms. The only thing I fold inside are sheets. My husband thinks I'm a bit OCD for hanging out this way but it honestly cuts down the workload overall for me. I tell him he hasn't seen anything - one of my cousins colour codes her pegs to her clothes and my nan would only ever use white pegs. we all have our quirks.
    Hope everyone has a good week.
    Cheers,
    Laura

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    1. Hi Laura ! So I'm not the only person who hang the washing by person, then articles (shirts/shorts/school uniforms/pjs/etc..) I do agree that it seems a bit ocd and take slightly more time when doing it, but it makes my folding soo much easier. I also have these little hangers for socks/undies, and I always hang socks by pair, and also by person as much as possible.
      Then I have a number of baskets, and the clothes go, folded, straight in each person's basket. I then call the kids and they just have to get their clothes from their respective baskets to their cupboards.

      I have stopped colour coding my pegs some years ago, but I still have favourite pegs and I always store them inside to make them last longer.

      Corinne from the Blue Mountains

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    2. Oh gosh, that is exactly what I do - the sorting onto the line, and the folding as I put them into the basket when dry. I also give all the clothes a jolly good hard shake and then smooth them as I peg them up, and this saves on ironing. hehe I have never tried colour coding my pegs. :)

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    3. I also hang my washing that way! We're not crazy - just efficient! It may take slightly longer when hanging, but saves so much time at the other end of the day when its time to get it all off the line, folded & put away. Cheers, Kelly

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  2. You always inspire me to do laundry and clean my home. As a single person, I only have two loads of laundry a week. I hand wash my hand knit items. I remember my mom doing laundry almost every day, with four children. It was constant. She was so organized. She had us bring our laundry baskets downstairs before leaving for school. She did whites on one day, colors on another, cloth diapers and rags on a third, and then finally sheets and towels. I really appreciate her hard work now.

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  3. Rhonda when I am taking in my dry sheets off the line, I like to fold my top sheet while it is still on the line. It is a lot easier for me to manage that way.

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  4. I've been rethinking the way I organise my small laundry. First baby is due in July and we're going to use cloth nappies, traditional and the modern types. I've been reading lots about laundry routines and it's and bit overwhelming to be honest. But the upside is the fact that even though it might be hard at rhe beginning we'll be able to save money and avoid disposables nappies going to landfill and staying there for hundreds of years.
    I'd love to hear if anyone reading the blog has used cloth nappies with their children and their experiences.
    I've been using homemade cleaners since I first read your book a few years ago and they've worked perfectly for us but not sure how they'll work with cloth nappies.
    Mum is coming from Colombia to stay with us for a few months. She knows to some extent of our green and simple life. I can't wait to see her face when she goes into my laundry and realises I make my own cleaners 😂😂😂

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    1. Congratulations on your July baby, Laura. Both my boys were born in July (one year apart). I encourage you to use cloth nappies, I did, but its done in a slightly different way now so I won't tell you how I did it. I know many of the newer mums reading here will give you good advice and you'll be on the right track. You're doing the right thing and you'll save a lot of money using cloth instead of disposables.

      Please let me know when the baby arrives. In the meantime, I wish you the very best and send love and hugs.

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    2. Hi Laura, congrats on your bub-to-be! I've got a new baby too and I use cloth nappies. this is my 5th baby in cloth - first one is now 11yo. You're right in that reading about washing routines can be overwhelming - there are some strong opinions out there on the internet. And as new mums wanting the best for our baby we can overthink things.
      I'm currently using a CCNDU washing routine (google it if you haven't heard of CCNDU yet but I'm sure you have), with shop bought laundry powder and it's working well. BUT with previous bubs I've used soap nuts or homemade powder mixes and that has worked fairly well too. If you don't spend too much on fancy MCN then you won't worry too much if they get stained (that's what i tell myself anyway). I use modern cloth nappies for the most part but also use terry flats, especially at home or in wet/cold weather when flats dry faster than MCN. MCN are readily available secondhand on gumtree or facebook sites for a fraction of the new price.
      I love using cloth nappies for my bub :)

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    3. Hi Laura,

      Congratulations! I used modern cloth nappies for both my kids and you're right, it's easy once you're in a routine. I had a Little Squirt nappy sprayer (basically a small high pressure hose) attached to the toilet and I would spray off any solids then put the nappy into a dry nappy bucket (no need to soak). I would do a load of nappies every second day and hang on the line to dry. I used my own homemade laundry liquid and it did the job just fine. Drying in the sun makes a HUGE difference as it bleaches and sanitises the nappies. I would hang out the load first thing in the morning and try to bring them in before midday so they didn't go hard and 'crunchy'. A splash of vinegar in the rinse water (instead of fabric softener) also helps with this. Every now and then I would do a hot wash with napisan or dishwashing liquid to 'strip' the nappies of any detergent buildup. I honestly didn't find it any harder to use cloth rather than disposable nappies. And a washing line full of cute little nappies is so satisfying! Best of luck with it!
      Cheers, Alacoque :)

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    4. Thank you Rhonda, Rebecca and Alacoque 😊
      It's encouraging to hear so many positive stories about cloth nappies. I'll let you know how we manage 😊 xx
      Laura

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  5. I have tried to take on a zen attitude to washing clothes, it's is a never ending cycle that will literally never end. As quickly as my basket is empty it's full again. The one thing I have learnt to appreciate beyond measure is sun. Coming from sydney I never appreciated hanging my clothes out on th line and the freshness and stain fighting properties the sun has. Now I'm living in northern Germany, I realised what a blessing this was and during our very short summer I love hanging out a load each morning especially sheets and towels.

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  6. Believe it or not I love doing laundry. I love the smell of fresh clean cloths as I hang them on the line. The wind whips them and most the wrinkles out. lol I have always loved your blog and have learned so much over the years from it. I started blogging on (the front porch) years ago. I lost my blog pages due to my pushing the wrong button, but I have followed you for most of your years. Thank you.

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  7. Congratulations Laura!
    I planned on using cloth with our first but I became quite overwhelmed with multiple things and gave them up. After a month of disposables with our second, I tried our MCNs again. They were brilliant! Loved them. I wish I’d tried again with our first. Once you’re in a routine they’re easy. Perhaps an extra ten minutes a day. I washed every two days and line dried. My top piece of advice is to do what works for you. We used a environmentally thoughtful disposable at night because our son always woke up wet. He was such a big drinker that no combination of MCNs I tried kept him dry at night and therefore he’d chafe and sometimes get nappy rash.
    Good luck! Such an exciting time. Be kind to yourself

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  8. I agree that most of us wash our clothes too frequently which isn't good for them or the environment. Its quite difficult to get out of the habit but now before I put something in the laundry basket at night I inspect it carefully and if its unmarked I put it on a coat hanger and air it before putting it back in the wardrobe next day. Wearing aprons when working in the house and using napkins when eating a meal also help keep clothes unmarked ( I am famous for dropping food down my front - worse than a child!). My husband has put up a new long washing line in the garden today and made a prop from a piece of scrap wood- this reminds me of generations of the family lifting the washing line high in the breeze using a prop. Very satisfying.

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  9. I grew up in the Shetland Islands in the far north of Scotland where the weather can create real problems when you are trying to dry clothes! We had a shed with slatted sides and gaps that the wind could pass through when I was young. Mum had clothes lines strung across the shed and she hung up all our washing there when it was wet or there was a chance of rain. Everything came in smelling lovely and fresh and there was no need to keep watching for showers. Being Shetland it was always windy so that helped the clothes dry as well. Things did take a bit longer to dry.

    I think drying sheds or even a carport type construction would be useful for working people to leave their clothes drying in when they are out and would save a lot compared with using an electric dryer.

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    1. Hi Janice. That's a really good idea to dry clothes in a windy shed or a car port. With that type of cross breeze, all you'd need is a sturdy rope for a line and somewhere to secure it and you'd be set.

      I visit the Shetland Island most days on the webcams. They have cameras overlooking the taxi rank at the harbour, in a few in small laneways, at the market cross and on a number of cliffs. It's always interesting and one of my favourites.

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    2. I must say that I have a Shetland Sheepdog who is my pride and joy. I often imagine him on a breezy cliff; windswept and looking over a flock.

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    3. Hi Janice, what a wonderful idea! If I ever manage to buy my own house I think I will ask my husband to build me a drying shed! Noni from Adelaide

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    4. Sometimes it feels such a small world Rhonda when you tell me how much you enjoy watching the Shetland webcams! I no longer live in Shetland but at my last house there I was lucky to have an empty shed however it was a solid stone built one, so I left the door open and had 2 old pulley's (http://pulleymaid.com/modern-clothes-airer.htm) that I could fill with washing and that worked a dream.

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  10. I have several vintage home economics books and I love to read them for inspiration on how to better go about my daily house work. One thing I have started to do recently is iron my sheets. It seems like a lot of work but the benefits are two-fold: 1. They take up less room in the linen cupboard (and look amazing!); 2. They are much crisper and look lovely on the bed. Even though I used to fold them straight off the line I think that because I use 100% cotton or linen sheets they still wrinkle no matter how carefully they are hung on the line. I used to think ironing sheets was a little over the top, but now I am a convert! Noni from Adelaide.

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  11. So many good comments here ... I like to dry my clothes in the sun, but the sun isn't shining all year in Denmark :-). So in the winter the clothes go in the basement to dry. We seldom use the communal dryer (live in an apartment building). Both because it will wear out the clothes more and because of the environment. We wear our clothes more than once. More easy to do so now as we have retired. No need to buy new smart clothes all the time either! But I never liked to iron. My mother taught me that jerseys and denims need no ironing, and I stick to that (I added bed linen and linen shirts to the list lol). - Helle from DK

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  12. One of my favorite subjects! I love doing laundry and hanging it out; although I do have a dryer as a backup. I have even been known to bring the towels in and throw them in the dryer for 10 minutes, just to soften them up. They are pretty stiff off of the line. Is there anything that I could do that someone has tried, to soften them while on the line? I saw the comment on a bit of vinegar in the rinse. Also, when I'm ready to throw the clothes in the washer, I don't like to turn socks right side out or button up cardigans, so I do it when I put the items in the hamper; that way they are ready to go. I like to iron my vintage table cloths before putting them on the table (but not before storing them) and I've been known to iron a pillow case or two. I have my mother's ironing board that she received, used, in 1958. It has to be at least 70 years old and is made of a heavy board, so it's hard to pick up. How she did it at 5 foot and 100 lbs., I'll never know! Things lasted back then and they weren't put aside to buy the newest and shiniest. I appreciate that about the older generations and am trying to follow suit.

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    1. Robin, I too use a half cup of cheap white vinegar in the rinse for towels. It helps remove all traces of laundry soap or liquid and therefore gives you a softer result. BTW, if you smell vinegar in the towels when they come out of the washing machine, that will be completely gone when they're dry. The vinegar rinse works best when you do it from the item's first wash but will also work to a lesser extent when you start the vinegar rinse on older items.

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    2. Thank you, Rhonda Jean! I look forward to experimenting.

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    3. Vinegar is a great tip. Another is try to hang them on a windy day as the whipping around the wind gives them softens the fibres as they dry (which is why the tumble drier softens them). If it is not windy give them an energetic shake before you hang them, and again when you take them off the line. This combined with the white vinegar should give you soft, fluffy towels. Noni from Adelaide.

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    4. Thank you Noni! I will try the shaking before and after, along with the vinegar. We usually have wind, so that will help me along with the other tips.

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  13. I have just discovered strip washing. Where you soak things in hot water with half laundry powder half nappysan. Realy draws out the dirt in clothes you thought were clean!

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  14. I grew up with a mother who takes laundry very seriously! :) For one thing, she pointed out that the dryer lint one cleans off is, in fact, largely the product of your clothes breaking down! Also, she has always been very careful to avoid tearing, etc., by having buttons buttoned and zippers closed, etc. So, like Robin, I turn things right- or wrong-side out (depending on how they are to be washed), button and zip jeans and pants, make sure socks are not wadded, etc., as I put them into the laundry bin. It saves a lot of time when making up loads!

    Also, I had a revelation one very hot summer day (it was about 105F)--that sun is going to shine whether or not we hang our wet laundry on the line, so isn't it silly to not use it and generate even more heat to boot??

    Thanks as always for your blog and thoughts, Rhonda--

    Kristin

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