We are a large family of six, and it can be a daunting task to know how to do laundry for so many bodies. My husband likes to change his pants (at least) after work for some “chillin’ shorts.” And my daughters like to play dress up, and my three year old likes to “accidentally” get himself soaking wet at the sink, and my baby’s poop doesn’t like to stay confined to a diaper. Add those to clothing changes because of swimming, ballet class, or colder/warmer weather, along with the sheets, blankets, and towels, and the laundry piles up quite literally day after day.
But, I figured out a laundry system for doing laundry that is perfect for our family. It’s a tad lazy, child labor heavy, and completely manageable so that I’m not feeling overwhelmed by another daily to-do chore.
I wanted to help you in case you are drowning in laundry piles, by sharing how to do laundry for a large family in only three days.
This system may not be right for every family, but I am sharing lots of our laundry tips which many will find useful no matter how you do laundry. If the ideas below don’t work well for you, check out my follow-up post with some great ideas from others on how they do laundry in their homes.
My laundry system is pretty simple: I wash everything on the first day, fold and organize everything the second day, and hang and put it all away on the third day. Then I have four days of the week where I am not doing laundry at all (unless an incidental washing needs to occur). With this system I am not drowning in laundry piles. There is only one day of the week where you’ll see piles of laundry on my couch so that I can fold it.
How to do Laundry – Day 1
One day a week is designated as our Wash Day. For us this is Monday. On Monday I wash everything: my clothes, my husband’s, my twin girls’, my son’s, and my baby’s; dish towels; and sometimes even sheets and towels (occasionally I’ll wash these on a Saturday instead). To keep it simple and quick, I employ the following time saving principles when it comes time to do laundry:
1. Use the same laundry detergent for everything.
This means I am not paranoid if baby items gets put in with some adult pieces, or some lights with darks. Our kids don’t have sensitive skin, nor do we, so we just use whatever detergent we have (which is usually whatever is on sale). We often use Arm & Hammer (ironically the variety that is free of perfumes and dyes and made for sensitive skin).
We’ve been using Arm & Hammer for quite a while, probably over a year. It does a better job than Tide did for us, and it costs a lot less. We also pre-treat with some Resolve, and sometimes (always to the kids stuff) add some OxiClean to the wash cycle.
Using the same detergent for everything saves time because I don’t have to do smaller loads of laundry or use special detergents, which would mean more loads and more time.
2. Separate whites and colors for the adult clothes (at least).
Laundry 101 on how to do laundry is to separate you light clothes from your dark clothes because dark clothes tend to eek out their dyes onto your nice bright whites, sometimes permanetly tinting them pink or some other color.
My husband and I wear a lot of white clothes, because we are endowed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which means we wear white undergarments/underwear underneath our clothes every single day. To make wash day and separating the whites and colored clothes easier, we have two laundry baskets in our bedroom, one for whites, one for colors. The kids are learning to separate their lights and darks, but it’s often just all mixed together (and I pull out their whites and stick in with ours).
But, if you didn’t want to separate them, you can always buy this product. Many people love them and swear by them!
3. If clothing is shed downstairs, it just goes into the laundry room.
Our bedrooms and laundry baskets are all upstairs, but our laundry machines are downstairs. Sometimes clothing will be shed downstairs. Instead of making a child (or my husband) take their clothing upstairs, we just put it in a small basket that sits on top of the washing machine so it’s there, ready for wash day. We also place dirty kitchen towels in there too. These random pieces of are added to the appropriate washes on Wash Day.
4. Wash Adult Clothes and Kid Clothes Separately
Washing just adult clothes together, and just kid clothes together, makes it easier to sort and organize on day two of my laundry system. It bugs me to find my husband’s sock after I had already packed our laundry basket to go upstairs. Also, sometimes kid’s clothes are extra gross and dirty, so I don’t want them washed with ours.
5. Shake out the wet clothes before putting them in the dryer.
I feel like shaking out wet clothes before putting them in the dryer is the secret step in how to do laundry properly. My mother always did this. I thought it silly as a child, but now I get it.
This has two purposes: the first purpose is to catch any lingering stains, especially on my kids’ clothes, which I can then treat thanks to this FREE Laundry Stain removal guide. If I took the clothes out of the washing machine a handful at a time, I’d likely miss them.
We don’t have a lot of money to spend replacing stained T-shirt, skirt, and pants for our kids. I want these clothes to last a good while, even if I bought them at awesome online consignment shops. So, if I can catch a stain that isn’t quite gone after its been washed, and save it from setting-in in the dryer, I am very happy later! I then pre-treat the stain (again, as needed), and throw it in with the next wash.
The second reason I do this, is to help with wrinkles and to speed up drying time.
When everything is matted together, squished up in a ball, it isn’t going to dry very fast. Also, if that pant leg is stuck up inside the jeans, it won’t dry well and when it does it will be a wrinkly mess. I don’t iron hardly at all (occasionally some clothes for church), so keeping things as wrinkle-free as possible is important. I (usually) take this time to shake them out, turn them right-side out, and button, zip, or snap things closed. This also helps speed up folding day when I catch some of the inside out clothing on day one.
*Bonus Tip on How to Do Laundry You Forgot About: Alida of The Realistic Mama shared this great tip with me: If you forgot you started some laundry, and a load sat in the washer a smidge too long, you can add a few drops of Purify Essential Oil to a wet wash cloth, throw it in the dryer with your wet (and slightly stinky clothes) and your clothes will actually come out smelling fresh, saving you from rerunning the washer!
How to do Laundry – Day 2
Day two of doing laundry for a large family consists of folding and organizing all the clothes to proper baskets to then be taken up stairs to their respective rooms, to be hung and put away on day three. I actually really enjoy folding clothes. Day two of my system is probably my favorite. The following are some things I do that make folding and sorting easier.
*Update: Many people have asked about where my clothes are between Day 1 and Day 2. Here’s the answer: they sit in four laundry baskets inside or just outside our laundry closet on the floor. Yes, our clothes are slightly wrinkly, but because we lay them all flat for a day before hanging up most of it up, they naturally de-wrinkle. We also don’t care if our clothes are a little wrinkly and no one has ever told us our clothes needed to be ironed.
1. If it is going to be hung, don’t fold it!
Seriously. Why waste that time and energy? In our home, all of our shirts are hung up. Instead of folding them, I just lay them out in piles, one pile for every member (twins count as one member in this case), and lay them flat. This also greatly speeds up hanging time on day three (I’ll explain it below).
2. Fold pants according to owner.
Again, keeping piles according to owner makes sense for being able to put them away as quickly as possible the next day.
3. Throw all the socks in a pile. Match them up last.
Socks have a way of getting stuck inside of other clothes. Just keep them all in a pile and save them for last so you don’t have to backtrack when you find that stray one later.
4. Enlist help from your kids (and maybe your spouse too).
My children are young – 6, 6, 3, and less than 1. But, the older three all help with the laundry. Sometimes my son flings around our nicely made piles, but we’re working on it. He likes to hand me things to fold, and he helps more on day three.
My daughters fold towels and blankets, turn pants and tops right side out, match and roll socks, button and snap items, fold bottoms, and lay shirts and underwear in neat piles. Helping mom with laundry is one of their weekly chores. And they do a great job. They now do almost all of it by themselves, and do it for all of the kids.
5. Load the Baskets the smart way.
Stack the laundry basket with folded items first (largest first like towels/sheets, then pants), then other folded items – socks, jammies, shorts, underwear, and lastly flop those piles of shirts, with the largest on the bottom, on top of the basket.
How to do Laundry – Day 3
Day three is my least favorite day, and the one that somehow doesn’t always get done on the third day of the week. I do not like hanging shirts. It’s like a pet peeve of mine. But, I have done a few things over the years to make it easier and quicker (because I would rather fold everything and put it in drawers than hang shirts for 15 minutes).
1. Hang the Shirts on the Bed
Because I have stacked all the items that need to be hung on day two of my laundry system, hanging shirts is so much simpler! I grab all the empty hangers in my closet and put them on my bed. Then I lift off those piles of shirts, and simply slip the hangers into the collars, one at a time, just flipping down the top shirt’s hanger, so I can access the shirt under it, and slip the next hanger in it, as so on. When I get a good stack of 6-10 shirts with hangers in them, then I put them on the hanging rod in the closet. And since they are organized by person already, I don’t have to jump around at all! I continue to do this until they are all hung and put away!
2. Have your kids hang their shirts
My daughters have been helping me hang up their shirts for years. Not only is it great to get them involved in another household chore, but it works on some fine motor skills, balancing, and the ability to work through a little frustration. Of course I blaze through much more than do, using the above system, but having them help, even when they hang shirts up backward, or a little sloppy, is much better than me just doing it all “the right way.” I am all for teaching those life skills!
3. Have your kids put away their folded clothes
I also have my kids put away their nicely folded pants, underwear, and socks. It’s pretty easy for them, and we now have a nice big dresser that easily fits their clothes. It also helps them know where certain pieces of their clothing is, making it easier for them to dress themselves.
4. Put them all away in one sitting
I have found that splitting up hanging from putting away clothes is not a great idea. Because, it seems that none of clothes will get put in the drawers then! Just suck it up, and empty the entire basket. That way your new dirty clothes from the week can get off the floor, and have your bedrooms looking nicer, sooner.
And that’s it!
Be sure to check out my follow-up post for even more great laundry tips for managing your laundry system smarter, quicker, and cheaper!
I don’t know how other people do laundry in their homes, so tell me, how do you do laundry? Do you do it like I do and wash everything in a day? Or do you do a load every day? Do you have any other tips for speeding up the whole laundry process?