Laundry Tips for Busy Parents

Whether you’re a load-a-day or a save-it-for-Sunday type, you can up your washing game with these laundry tips.
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It's the most dreaded time of the week: laundry day. An ever-growing pile of soiled pants and stained shirts can spur panic in any busy mom, but you don't need to spend hours sorting, washing, and folding. The key to efficiency is committing to a routine.

Whether it’s a once-a-week marathon or stretched out over specific days, having a set schedule makes the chore feel less daunting. Consider ordering in pizza or your crew’s takeout of choice on laundry day to cut down on your overall workload. Also strategize around TV time. “I do laundry on nights the Golden State Warriors play. I start the load before the game, switch it during halftime, and fold during the fourth quarter,” says San Francisco mom of one Caroline Curran. Blogger Jenny Komenda prefers Saturdays. “I dump all the clean loads onto my bed, and my four daughters, ages 3 to 13, help me fold while we all watch a movie.”

Here are more laundry tips to lessen the load.

  • Don’t have kids change after school unless they’re going to sports practice or a special event. Or if your kid wears a uniform that tends not to get dirty, hang it back up and designate a few play outfits that can be worn at home several times before washing.
  • Wear the same pants or shorts twice (if there are no stains). Jeans can usually last three wears.
  • When your kids wear nice outfits for few hours and keep them clean, hang the clothes up to wear again. Ditto for any top that is worn for a short amount of time.
  • Reuse bath towels. They’ll stay fresh for a week if you hang them up to dry thoroughly between uses.
  • Have your family wear the same pajamas for multiple days. Your kid has likely just been bathed, so she’s not dirty. Or you can always sleep naked!
  • If you use a duvet cover, skip the top sheet and wash only the duvet cover as needed or keep a top sheet but then launder the cover less frequently.

Answering Your Most Pressing Laundry Questions

Tired of dealing with shrunken sweaters and faded jeans? With these helpful questions, answers, and laundry tips, you'll breeze through your chore without dilemma. 

Should I sort my laundry?

Absolutely! Sorting laundry prevents colors from bleeding, darks from fading, and whites from dulling, says Ingrid Johnson, professor of textiles at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City. But you can choose your level of laundry sorting:

The OK Method: Wash everything together except new dark items like blue jeans or sweatshirts. Wash those separately the first few times.

The Better Method: Follow the okay method, plus separate out clothes you care most about (like work tops). Toss everything else into the wash, including your child’s clothes.

The Best Method: Sort into three categories: whites/lights, darks, and colors. Johnson suggests buying a divided hamper so clothes are ready to go come laundry day. We like the Heavy-Duty 3-Bin Rolling Laundry Sorter ($60; containerstore.com).

Can I leave clothes inside out in the wash?

Rejoice! It might actually be better to leave them this way, since the washing wears clothes out, says Melanie DiSalvo, founder of clothing line Virtue + Vice. If the inside of the garment takes a beating in the machine, the exterior will look better longer. But the same doesn’t hold true for socks: They need to be right side out for a thorough clean!

Where do all the lost socks go?

The machines are not eating them! Most likely, some are in a pant leg and the rest are hiding in your house/car/diaper bag. To cut down on mismatched pairs, buy just one style and color of socks for each person in your family. That way, if a sock goes missing, you won’t end up with any mismatched ones, and pairing them will be so easy that even your preschooler can do it!

What is the "quick wash" cycle?

It’s designed for smallish loads of lightly soiled items, says Taryn Brucia, from LG Electronics’ research-and-development team. This mode also works on sheets, if you wash them weekly, and for towels that were used only a couple of times. And try it when you’ve accidentally left a load in the washing machine and it needs freshening before drying (we’ve all been there).

What is high efficiency?

All front loaders are high efficiency (HE). Conventional top loaders have a tall agitator; HE top loaders have a short or no agitator. You can use an HE laundry detergent in a non-HE machine, but don’t use a traditional detergent in an HE machine—it can ruin it!

How much detergent should I use?

Less than you think! According to LG Electronics’ Brucia, these amounts of HE detergent are just right for your averagely dirty load:

  • Small load in HE machine = 1⁄2 Tbs.
  • Medium load in HE machine = 1 Tbs.
  • Large load in HE machine = 2 Tbs.
  • Small load in regular machine =1 Tbs.
  • Medium load in regular machine = 2 Tbs.
  • Large load in regular machine = 4 Tbs.
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Laundry Tips for Like-New Garments

Here are four helpful laundry hacks for fresh clothes–no matter how old they may be.

  • To keep whites white and darks dark, use hot water for lights and cold for darks
  • To prevent shrinking, wash on cold, and tumble clothes on a low-heat setting until just dried—not bone-dry.
  • To avoid holes and snags, check pockets, zip zippers, and clasp bras; then use a slow spin cycle. Also, use chlorine bleach on an as-needed basis, instead of with every whites load.
  • To maintain shape, skip the dryer, and air-dry instead. Heat will break down the elastic in bras and workout clothing.

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