When you have a large family laundry becomes a project. It is not a matter of tossing half the clothing you own in the washer and then taking off for the day. When you have a large family the laundry must flow. Or you face the horde looking at you half dressed wondering where their socks and pants are while you are frantically trying to find one clean shirt while trying to get out the door for an appointment. I have already written about our laundry containment system of multiple hampers. Now, I will get down to the nitty-gritty of washing.
In our laundry system the clothing is already sorted into five main groups: darks, lights, whites, bath towels and kitchen towels (which include aprons, oven-mits, napkins, and shopping bags). Hand washables, delicates and dry-cleaning items are also sorted out. We have enough clothing that there is still some sorting that ideally will take place at this point. Heavy dark clothing is separated from light-weights darks and lint givers from lint collectors go in separate loads.
As the laundry is separated I check for stains again and check pockets and zippers closers. If zippers are closed during the wash they won’t snag other clothing which can damage the zipper or the other item. This also applies to buttons and snaps but is more important with zippers. I remember having a conversation with someone years ago about having to check the pockets before sending things through the wash. Her take was that everyone should take things out of their own pockets (especially husbands), and of course she is correct, but considering we are living in the real world where people forget things like that I check them. I think it is one of those cases where you can be right all you want but reality isn’t going to comply with you just because you are. Sort of like crossing a street at the cross walk, sure the pedestrian has the right of way… but the car is going to hit you pretty hard if you don’t pay attention to it.
A bit on stains:
There are many wonderful stain removal products on the market and some good homemade alternatives. Ohio State University has a wonderful article about laundry, including does and don’t for stain removal.
The most important things to remember when trying to get out stains are:
Timeliness – Almost all stains respond better to quick treatment and may even become impossible to get out if allowed to set
Don’t get creative – most stains have well known removal techniques.
Follow the directions – Both the washing directions on the garment and the product. This includes spot testing, soaking time, water temperature, et al.
Start with the least extreme option and go from there.
Before tossing something in the machine I also check to see if there is any quick mending that needs done. Some things will get worse in the wash, loose buttons, fraying rips and will probably need mending before they are washed. Something like a falling hem is more a judgment call they might be worse or not.
As I have mentioned we have an energy efficient large capacity front loader. Any large family will do itself a huge service by using the most energy/water efficient machine they can afford. When you are washing three loads a day the cost of electricity and water add up fast.
I am really hooked on my front loader. The clothing seems to come out cleaner, it runs faster and it is gentler than my old top-loader with agitator. The delicate option is actually delicate enough to wash many of my hand wash items. I haven’t been brave enough to trust my underwires to it. A lingerie bag is nice to use in the wash and I have read about special cage like things called “bra balls” that can be used in machine washing your bras, but I haven’t tried one myself. I actually don’t mind handwashing delicate fabrics. Especially when I can use a nice smelling detergent, warm water and let them dry hanging in the bathroom.
If you have never tried it you might want to look into blueing. It really puts the sparkle back into white clothes.
Line drying vrs the dryer. Well, hands down line drying wins in theory. It is energy efficient, better for your clothing, and all that is good and right. But drying outside here in Western Oregon is problematic… considering anything hung outside after mid November is likely to be just as wet in mid March. I have limited space indoors to dry, so it is the dryer to the rescue for the winter months. During the summer I have gone through outdoor drying spells, but I need a better line system to make it really work. I am researching the options and will try to get back with something sensible when I nail down the details.
For sweaters and other items that are flat dry I have a drying rack. Actually my drying rack is broken and I am afraid I need to invest in another one. But a folding one that comes out to do its work and then hides neatly away is perfect for our household.
Once clothing is dried I try to make sure it is folded and put away as soon possible. I hate baskets of unfolded clothing getting all wrinkled and making it difficult for me to find the things I need.
I have for a while been considering ironing before things are put away, but have never made the switch. We generally avoid things that need ironed. I am awful at ironing. For some reason I end up ironing more wrinkles in than I get out. I use a spray starch on occasion and love the results.