5 Tips for Streamlining Your Laundry Routine

You shouldn’t have to use a snowblower to clear a path to the washing machine. Follow our easy steps for streamlining laundry.
You shouldn’t have to use a snowblower to clear a path to the washing machine. Follow our easy steps for streamlining laundry.
Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Thinkstock

As humorist Erma Bombeck once joked, "Housework can kill you if done right."

If you've ever spent a Sunday afternoon confined to the laundry room sorting, washing, folding and ironing load after load of soiled garments, you might have started to question whether Erma was really joking after all.

But never fear! Laundry doesn't have to be complicated, frustrating or even time consuming if you know how to outsmart it. You really can get through this necessary task quickly and easily with a few simple tricks. So read on for tips to streamline your laundry routine, so you can spend less time sulking and more time soaking.

Pre-Sort Your Clothes

How much time do you spend sorting your piles of dirty laundry before they go into the washer? Any time is too much time. Eliminate sorting as a laundry task altogether by having multiple hampers or laundry baskets in every bedroom. The categories you use to divide up laundry determine the number of baskets you'll need. The general rule is to sort into three categories -- whites, colors and delicates -- but you can organize your baskets by wash method, type of fabric or whatever other categories you like to sort by. When you get undressed just toss your garments into the correct basket, so when you grab a basket on laundry day you'll know it's already sorted and ready to go.

If you have a large family, rather than having individual hampers in every bedroom, put them in a hall or common area so you don't have to gather up laundry from all over the house.

Schedule Laundry Day

As the old adage goes: "Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday..." But with modern conveniences like washing machines, is there really a need to have one day set aside for laundry? The truth is that it's actually not a bad idea to keeping up the old "laundry day" routine.

Putting laundry day in your schedule makes it harder to forget, which helps keep dirty clothes from piling up until you're forced to have an emergency all-day laundry marathon. It also lets others in the household know the deadline for having all dirty clothes in the hamper, so you can skip the dirty laundry treasure hunt. And having a weekly washday will keep you from doing laundry more than once a week. It's not very efficient (energy- and labor-wise) to do a bunch of small loads. Clothes actually come cleaner if they're washed in medium or large loads and if articles of different sizes are mixed together.

Fold and Hang Clothes Immediately
Folding laundry right after drying will cut down on ironing. Let your kids help too.
Folding laundry right after drying will cut down on ironing. Let your kids help too.

Reduce wrinkles in your freshly laundered duds by folding and hanging clothes right out of the dryer. Letting them sit in the dryer, or piled in a laundry basket or on a bed, leaves time for wrinkles to develop. Then you have to iron, and nobody wants to do that if they don't have to.

Make it easier to hang clothes immediately by keeping empty hangers in the laundry room for quick access. If you have the space, it's also helpful to have a dedicated folding area so you can quickly fold items while they're still warm and wrinkle-free.

Most dryers these days have a buzzer to let you know when your clothes are dry. Once you hear it, start folding!

Keep Socks Together
How do you keep socks from getting separated? Use a clip!
How do you keep socks from getting separated? Use a clip!

Losing socks in the laundry is so common that it's become a cliché to joke about where that missing sock could have possibly disappeared to. But really, where did it go?

Avoid the hassle of tracking down missing socks, and trying to match them up later, by making sure they never get separated to begin with. There are a few ways you can do this, but it all relies on that crucial moment after they leave your feet.

Use a binder clip or a clothespin to clip matching socks together as they're getting tossed in the hamper. You can wash them with the clips, or remove the clips just before they're tossed into the wash to limit the amount of time they're separated. Not fond of clips? Give each family member a mesh lingerie bag where they can toss their socks -- two at a time, of course -- then just toss the bag in the wash, knowing no sock will go rogue.

Equip Your Laundry Room

To get in and get out as quickly as possible, turn your laundry room into a super-efficient laundry battle zone. All it takes is a little bit of organization.

First, put things you need within easy reach. Place soaps and detergents in convenient, easy-to-reach places near where they're used. Keep a sewing kit with needles, thread, and extra buttons nearby for quick repairs.

Second, be prepared. For example, if you use vinegar to soak away coffee stains, then keep some in the laundry room rather than in the kitchen. Post a cheat sheet with instructions for common tasks you can't seem to remember without looking up, like how much bleach to add to a full load of whites or how much detergent you need for soaking stains.

Stay organized. Set or hang small baskets near the washer and dryer as a place to put odds and ends -- a mismatched sock, a shirt that needs a new button, loose change. They can act as a quick place to toss random finds that doesn't require leaving the room when you're mid-laundry.

Lastly, don't overcrowd your laundry room with non-laundry-related things. Keep it simple to help keep laundry a quick and painless task.

For more ways to de-stress your laundry routine, take a look at the links on the next page.


Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Take this HowStuffWorks quiz to find out your how your cleaning skills stack up.

Related Articles


  • Gordon, Whitson. "How to Speed Up Laundry, the World's Most Boring Chore." Lifehacker, March 13, 2012. (April 10, 2012). http://lifehacker.com/5893037/how-to-speed-up-laundry-the-worlds-most-boring-chore
  • Heloise. "How to Sort Laundry." Good Housekeeping. (April 25, 2012). http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/heloise/sort-laundry-mar05
  • Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. "Pioneering Journeys of the Ingalls Family." (April 19, 2012). http://hoover.archives.gov/LIW/pioneering/pioneering_pepin-chores.html
  • Home Made Simple. "Organizing Tips for Laundry Day." June 1, 2011. (April 10, 2012). http://www.homemadesimple.com/en-us/homeorganization/pages/organizing-tips-to-save-time-on-laundry-day.aspx
  • Jio, Sarah. "The When-to-Wash-It Handbook." Real Simple. (April 18, 2012). http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/laundry/when-to-wash-it-handbook-00000000035143/index.html
  • Mendelson, Cheryl. Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Housekeeping.Scribner.1999