We are a large family of six, and it can be a daunting task to know how to do laundry fast 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.
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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 fast 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 laundry 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. Thus, it’s how I do laundry faster yet a tad lazier. Perfectly realistic.
How to do Laundry Fast – 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 get 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 permanently 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 it’s 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 Fast – 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 Fast – 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 faster (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 fast? 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?
Hanging shirts never seem to get past the rocker in my bedroom so I hung a shower curtain rod above the washer and dryer and as soon as my hanging clothes come out of dryer they’re hung up, this helps keep the wrinkles at bay! They then get carried to my closet and next hamper brought back to start next washer load. My son’s clothes tend to stay hung in laundry room a bit longer but are wrinkle free and hung none the less!
Katelyn Fagan says
Ha. Yeah, I think laundry facilities should be on the same level of the house that your clothes are stored! Having the trek them upstairs is just another hurdle to actually putting them away! Ha. But, yes, hanging them in the laundry area can totally work. Great tip! Thanks for sharing.
I separate by drying time. I wash laundry by hamper so one day I do and put away mine, another day my son’s, another day my daughter’s etc. If I need to combine loads my son and husband get combined and my daughter’s and mine. Generally if she has something that doesn’t get dried I put it in with mine so it stands out. Definitely have those kids help put away! I deliver everybody’s clean clothes in a basket on their beds with things to be hung neatly laid across the top. It is their responsibility to get it put away.
So, you just have piles of clean clothes lying all over for a day and letting them get all wrinkly. I don’t have “nice” clothes as you keep claiming you don’t but a t-shirt will be super wrinkly if you leave it in a basket or pile for a day before folding or hanging. Plus with kids and pets I can’t imagine how much of our clothing would end up spread all over and need to be washed again because someone knocked it onto the floor. It seems much easier to just do one or two loads a day, fold, and put away and always have them discreetly tucked away in bedrooms, closets, laundry room than have one day a week where my living room is over taken by unfolded laundry. If you just do one or two loads a day you’re not wasting three whole days doing laundry.
j samuels says
I grew up in an apartment house. Laundry room was in the scary, creepy basement of our building. Mom took us with her for ‘protection’, she thought less likely to bother a woman AND children. Her philosophy was fold while still hot. She would dump still hot clothes on the couch while my sister and I were watching TV there. Hot snaps and zippers were not our favorite, but we quickly learned to snap and fold to avoid wrinkles…it worked! Clothes to be ironed (yes, some required ironing in the ‘olden days’) were sprinkled with water, wrapped in plastic and placed in the refrigerator to distribute the moisture and be easier to iron during the next few days. We learned very early to iron our father’s handkerchiefs as practice for the real clothes.
Fast forward many years…..I got tired of washing bathing suits 3x a week in the winter when my daughter wasn’t swimming! She would put clean folded clothes and dirty clothes in same basket. I quit doing her laundry when her already folded socks came out of the dryer. At eight she was taught how to do laundry, full basket/empty drawer means time to wash. I took care of new jeans, red items and anything that might ruin a load. Your favorite pink shirt is dirty? Too bad, you should have done a load of laundry and taken care of it. Responsibility for own items, clothing, books, assignments is good preparation for the real world where Momma can’t rescue you. You raise children to become responsible, competent adults, not to keep them dependent children forever.
Now I always hang wet shirts & knitted items to avoid extra wrinkling, shrinkage and color fading in the dryer. Bras are washed in a net bag and hung to dry to save wear & tear. I only iron when everything I want to wear needs it. I don’t have time to iron one item the morning I need it.
Landry should not be the highlight of our week. We’re more important and interesting women than that!
Some good tips, but would never work for my family. We’ve got 9 and there’s just no possible way to get all the laundry washed in just one day, unless I had 2 sets of washer/dryers (I wish!). Plus the laundry piles up so quickly that if I didn’t wash any for 6 days it would take over the house lol. What I do is try to do at least 2 loads a day. Our laundry room is right by the family room, so I bring out the basket of clean laundry and stand behind the couch (so I can watch TV easier) and fold the clothes into piles on the back of the couch. When I’m done I have the older kids get their piles to put away and I put the rest away. I hang all of my and my husbands pants and shirts so I just grab our pile and stand in the closet and hang them. I don’t really fold the kids clothes well either, cuz they never stay folded, I just shake them out and pile them nicely.
I really do feel like I am always drowning in laundry in the house. I will try these great tips you gave. Right before the summer time so I will be able to enjoy the days as well. Thanks for sharing!
Saedi @ Ridiculous Mom Ideas says
I just posted a review on my blog! Thank you so much! This has seriously been such a lifesaver for me! I love it!
So…I’m a litle lost.
After you’ve dried clothes on day one, they just sit in the basket until you fold them on day two? Don’t they get wrinkly? I’ve “tried” to fold clothes as soon as they come out of the dryer. I don’t carry them to another room or let them sit. This was drilled into me by my mom – save steps by doing all the folding as soon as it’s dry.
I keep laundry baskets for each fam member and “sort” into their baskets right after drying and folding – then they go straight to their rooms. I’d imagine with three younguns you got your laundry washin’ down to an exact science.
My secret tip for keeping garments white is to use oxyclean and your detergent of choice. I have some that are about eight years old that are still almost as white as the new ones that I just bought last week. Plus never bleach any white material that has any polester/cotton or synthetic fabric. It has actually been dyed white as these fabrics are naturally grayish.
Meagan Huculak says
Just found your awesome article via Pinterest, I loved seeing how close this was to my own routine and also getting some tips on ways to speed up what I do now. I wanted to share a few things that I do to save time (these ideas may have already been shared as there are tons of comments on here already!)
1) I have special “put away buckets” for my kids, these are used to gather up all their belonging that have migrated to the livingroon and move them back up to bedrooms. On folding days the stuff being moved is Laundry! After I fold and stack by person/type I put the clean clothes in the buckets, socks and undies on the bottom, bottoms then tops and finally any hanging (usually dresses.) I bring the bins upstairs and put them in my kids doorways – they already know that anything in the bucket needs to get put away ASAP whether it’s clothes or other belongings. Then at the end of the day I grab their baskets and reset them back to the main floor.
2) at 8yo my son loves to optimize to make everything faster! To that end he’s started taking his clean clothes and creating outfits that he then rolls up in the top (top, pants, socks, undies, then roll so top is on the outside) He makes sure the top and bottom match when he makes his outfits then he just has to look for the shirt he wants in the AM and he can get dressed in a snap.This technique also keeps his drawers nice and tidy.
3) I don’t fold ANYTHING for my husband and I! We have a large walk in closet and i hang everything – my husband has a few shirts he prefers to fold so he folds them himself instead of hanging them from his flat pile. I do sort clothes into tops, bottoms, dresses, undies/socks as i’m “folding” so that as I hang everything goes in their right section of the closet (all tops together etc)
Hope these tips help some of the others out there who are dealing with mountains of laundry too!
Terry Key says
I live in the UK where we don’t always have the same laundry products available to us as our cousins in the US. My daughter and I have skin sensitivities so I only use Ecover which is a ‘green’ detergent with no added bleachers or straighteners that cause skin reactions. I only use oxyclean for stain removal very sparingly and always double rinse afterwards.I wash the bulk of laundry on 40 or 30 degrees C. Modern detergents don’t need higher temps and it’s gentler on your clothes.
Laundry sorting was a constant irritation until I bought 4 large plastic stacking bins with tilted flap fronts (we got ours from Ikea). I labelled them for whites, pastels, bright colours and darks. These were stacked on the area outside our bedrooms and each morning when leaving our bedrooms we would put dirty laundry in the appropriate bins. This meant that I could see as soon as there was enough in a bin for a washload and deal with it.
I too rarely iron except for special occasions. I tumble dry mostly towels, bedding and underwear as I find tumble drying is most responsible for shrinking clothes. In summer (when we actually get one that is) I line dry outside, shaking wrinkles out as I peg out. In winter we have washing lines hung in our conservatory with enough space for about 4 loads. Even in winter the sun warms this room considerably on bright days and we use a dehumidifier/ dehydrator to collect the moisture and find this dries the bulk of washing in a day. This is also useful if we are out for the day – no worrying about rain while we’re out. The running costs of the dehumidifier are actually less than 1 load in the tumbler dryer, the clothes dry without wrinkles, 4 loads all dry at once and don’t shrink.
Janie Lamie says
Your hanger technique is life changing. Thanks!
Doris Prugger says
Hello from Munich, Germany!
Thanks for your hints! But I wonder whether you put everything in the dryer! I’m so glad, that spring is starting here now and I can hang my wet clothes in the garden. I have a dryer, but I prefer to use it only for cotton fabrics, towels, shirts … Underwear, stockings, microfibre never come in the dryer!
Eliani Berman says
I’m glad it works for you . We should all devise a system that works for ourselves. Pick and borrow from other peoples ideas.
I could not stand the wrinkles or 3 days of fiddling with the same laundry pile. What if life gets in the way. That basket of unfolded laundry could sit there for days. No thanks.
My mom had rules and a system.
Day 1 : LINENS DAY. Sheets and towels. Washed and folded.
Day 2: WHITES DAY. Linens are put away. Whites are washed and folded.
Day 3: COLORS DAY .Whites are put away. Colors are washed. Most are dried in dryer and folded same day. The good stuff put shaken out well when wet and put on hangers or drying rack.
Day 4. Colors are put away.
I like this system because if anything happens in between at least there is only one “category” to be put away.
THE COMMANDMENTS OF LAUNDRY:
DO NOT CREATE NEEDLESS LAUNDRY.
#1 if an item has been worn but it smells clean and looks clean. It IS clean. Hang it up.
#2 If an item smells clean, looks clean but is slightly stretched out. Spritz with water and put in dryer for a low heat tumble.
#3 If an item smells clean, looks clean, but has a small spot. Treat the spot only. Don’t launder an entire skirt because there is a little coffee spot.
#4 Change pillow cases more often than sheets. Sheets don’t soil at the same rate as pillow cases. Perhaps you can do linens every other week instead of every week.
Katelyn Fagan says
Love your mom’s rules and the commandments of laundry!! They are great!! I think the creating needless laundry is such a great skill to teach kids. Oy!
Eliani Berman says
I retract the Commandments in your case. Impossible to teach to little’uns. I remember those from my teen years.
Here’s another lovely rule Mom had. At any given time she would go into our room. Any clothing she deemed was carelessly discarded such as on the floor was subject to confiscation. Mom would say that it was disrespectful to her to be so uncaring when she would deprive herself of things so we would not have to do without. Funny thing about the “confiscation raids” We never figure out how or why we got an item back. It would just one day appear washed and folded on the bed.
Around age 15 I was in a sloppy state of mind.So many items where confiscated that I had to wear the same jeans to school for over a week. She eventually took mercy on me and gave clothes back. Gotta love the tough (fair)love.
Katelyn Fagan says
It totally is impossible to teach little kids the smell test. ha. But, I like your mom. I can tell. 🙂
Melinda Mitchell says
Katelyn, I could just hug you!! Putting the hangers in like that is GENIUS!!
I hate to hang too, and so it rarely gets done. That will speed it up so incredibly much!!!
My undying gratitude!!
And speaking of laundry… the whole week’s worth is waiting for my attention as I type…
Katelyn Fagan says
lol. You are so welcome!
Allen Michael says
I agree with how you separate adult and kid clothes when doing laundry, Katelyn. I think it does make washing clothes easier too. Also, great tip on shaking out wet clothes before putting them in the laundry. It’s a simple tip to help lessen wrinkles but an overlooked one. Thanks for posting this!
Katelyn, sick hacks there especially putting the hangers :P. Separating light clothes from dark clothes is perhaps the #1 tip anyone should walk away with if they are new. I remember when I was doing my laundry for the first time, I lumped all the clothing together in the washing machine, and outcomes a disaster!
May be a better way it is found a good laundromat nearby.
rossie grabrial says
Around age 15 I was in a sloppy state of mind.So many items where confiscated that I had to wear the same jeans to school for over a week.