How Does Your Family Do Laundry?

working moms laundryI’ve seen a lot of conversations about this topic — on here, on Corporette, on Facebook, amongst friends, etc. — but I don’t think we’ve ever had an explicit post about working moms and laundry. So, ladies, let’s talk: How does your family do laundry? More accurately, WHO does the laundry in your house? Do you outsource parts of it, like asking your au pair or nanny to do your kids’ laundry, or having a mother’s helper in once a week to help you sort laundry? Has it changed since you had kids — for example, did you and your husband used to do laundry separately but now it gets combined? At what age did YOU start doing your own laundry — and at what age will you ask your kids to do their own? Side question: Who does your delicates?

In Casa Griffin, my husband tends to be the primary Initiator of Laundry — he feels like throwing a load in is a great way to get something accomplished, and he has very little patience for actively dirty clothes sitting around, whether it’s spit-up or pee or otherwise. He and I differ on When Laundry is Done, though — he seems to think it’s done when the dryer has stopped, or perhaps when there is a large pile of clean laundry on the bed. This is one of those little marital differences, in that I would not start laundry if I couldn’t do it to completion, which for me includes sorting and putting it away. I’ve learned that our household runs best if, when I find clean unsorted laundry, I just take the task and run with it. (Oh and socks — those will sit for DAYS if I don’t do them, so I try to sort and put those away first.)working moms laundry

Another of those little marital differences — my husband used to just go around and collect any dirty clothes in any hamper and put them all in a load in the washer, which then meant that whomever was putting the laundry away (ahem) maybe had to open up four different sock drawers, four different underwear drawers, four different shirt drawers, and so on — even if there was only one or two of each item. So now I try to encourage that at least our laundry is done separately vs. the kids’ laundry.

A few other notes in terms of how one working mom’s laundry system works at Casa Griffin:

  • delicates: I collect my own delicates and do them separately. This isn’t to say that my husband is incapable of doing my delicates — and if I need something done STAT and I put it in one of those little mesh bags, there is at least a 70% chance that he will remember to not put it in the dryer. It’s just easier for all parties if I do my delicates separately.
  • folding: LOLhahahaha. I am a mean, mean mother who does not believe in a) hangers for kids’ clothes or b) folding for most kids clothes. I try to fold seasonal clothes when I put them away (so that my 7-year-old’s long t-shirts and pants are folded nicely at the end of summer, for example) but his drawers so often turn into a tossed salad that I don’t really see the point in taking the time to fold things more regularly. My husband very much prefers the “Gap fold” for his folded shirts and sweaters, whereas I’m fine with a much, much messier fold because anything I actually like is on a hanger — so I tend to let him fold his own shirts.
  • sorting as a kid-friendly chore: I keep meaning to make my kids help me with sorting laundry as an easy chore they can do — but because I’ve adopted this crazed “must get clean laundry sorted and put away ASAP” mentality, I don’t often think about “leaving” it for the kids to help with.
  • changed laundry habits after kids: We definitely changed our laundry habits after having kids, just in that my husband wanted to do the laundry more often because there were soiled clothes around. (In fact, after having kids we were doing laundry so often that we also started actively using rags instead of paper towels for cleanup wherever possible.) But before that, the biggest change came once we moved into our condo with a washer/dryer — I used to do laundry once a month (!) when I had to trek down to the basement of my old 1-bedroom, but once we had our own washer/dryer it became a much more regular thing. But I can’t remember a time when my husband and I didn’t have a shared hamper or when we wouldn’t both take responsibility for the laundry.

Ladies, over to you: What’s laundry like in your household? Is it something you delegate or manage, or a task you prefer to do yourself? What do you see among your fellow working moms and laundry — how do they manage their laundry?

Stock photo via Shutterstock / Laboko.

Fun discussion about working moms and LAUNDRY! Every working mom has her own system here so this was a really fun discussion: who does the laundry in your house? How often is it done, have you outsourced any part of it, such as by giving the kids laundry chores or asking the nanny or au pair to do the kids' laundry?

Comments

  1. I’ve stared at this question, frustrated, for enough time.

    I do the laundry, and have done >90% of the laundry for the last 4 years (since kid 1 was born).

    Husband thinks he ‘did the laundry’ as soon as the laundry is placed in the dryer. Simultaneously, he is upset if his shirts are wrinkled because they’ve been sitting in a laundry basket.

    Personally, I do 3-5 loads (we cloth diaper and are a family of 4) on the weekend and leave them in one massive piled up laundry basket until I find time (sat or sunday morning, usually, with netflix playing something that I like but is kid-friendly) to fold. Things of ours that are wrinkled go back in the dryer on “wrinkle release”. The kids clothes get put away “tossed salad” style by my 4-year old kiddo.

    Socks… hah. I purchase only one kind of sock for myself and kids. (Actually: two for me, exercise socks and traditional, but always in the same style and color). His socks? 15 different brands, sometimes all the off shades… they get left in the basket.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My baby wants to be on my boob basically continuously from 5-8 pm so DH does the laundry and most of the other household chores. Pre-baby, I did laundry but he did most of the cooking. Right now he feels like he does everything (basically all the weeknight chores) and I feel like I do everything (pretty much all the weeknight childcare). Hopefully when the baby is not nursing as much we’ll go back to a more equitable division of child and household chores.

  3. I do the laundry because I’m much more picky about how it gets done, same as before kids. The loads are now 3-4/week, which seems to be 1 mid-week, 2-3 on the weekend (family of four.) We don’t change sheets and towels every day, more like once a week. Usually it gets put away on the weekend, even the mid-week load… I always am shocked when I hear people saying they do a load practically every day! We just don’t generate that much dirty laundry, even with using cloth napkins (although my work pants are generally dry clean only and get multiple wears before that happens…)

  4. avocado says:

    I started doing my own laundry at age 12, when I went to a multi-week summer program on a college campus where we had to do our own laundry in the dorm. When I came home, I was informed that I would be responsible for my own laundry forevermore.

    We do the entire family’s laundry together, and I don’t plan to have my daughter start doing hers separately any time soon. She is old enough that doing laundry is a reasonable expectation, but we have a high-capacity HE machine that can handle everyone’s clothes together (one load of light colors, one load of jeans, one load of other dark colors, one load of delicates, etc. for the family). It also takes forever to run a load–at least twice as long as the washers of my youth. If we made her do her own laundry, there would literally be laundry going for the entire weekend and we would never be able to leave the house. Also, the washer is so deep that I can barely reach the bottom, and I am not short. My daughter is tiny, and I think there’s a real risk she’d fall in while trying to pull the clothes out of the bottom of the washer.

    She has been putting her own clothes away for several years.

  5. Theme laundry – I have baskets the size of 1 load and have one for hang up, one for dryer clothes in our bedroom, one for baby clothes in his room, and cloth nappies in the bathroom. Bedding gets stripped on cleaner day and typically washed that night, towels get washed and hung up again.

    We do a load when one of the baskets gets full so either of us will do it. The washer and dryer are in our bedroom though so we have to coordinate with bedtimes. We use soap nuts for everything but baby clothes and diapers.

  6. Anonymous says:

    My husband is responsible for his own laundry. I am responsible for mine, the kid’s and any household linens/towels. Our cleaning person does the sheets. The system works well except for the struggle of putting away the clean clothes in a timely fashion. My goal for this year is to teach our kid how to fold and put away his own laundry with the hope of having him completely self-sufficient by middle school.

    • Eleacouise says:

      This! My little ones are 20 & 21. Soooooo wish I did this rather than wait until they were ready to leave for college.

  7. Oh man — I spend a LOT of time thinking about and strategizing our laundry! Our household is me, husband, and three kids ages 3-8. I am the Primary Laundry Person.

    I used to do it all on the weekends, but that was before we were in and out of the house as much as we are now with errands, soccer, etc. So now my strategy is a few loads during the week (maybe 1/2 to 2/3 of our laundry) and 1-2 loads on the weekends.

    I have a sitter who picks up our kids from school 3 days per week (Tues/Thurs/Fri) and as part of that deal she will fold kid and household laundry like towels and sheets (I feel weird having her fold adult clothing and undies). I strategize so loads of kid laundry, sheets, and towels are in the dryer when she gets to the house. I usually do one load of whites and one load of grown-up clothes on the weekend.

    I HAVE to get it folded and out of the dryer or it will sit FOREVER (pardon the EllenCaps).

  8. Emily S. says:

    I see a theme here — I’m the primary laundry person, too. DH does his own laundry because he doesn’t care if his khakis and t-shirts are wrinkled or shrink from being blasted on high until they are bone dry, but I won’t let him touch my laundry because too much is hand-wash or line dry. I also do our daughters’ laundry because he doesn’t remember to pre-treat stains (goodbye, Janie and Jack shirt permanently tie-dyed with mandarin juice) and can’t seem to fold and store outfits (bless his heart, he made an outfit for Baby 2 with pajama pants when I was out of town last week.) My towels and all our sheets are my domain, too. I’m working on a family laundry schedule; right now, because daycare sends blankets and sheets home on Fridays, both girls get laundry done on Tuesdays and Fridays and that’s it. I try to get laundry down in smaller loads during the week so it’s one less chore on the weekend. I’m hoping the girls will help me as they get older.

  9. Off topic, but I’m curious about the rags or cloth alternatives to paper towels! I have a friend who does that but she started by buying a whole bunch of terry washcloths, which seems like it makes a significant environmental impact on the way to reducing paper towel use. One time I got as far as cutting up an old terry towel we were getting rid of, but it shed so terribly I’m afraid to use the rags. Does anyone have brilliant thoughts on this?

    • Emily says:

      We have a ton of old cloth diapers that we used as burp cloths (never as diapers) that we use for spills and cleanup.

      • rosie says:

        Same! I think we have gerber ones–I had bought a couple packs from amazon to use as burp cloths and then we repurposed as we learned lots of new ways to make messes.

    • Edna Mazur says:

      I’ve been using the same dishrags for 10+ years, most of which were hand-me-downs from my grandma. The great thing about kitchen rags is it doesn’t matter if they get holey or stained, they’re rags! If you use them forever the environmental impact is probably pretty low, even if you start with new ones.

      The only time I get an “influx” of new ones is if a wash cloth (for your body) is getting too dingy. My husband is a paper towel, non rag user, but pre-kids we probably went through a roll of paper towels every other month. at the most. It’s more now, but not a lot.

    • I repurpse old dishcloths that have gotten grungy and stack them underneath the kitchen sink. We save LOADS of paper towels this way. I typically do a laundry load of rags every week or so, depending on how many have piled up.

  10. Re sources of rags: we use the microfiber inserts that came with our pocket diapers and we never used (we use cotton and bamboo flats instead), and old t shirts we were going to get rid of. Most t shirts don’t fray or shed, but they do roll at the edges so you need to cut them larger than you want the rags to be.

  11. I do all of our laundry, mostly of the weekends. I don’t mind it as much as other chores (looking at you, dishes), so my husband handles those while I take over laundry. I do 4-5 loads on the weekends (we still wash 9 month old’s stuff separately with Dreft, since she has sensitive skin) and we air dry a lot because our super old dryer shrinks most things. Our housekeeper comes every 2 weeks and helps out by washing our sheets and towels (I change them out every week and then she washes and changes everything again when she comes).

  12. I don’t hate doing laundry, which is good, because I do 90% of it. I’ve found that my strategy shifts depending on the time of year. In the summer months, we’re outside so much that it piles up quickly and I do a load most days. During the fall/winter months, I do more laundry on the weekend but still do a few mid-week loads to keep things from getting out of control. DH and DS will help put stuff away. (I don’t understand the opposition to hangers; they’re easier than folding!)

    Here’s my rough schedule:
    Sundays: Work clothes for me & DH; at least one load of miscellaneous stuff (bath mats, cleaning rags, coats, kitchen towels)
    Mondays: Darks for me & DH
    Tuesdays: Whites for the whole family
    Wednesday or Thursday: Workout clothes + kids’ sports uniforms
    Fridays: Preschooler’s daycare bag, sheet, blanket, mittens, gloves — sometimes gets combined with daughter’s clothes or sheets on Saturday
    Saturdays: Sheets, towels, usually one or two loads of kid clothes

    That’s … kind of a lot of laundry, now that I think about it.

  13. My husband has typically done all our laundry on the weekend. Everything gets folded or hung up (by him) – and I am responsible for putting my laundry away and our daughters. I’ve been trying to start doing laundry on Friday nights. I don’t mind staying up late on Friday to get it done and it feels so good to have the week free from laundry.

  14. I do my own laundry and the joint laundry (sheets, towels, rugs on occasion, etc.). DH does his laundry unless I throw a spare load in for him, and like once a year he’ll notice the towels need to be washed and do them. I do 95% of the baby’s laundry – he essentially washes her swim stuff with his after swim class. Part of this has to do with the fact that DH likes smelly detergent (Tide + Flowers Febreeze) and washes everything on heavy duty and then dries on high, and baby and I use all free and clear and dry on appropriate dryer settings (usually low for clothes; also, not everything goes in the dryer, about 20% gets hung up (but we do almost no dry cleaning)). I do mine and usually the baby’s on the weekends. DH usually does his the other weekend day or midweek (he stays at home). Sometimes I do a midweek load of the baby’s after work if needed. Baby’s clothes I generally wash all together since most of it is generally light colored; if something is particularly dark or bright I mix it in with mine. I do darks, whites and then pinks (sometimes bright yellows get mixed in here too, but most of my color pieces are in the pink family).

    DH folds as soon as stuff comes out of the dryer. I often do a load late at night and put it in the dryer as we go to bed, he moves it to the guest bed once dry, and I do a massive folding session every two weeks before our housekeeper comes. Biggest change post-baby is that I used to do laundry every 2-3 weeks; now I do it every week because I have so few clothes that fit my current PP body and I only have 3 nursing bras that I like and I refuse to buy more.

    • I started doing my own laundry in middle school when my mom kept putting my jeans in the dryer and they rapidly became too short in a very uncool way. Mom was always an everything in the dryer kind of person and I am much more particular (although less particular now as a mom – I just don’t have time for all that). Will teach my kiddos probably around the same age.

  15. I do my own laundry, DH does his. He does 95% of the kids laundry, although a few times a month he’ll ask me to switch from washer to dryer or fold a load before it wrinkles. I do 95% of the house laundry like towels and sheets, although again I occasionally ask him to move or fold a load.

    I hate folding tiny shirts, and he hates folding fitted sheets, so this works pretty well for us so far. The kids are young (6 and 3) so they only put away their socks and underwear now, but once they can start doing their own, we’ll relook at balancing between us. (Before kids, we just alternated sets – I washed the dirty green sheets and towels when I did my clothes, he washed the blue ones – but I think as the kids get older I’ll stick with the house laundry and he’ll probably pick up a new kids-related chore.)

  16. I “do” all the laundry (i.e., I collect, sort, load, switch), but we have someone who comes to fold. (DH will these things if I ask him to, but he won’t do it on his own unless he needs something washed.) . Our kids put away their own laundry. If our folder doesn’t come, DH folds because he doesn’t like the way I fold laundry.

    I used to take in all the dry cleaning, until I realized that our dry cleaning is 95% his. Now he takes it in.

  17. Jen S. 2.0 says:

    No husband and no kids, so I can’t comment on that, but I definitely was doing my own laundry, start to finish (collect and carry, wash, switch, dry or hang, put away), by middle school, age 12ish.

    I also buy very few delicates or dry-clean items. A lot of times, if it says I have to dry-clean it, I put it back on the rack and leave the store; if I know I have to dry-clean the item, I often wear something else. I go to the dry-cleaners 2-3 times a year, tops.

  18. Realize I’m late to the game here but figured I’d comment as I’m experimenting with this. We pretty much dump all of our laundry in together…no sorting. My husband works from home and therefore does an excellent job washing and drying the laundry. He also has more things to air-dry (go figure) so it’s better for him to be responsible for picking those things out and hanging them up. Left to my own devices, I would just throw them all in the dryer. Most of my delicate stuff just gets sent to the dry cleaner and is always kept separate from the regular dirty clothes. I am typically the one who folds all of the clean stuff. My kids attempt to put away their clean clothes (4 & 6). The 6 year old usually does a pretty good job, but the 4 year old not so much. So I usually end up helping her. My husband has a ton of clothes and I HAAAAAATE putting them away but usually do. I actually don’t mind folding too much because I just watch TV or listen to a podcast while I do it.

    That being said, I just tried a wash and fold laundry service and it was pretty nice. Took me just a few minutes to put all of the clothes away vs usually an hour+ of folding and putting away. So I may continue to do that sometimes. There are a couple of services in my area and it’s not too expensive. In the past I also had our cleaning person fold laundry, which was pretty nice although I often didn’t ever get around to putting the clothes away so they just sat in our 2nd guest bedroom.

  19. Lizzy25 says:

    Our system is just doing laundry continually. Typically 1 load per day. Throw a load in the wash in the morning (whichever bin is full – we have 4 bins sorted by kids/towels, darks, lights, delicates). Load goes in the dryer after work or in the afternoon if one of us is working from home. Whoever is not busy wrangling kids after dinner folds and puts laundry away. Sometimes we do end up with a pile to fold that we don’t manage to get to for a couple days, but we pretty much stay on top of it. My husband probably does the majority of the laundry because he works from home more often than I do.

  20. Drago Cucina says:

    When our sons each turned 8 they were responsible for getting their laundry to the laundry room. When they turned 13 they were 90% responsible for their own laundry. My husband and I would toss in their things to make a load. They were also responsible for certain chores as being part of the family. They received a certain amount each week to pay for lunches and incidentals.

    These days my husband does all the laundry and dishes. I cook and wipe up. It’s enjoyable for me. Today I made bread and cookies.

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