Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Laundry, my Way: Part II continued -- Sorting by User/Use


I apologize if you read this post earlier. There were some parts that had accidentally been cut. I blame blogger. ;-)

Have I lost you yet? We're still talking about sorting here, and you are tired of thinking about sorting.  Yes, I am belaboring it. It's all for a good cause.

Besides sorting by Care Label and by Color and Fabric, you should sort your laundry by user/use, and in my house (and probably your house) that means girls, boys, and linens. If you have a large family, you could probably easily sort by sex.

My boys (and husband) have a tendency to get pretty dirty, and I don't. Neither does my daughter. When clothes go in the wash together, not only does a little bit of their color come off, as we learned in our last lesson, but so does their dirt. The dirt washes off the clothes and into the wash water. Detergent helps to keep that dirt from sticking to the other clothes, but depending on the fabric type and how long a wash cycle you use, the dirt could settle back on the clothes. I don't want clothes that aren't all that dirty to get dirty in the wash. Make sense?

It is also easier to watch for and treat stains if stains are alike, and it's easier to treat the entire load for stains if the stains are similar. My husband and sons tend to get mostly outdoor and food stains, sometimes vehicle/bicycle grease, as well as sports odors. Faith and I sometimes get food stains (I fail to wear an apron a lot), but in general our clothes are not all that dirty. I can wash the girl loads on different cycles with differing amounts of detergent -- only the amount necessary -- than the boy loads, thus helping the clothes to last as long as possible, and cut back on water and detergent costs when possible.


Faith, age 3. Art smocks are a must for little artists. Make one yourself with a vinyl tablecloth (or the vinyl tablecloth fabric sold in fabric stores) or just use one of dad's old shirts turned backwards.

Ok, male loads/female loads, not a difficult concept. If you have all boy children, chose a few of their less dirty items to wash with your clothes. If you have all girl children, pull out your husband's dirtiest clothes to wash by themselves and throw the rest in with the female clothes.

The exception to the boy/girl sorting rule is if someone in your house works as a landscaper, construction worker, in a restaurant, or any other job in which they get abnormally dirty or smelly. Restaurant clothes should never be washed with anything except their own clothes. They not only have their own smell, which almost never completely washes out, but they need special treatment that the other clothes don't need. Outdoor dirt clothes are the same -- they have loads of dirt and stains on them that you won't want washing into the other clothes, and they need special treatment. Any clothes stained with not-run-of-the mill food and dirt stains should be washed all by themselves.

Before gray hair for me, and a bad hair day for Faith, age 3.

If you have a baby, his clothing and linens should be washed separately from the other members of your household -- boys or girls. Many people throw baby's clothes in with the other clothes, but it's not a good idea for several reasons.

First, to help make baby's clothes last (to use for subsequent babies), baby clothes and linens should be treated carefully for stains, and washed with like colors and fabrics.  Babies, especially infants, tend to have similar color clothing -- usually all lights with a few all whites. They also tend to be similar fabrics with similar washing instructions, with the exception of cloth diapers, which should always, always be washed in a separate load. But you knew that.

Second, babies need their laundry to be treated carefully because they have sensitive skin. Always use an infant detergent (I love Dreft) and avoid fabric softener by using a second rinse cycle or by adding white vinegar to the rinse -- any extra chemicals should be avoided and fabric softener is definitely a chemical. Even if baby's skin is not acting allergic now, you never know what sensitivities he could be developing by contact with chemicals at an early age. For the same reasons that we don't feed babies a variety of foods when they are tiny -- allergies -- we should limit the chemicals they are exposed to on their linens and clothes. My babies all had their clothing washed separately until about a year, when they started getting their clothes soiled with dirt common to the family dirt, and wearing fabrics like denim and heavy knits. I admit that I never, ever grew tired of washing and folding tiny little things.

 I rescued this sweet little sweater from a stack of baby clothes Faith appropriated for her dolls (unbeknown to me). This sweater was a gift to my oldest child when he was born, making it 21 years old. It's just as beautiful as the day it was given to us, after using it for three boys (and countless baby dolls).


Linens should always be washed separately from clothes and from each other. With the exception of an occasional bleach-safe towel thrown in to make a full load of whites, linens never mix with clothes. There are several reasons.

First, clothing and linens get different treatment in the washer and dryer. Second, linens, especially towels, tend to leave more lint behind, which will end up on other items. Third, linens, especially sheets, tend to get tangled with smaller and oddly shaped items (like clothes with sleeves, elastic, drawstrings), making the wash and dry cycles less efficient, and causing more wear on each item. Fourth, linens and towels, and especially kitchen linens have very different dirt than clothes do.  Thus, you should have bath linen loads, bed linens loads, and kitchen linen loads.

Bath linens: You should have a place for towels to hang in the bathroom. If you do, you will be able to get more than a single use out of towels and wash clothes. You can use a towel bar or pegs, but either way, towels should be used several times before tossing them in the wash -- if they dry out completely between uses. For sanitation it's nice to have a towel for each person, but I don't think there is anything wrong with little people (under age 5)  sharing a bath towel. We have a rack like this in the master bath, which allows for space to stack clean towels on top, and we also have a homemade wooden peg rack over the master tub and in the children's bathroom which can handle more towels. These pegs are also nice for hanging small items like tights and underclothing that can be hand-washed in the bathroom. They are simple to make -- just a 1 x 4 and some wooden pegs, painted with a latex paint to protect the wood from dampness. 

Top a rack with a shelf, like this one over my master tub, and you have additional storage space. At least twice a week, even if you reuse towels, you need to run a load of towels, unless it's just you, your spouse and couple of tiny people. If you only wash bath linens once a week make certain that you hang them to dry completely before tossing them into the hamper, or you'll have musty laundry when you do wash it. We'll talk about method later when we talk about washing and drying.

Bed linens: Bed linens, I do believe, are sorely under-washed by most folks. I garner this information by talking to people who are generally surprised to find out that I wash every sheet every week (I don't  tell people this fact voluntarily, but sometimes, especially with girlfriends, it just comes up). We people (in general) spend a lot of time between our sheets -- 8 hours a night on a good night. If we wore and didn't wash our jammies for 56 hours, they would stink wouldn't they? Yes, so do sheets. Not stinky like sweaty, work-out stinky, but even sleeping bodies have a smell, and so do sleeping heads of hair. I don't know for certain, but I think this phenomenon of not washing sheets regularly has developed in the last few decades. I know that my mother washed our sheets every week and so did her mother before her (and she didn't even have a washing machine). Yes, we bathe more often that folks did back then, and my children and I even bathe at night before we get between the sheets, but still, bodies do smell. Lest you think my family is particularly stinky, I promise you we aren't. At least I don't think we are. ;-) Besides, who doesn't love slipping between clean sheets and laying one's head on a sweet, clean pillowcase? Do it for your people. You love them.

Kitchen linens: Kitchen linens are washed only with other kitchen linens. Remember what I said about dirt washing out of clothes and landing on other clothes? Well, you don't want your kitchen dirt and your body dirt mixing. I don't even think I need to say another thing about that. Do I? Keep a hamper in your kitchen or at the very least a lovely drying rack so that you're not tossing wet towels and wash cloths into a corner or down the basement steps. Yuck. I have a hamper like this and I just hang the linens until they are dry and then toss them in. Dinner napkins, tablecloths, wash cloths and towels all go in the same load. You will treat them all the same in the washer and dryer. The only exception is some delicate lace napkins or tablecloths you want to take greater care with, but I have nothing delicate that I actually use. Twice a week you want to run a load of table linens. If you have a large family and you use cloth napkins (which I highly recommend) you may need to do it three times a week or stock up on napkins. We usually only use cloth napkins at dinner time, but families who use cloth napkins at every meal should consider a method of reusing throughout the day like my friend, Jennie. Again, we'll discuss the actual washing and drying method of linens later.

To be continued...

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." -- Mark Twain



  1. Gosh, I don't think you'd like coming to my home. I use paper napkins all the time. I do not even own cloth napkins. I do not even have the space to store them. My paper napkins are in the laundry sink with the extra cereal boxes. Paper towels too. Paper plates are used almost every day at lunch too.

    I DO love clean sheets though, love them!! It always feels so good to get into a crisp clean bed!!

    We also use our bath towels for about a week, the kiddos hang theirs on the stair railing at the top of the stairs by their bathroom, each having their own coordinating color. Any longer than a week, they start to smell musty.

    See? Easy to do a "towel load" when they are all washed at the same time.

    Aren't you proud of me for the towel thing?

    Love the dark haired Barbara!
    Love the white haired Barabar too!

  2. Oops, typing too fast, got my b's and a's mixed up!

    Barbara. There.

  3. I've been sorting all the jeans out of the dark hamper all week. See? You're getting to me. :-)

  4. Now you're getting to me....I like full loads, and if I separated the girl laundry from the boy laundry and the kitchen linens from everything else, I'd be doing a lot of small loads.


  5. Not judging, Jamie. Not judging. I just prefer it. And all my cloth napkins for daily use are in a basket on a counter next to the table (the last pic). Easy peasy. Yes, proud of you for the towels!

    Oh, Jennie, I AM tickled!

    No way, Sara! You have big people! Surely in a couple days you would have enough to do a load of everything -- just stagger them until you have a couple loads every day. I have an high efficiency washer and my loads are pretty big. Don't make me come down there! ;-)

  6. Dear Barbara,
    When my niece and nephew came for a visit I didn't have smocks for them. I used large garbage bags with a hole in the middle of the base for the head and a hole on each side for the arms
    and the draw string to tie below to further protect clothing. Worked for me so well that the next time they came to visit they went right for their "stash of tricks, tools and tomfoolery" pulled out their garbage bags and with their parents aghast put them on. My how my sister and brother in law were surprised how well it worked!
    The place where we used to get the sit upon materials is out of business so I have to make use with what is available and will endure creative youngsters1
    Thanks for all the laundry assistance!

  7. I'm enjoying these posts (I so agree with you and employ many of your tried and true methods already) . . . but that Mark Twain quote had me laughing and I so appreciate it!!!

    I do not know how on earth folks can't change sheets once a week. I own two sets per bed . . . Once a week, the ones come off and the ones in the linen closet go on . . . I wash and fold and store the set that came off. No big whoop, esp. if you keep the sheets either all white or similar shades.

  8. Oh, I know you are not judging!

    All in fun.

    You have also gotten to me, I have done 2 white bleach loads. I can't wait til I have enough whites to do another. I love that fresh bleach clean scent. I catch myself looking for whites I could wash, like some blankets, all the baby's bibs!

  9. We keep our second set of sheets right under each bed, Sarah! They're in those long under-bed boxes, along with extra blankets, and we just pull apart the bed and remake right away, too. :-)

  10. Ok, your slow method of carefully talking about how you do laundry is starting to chip away at my method. I consider myself practical. I have three little people and one baby. I wash little people clothes together (two boys and one girl - but they all get the same dirty at this age, 5 and under). I also throw the baby clothes in with them. Sometimes I was my delicates with them, too simply because I only have a few well-fitting "ladies attire" and I find myself tossing them in with whatever I am washing (as long as it is cold). I usually wash my towels with my whites and my kitchen rags - on hot, but sometimes I throw towels in with other loads (cold, etc) to have a full load. I guess I grew up with the "full load" mentality, but now I have a high efficiency washer that only uses the amount it needs for the load so it really would be worth my time to do something different, I guess. You really have me thinking now. . . Thank you for sharing your insights. I look forward to the next installment. In the mean time I will have to re-think my sorting. I don't think we have space to add more "pre-sorting" hampers, but I have lots of space to sort on laundry day (as I take over the floor in my work-out room) and lots of baskets.

  11. Just wanted to drop by and say how much I am enjoying your posts! Thanks for sharing!


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!