Friday, December 10, 2010

Laundry Nirvana, or How I Learned How to Stop Worrying and Love the Mound

I have always been bad at carrying the laundry tasks through to completion. I married while in college at age 21 and lived in a place with terrible water, so we ended up using the laundromat. That was helpful in getting me organized about laundry, and I liked that it all got done and put away. When we moved and had city water and a new w/d, I became a laundry slacker. I let loads sit wet overnight, I forgot softener, I dried pens and chapstick, and I used a LOT of detergent. Laundry PILED UP because we were both grad students and both commuting 40 minutes each way in different directions. After that, we had children, and I had their tiny laundry piling up as well. As much as I wanted to cloth diaper them, I could barely keep my head above water with 2 little boys 18 months apart. I wish I had known that diapers would later become the key for laundry nirvana for us!

Cloth diapers require very simple detergent with no artificial additives because these can cause residue, rashes, and funk, and the same thing goes for fabric softeners. When I was expecting M, I knew it was time to try cloth, so I researched detergents and found Charlie's Soap. I learned that even switching back and forth between commercial laundry soap and natural detergent can still result in residue getting dumped onto the diapers. So we have a 5-gallon bucket of Charlie's Soap powder, and we use it for EVERYTHING except delicates. Check it out on Amazon, where I can often find it for $100 for the bucket, which lasts at least 6 months, if not a year.

The diaper pail is in the basement next to the washer. This forces me to go downstairs multiple times per day to put a diaper into the bucket. While I'm there, I might as well sort the pile of dirty laundry at the bottom of the stairs, move stuff to the dryer, start a new load, and bring the clean clothes upstairs (remembering a basket helps!). I do a quick run around the house in the morning looking for stray dirty laundry in each room, and I toss it down the basement stairs.

Why is my laundry pile at the bottom of the stairs? My whole family can easily toss things down the stairs. It is the one place where I can guarantee that everyone can follow through on putting dirty laundry where it goes, and I don't have to look at it unless I'm doing laundry. The boys are learning to sort as well and can empty the dryer and bring the laundry upstairs. The Dog & Baby Show wait for me at the top of the stairs every time, and just as I reach the top, M slams the door in my face. Every time. It's a game for some reason.

The clean laundry is my weak spot! I lack focus to stay with it until it gets put away, and here I call on lot of help! I put the pile of clean laundry on our bed and sort the clothes into baskets for M, the Jedis, linens (we don't use paper towels here, so there's a lot), and our clothes. I get towels, wash clothes, and linens put away first because they're easy and always needed. The Jedis and I put their clothes away every few days, and I put M's away. Dr. O' hangs up his load, or I do it. We don't have a closet, so our clothes hang on a bar in the basement, so it's actually easier to hang clothes straight from the dryer. I grab the diaper load during M's naptime since it gets dried every other morning. I stuff the pocket diapers and leave them in their basket in the bathroom. That load also has the cloth wipes in it, so I stuff those into a wipes box by the sink.

Here's my wash routine:
- 4 loads of darks per week, cold water, 2T Charlie's
- 2 loads of lights per week, warm water, 2T Charlie's
- 1-2 loads of colors per week, cool water (reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows), 2T Charlie's
- 1 load of Dr. O's work clothes and my church clothes per week, cold water, gentle cycle, dry low, 2oz EcoStore liquid (I buy it at Meijer whenever I'm in Indiana), which smells deliciously like eucalyptus
- 3 loads of diapers and wipes per week, cold wash, hot wash in 4T Charlie's Soap, then an extra rinse, tumble dry low or line dry.

Note that I don't use softener. You don't need it if you use a residue-free detergent. It's the residue that makes your clothes stiff or scratchy, and softener is like laminating a layer of grime onto your clothes. Static can be remedied with wool dryer balls.

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