6 Simple Ways to De-Stress Your Laundry Room Today

Whether your washer and dryer are housed in the basement or in a bathroom closet, chances are you’re spending a lot of time looking at them. The average American family pops in anywhere from 300 to 400 loads of dirty towels, sheets, clothes, and workout gear a year. So what’s stopping you from making your laundry room as inviting as possible? Here are six easy ways to straighten, brighten, and upgrade your laundry room today.

Unclutter your work area. If space permits, install open shelving or hanging cabinets above your washer and dryer so that supplies are within arm’s reach. And include a small table or countertop that’s at a comfortable height (34 inches is standard) for folding. Corral detergent, brightener, fabric softener, and dryer sheets in pretty fabric bins, wire boxes, or wicker baskets. Also install a small wastebasket, and use glass or plastic jars to store clothespins, lint brushes, and stain sticks.

Go green. Potted plants are an easy, inexpensive way to spruce up any laundry room—whether it’s got greenhouse-quality natural light or nary a window in sight. Plus, given that you’re doing wash at least once a week, you have no excuse not to water them. Consider philodendrons, African violets, and ferns, none of which require a lot of upkeep.

Skip the white walls. If your space is small, experiment with color and graphics. Paint thick stripes on the wall, hang brightly patterned wallpaper, or use letter decals or stencils to spell out witty sayings like “It all comes out in the wash.” You won’t tire of it, the way you might, say, a lime-green living room—and it’ll brighten your mood every time you throw in a load.

Scent the air. A great-smelling laundry room can make washing dirty laundry less of a chore. To avoid sensory overload, choose fragrances that you enjoy and that complement one another. 

Surround yourself with sound. Even the most arduous task is tolerable when you have good tunes or an audio book to listen to. Install a digital music player or portable radio near your folding station so that you can sing while you sort.

Show your personality. Don’t give your laundry room short shrift when it comes to design. For an unexpected dose of luxury, suspend a sparkly chandelier or a vintage pendant lamp overhead. And add more fun to your fluff and fold by hanging art you love—whether it’s a paint-by-number canvas, black-and-white photographs, or your child’s latest masterpiece.

LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash and Care for Silk Clothes

Read the care label. When a label says “Dry Clean,” that is the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning method, but it may not be the only method available—hand washing silk clothing is often an acceptable alternative. “Dry Clean Only,” however, should be strictly adhered to.

Test for color fastness. The rich colors of silk can often bleed, so be sure to test before washing anything: Dip a cotton swab in mild laundry detergent and water, then dab it on a hidden seam to see if any dye comes off on the swab. Bright prints or colors that bleed should be dry-cleaned.

Never spot-treat silk. Rubbing one area of silk can cause lightening in just that spot. For moderate stains, especially ones in the middle of a pattern, wash the entire garment. Dark or unsightly stains should be taken to a dry cleaner.

Hand wash silk clothes in cold water. Fill a clean sink or small tub with lukewarm water and a small amount of liquid laundry detergent. Lightly agitate for three to five minutes and rinse well. If the care label advises machine washing, choose a gentle, cold-water cycle.

Handle with care. After rinsing, gently squeeze out excess water. Never twist or wring out silk garments; doing so can damage the fabric.

Avoid the dryer. Lay wet silk clothing flat onto a clean, absorbent towel and roll it up in the towel to rid excess moisture. Unroll and repeat using a second dry towel, then lay flat on a drying rack or dry towel.

Use a low setting on your iron. And iron while garments are still slightly damp. Hang to dry on a padded hanger.

LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash Cashmere

1. To get started, fill a clean sink with lukewarm water and a quarter-size dollop of a gentle laundry detergent, mixing it into the water with your hands.

2. Put the garment in the basin, and gently work the soapy water through the fabric. Avoid rubbing or twisting the delicate fibers. Don’t worry if you see dye seep into the water, especially if this is one of the first times you’ve washed the garment.

3. Allow the item to soak for 30 minutes or so. Drain the sink, then rinse the garment until the water runs clean and the clothing is free of detergent.

4. Gently squeeze excess water out, making sure not to wring the delicate fabric. Lay the garment flat on a big, absorbent bath towel. Roll the garment in the towel, and press to absorb excess water. On another clean, dry towel, lay out the garment. Reshape if necessary, and leave it to dry. Depending on the humidity, drying can sometimes take a few days. If the underside remains damp, turn it over.

5. If you’ll be storing your cashmere until next winter, tuck a scented dryer sheet into the drawer or storage container.

LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash Woolens and Sweaters

As long as the manufacturers’ labels don’t forbid it, there’s no reason not to wash sweaters at home. Keep these tips in mind for best results.

Machine washing: Many knits made of synthetics, cotton, or blends are fine for your washer. Use cold water on a gentle cycle and a detergent that’s safe for machine-washable delicates. Wool, delicate knits, or embellished items should be washed in a zip-up mesh laundry bag—the item should fit loosely in the bag for best cleaning. To dry, lay flat on a mesh sweater rack or a towel.

Hand washing: Start with cold water and a tiny splash of delicates-friendly liquid detergent. Squeeze the sudsy water through the fabric. Never rub or twist, doing so can stretch the shape. To rinse, drain the sink then gently squeeze water from the sweater. Refill the sink with clean water and gently swish the sweater to rinse away the detergent; repeat until water runs clear and then gently squeeze excess water from garment. Lay the sweater flat on a clean towel and roll it up to press out excess moisture. Then lay the sweater flat on a fresh towel until dry, away from sunlight and heat.

LAUNDRY 101: How to Wash Down Coats and Bedding

Whether you have down-filled comforters, sleeping bags, winter jackets, pillows, or all of these, the right cleaning steps will ensure they stay silky soft and freshly scented.

1. Check labels to be sure your down goods can be machine-washed. Check pillow and bedding seams for durability, and mend any shaky seams. For puffy coats, fasten all zippers and empty pockets.

2. Choose a normal wash and spin cycle (unless otherwise noted by the care label), and add detergent.

3. Submerge items when washer is half full and balance the load by adding a few same-colored towels. Stop the washer occasionally to press air from items.

4. Tumble dry on low with dryer sheet that provides softness and a light airy-fresh scent, plus static protection. (Always check care label for drying instructions before you start, to be sure that your fabrics can be machine dried and at what temperature.) Tip: Include a few clean, dry towels to help speed drying, and toss in some new tennis balls or clean tennis shoes as well to plump the down.