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I have heard that there are people who “like” doing laundry. They find it soothing, I think. It adds order to a disordered world. I don’t know. I’m guessing here.
I hate laundry. It requires that you contemplate your own bodily filth, and also that you leave your house. (I know that some people have washing machines in their houses, and I hope it is as glorious as I imagine. Either way, you have to do something: Get up out of your comfy chair and participate in a chore.)
And it is constant. At the same time you are doing laundry, you are wearing clothes, which will then need to be laundered, and so on, forever, until the end of time. You will never be done.
I am also aware that some people have other people do their laundry. In New York City, where I live, it is common. It is, people tell me regularly, not even that much more expensive! And think of the time I’d save! This is true, kind of. But I am very controlling: If anyone is going to shrink my clothes, it is going to be me. And so, for the purposes of this article, we will assume you are doing your own laundry.
First, the bad news: There is no magic solution, no miracle hack, no technical cure. As Popular Science recently sighed, “It’s 2018 and robots still won’t do our laundry.” But there are a number of improvements that can help ease the burden of laundry. You still have to do it — I’m so sorry for us all — but, with a very minimal investment, you can significantly improve the experience.
As Lifehacker has noted before, if you sort as you go — this is wash cold, this is wash warm etc. — then you will not have to sort later. This is good. It makes the prospect of actually doing your laundry less daunting. You’re already at least 1/5th of the way there!
Especially if you do laundry at a laundromat, invest in a bag with a really good strap. Two straps, even! Though this is embarrassingly obvious, it took me a whole decade of city living to invest $13.99 in a laundry bag that is not miserable to carry. I finally did it, though (I got this backpack-style one), and it is not hyperbole to say it changed my life. These days, I can tote several weeks’ worth of clothes to and from a laundromat without looking like a disgruntled Santa Claus.
If you are toting your wardrobe to and from a laundromat on the regular, consider the detergent pod. They don’t have to be those sexy-looking Tide ones, if you’re worried that you’ll eat them. The important thing is that you do not have to carry a huge jug of detergent with you on your rounds.
If you’re doing laundry a bit closer to home, invest in something that will be gentle on your favorite garments (especially if you’re chucking them in the wash instead of heading to the dry cleaner). The Laundress’ Delicate Wash may seem pricey at $19 for 16 ounces, but given that it lasts you 30-some washes, it works out to less per wash than you’d be spending in quarters to rent a machine. Even just Woolite will make a difference. Nab a box of dryer sheets to make sure everything comes out soft and static free, and, if you’re into scent, you can pick up a linen spray to keep things fresh between washes (Jo Malone’s are the ultimate luxury pick).
And speaking of skipping the dry cleaner, The Laundress also makes a wool and cashmere soap that will keep your sweaters fresh through the winter, and even a long, cold spring.
Socks are a problem. Even if they all make it back from the wash — they don’t, but even if they did — you still have to pair them. While this is not oppressive, it is just one more tiny obstacle that makes laundry just slightly worse. Luckily, there are several solutions to this problem, and you deserve one.
Option A) Put all socks in a mesh lingerie bag. You still have to pair them, but at least you don’t have to find them first.
Option B) Sock clips. These are little clips that hold pairs together in the wash. If you do this when you take the socks off, it will already be done. If you don’t want to buy specialized clips, safety pins or binder clips work, too.
Option C) Only buy one kind of sock. Then, all your socks match. I have a friend who does this — admittedly, his fashion needs are limited — and his life seems great.
Speaking of mesh lingerie bags! If you are a bra-wearing person (or bra-washing person), you may know that technically, you are supposed to hand wash them. That is a good thing to do, in theory. Do you do that? Me neither. While a lot of delicate underthings — stockings, for example — are supposed to be washed by hand, you can (usually) get away with putting them through the washer inside some mesh lingerie bags. This prevents snags and tangles, and also is a sign of deep competence.
I mean, yes. But if you just want to refresh the shirt you wore for a couple hours yesterday, you can probably wring another wear out of it without a full wash-and-dry. To deodorize a garment, pour some cheap vodka into a spray bottle and give the item a spritz. (Patch test first, to make sure it doesn’t discolor the fabric.) It’s not a substitute for laundry, but it can help delay the inevitable. You’re not procrastinating. You’re just environmentally responsible.
Rachel Sugar writes about culture and food. She lives in New York City.