Every Wednesday, my mother would venture down to the dark, dank basement to do what she described as “her” laundry, but which included that of her husband and five at-home children (two others were married before I was born).
I remember when she used a roller-wringer to get excess water out of the clothing, then lugged a heavy, wet basket upstairs to hang, with wooden pegs, on a clothesline in the backyard. Even today I love to occasionally hang things outside just to get a whiff of that intoxicating “fresh laundry” smell that no detergent or dryer sheet has ever managed to emulate.
Even as a child, I wondered why a job that took so long, and that would sometimes take up the better part of a beautiful summer’s day, would be done in a space as dismal as a smelly, unfinished basement.
The default location for laundry rooms used to be in the basement, and for some, it still is. There are still good reasons to put a laundry room there: noise, humidity, and overflow if a hose breaks, for example.
Location, Location, Location
The location of a home’s laundry facility should be easily accessible, and the room or area must be designed to be free of hazards.
There was once a time when I advocated laundry areas on the sleeping level of a home, “where the clothes are removed,” I reasoned.
Frankly, in most cases, there is little room to create a laundry area without taking away space from other important functions. As well, that area can get far too busy to add another important function to the chaos.
The notion to locate laundry facilities near the bedrooms may still make sense to some, however if located near a sleeping area, it’s best to have the washer and dryer in a space that is insulated against sound, as well as appliances with extra insulation and improved suspension that promise quiet operation and reduced vibration. If the dryer doesn't list a decibel (db) rating, it's probably too noisy to place near the bedroom. The same logic applies to washing machines with high-speed spin cycles (more than 1,000 rpm); they might vibrate too much to be located near living or sleeping areas.
If the goal is to save time and effort, consider the variety of tasks involved with laundry: sorting, washing, drying, and folding, then (sometimes) ironing and distribution. Arrange the work surfaces and appliances to facilitate that flow. No matter how small, the goal is to create a space that makes it easy for the laundry to go from the washer to the dryer to the countertop, etc.
A clothes rod to the right of the dryer provides space for hanging items. Shelves above the washer and dryer keep laundry products within easy reach, and out of the hands of little ones. Plan a laundry sink for hand-washing delicates within steps of the washer/dryer duo. Minimum steps, maximum efficiency.
Too many times, I have heard people say: “But it’s only a laundry room.” Yet a laundry facility provides a place for a required household function, similar to a kitchen or bathroom.
Think about it: Each of those spaces has a specific use that need nothing more than the basic elements to be functional, and yet we spend many thousands of dollars making beautiful kitchens and bathrooms. Beyond that, well-planned and attractive laundry space will increase its efficiency, productivity, and safety.
No matter where it is located, manoeuvring space in front of the washer and dryer should be considered and should measure no less than 5-feet by 5-feet (1.5 metres by 1.5 metres), on top of any storage space that is related to the laundry, plus the area where dirty clothes are stored.
Safety hazards can result from the inadvertent use of an appliance, particularly children climbing into a washer or dryer. Some appliance manufacturers offer a lock-out feature that can be set to prevent doors from being opened.
Washers and dryers
Choose washers and dryers that offer multiple modes of information on the status of the laundry cycle, including visual, tactile, and audible alerts. Features like these will make the laundry accessibility to everyone, and maybe less work for you.
Front-loading washers and dryers are the type preferred by consumers today, selling two-to-one ahead of top loading machines. Front-loading machines are accessible to more people.
Regardless of the choice of style, front-mounted controls are the preferred option because they are easier for everyone to see and operate, provided you can get through the operator’s manual to understand what all the icons mean.
A stacked washer/dryer unit are a great solution when space is limited, but not a great choice for anyone who is shorter than 1.65 metres (five-feet, five-inches) because, without using a step ladder, it will be impossible to fully reach into the drum.
A recent technological breakthrough is the “ventless” dryer, a great choice for a limited space situation or a retrofit design.
For most models of front-loading machines, manufacturers offer a pedestal base unit that ranges from ten to 15-inches (25 to 38 cm) high, making them easier to reach into.
The raised storage platform can be used to store cleaning supplies.
When buying a new appliance, look at the location of the soap/bleach/fabric softener receptacle. Located on the top of the machine it may be inaccessible to some people.
Make sure the lint-catcher is also accessible and easy to use. Some dryers now feature an alarm that warns when the lint catcher needs to be cleaned. For the record, it needs to be cleaned after every use.
The screen should also be scrubbed clean at least once a month. Lint particles will quickly get trapped and block the screen and, although the trap will appear clean to the naked eye, it is often clogged enough to hold water.
Anyone who has hand-washed laundry knows that you never can hand wring wet clothes enough so they will dry in a reasonable time. For that reason, a clothes wringer is extremely useful.
A wringer will remove far more water from your clothes than by twisting and wringing them out by hand. A clothes wringer speeds up the drying time of hand laundry by at least five times.
The hand clothes wringer has adjustable squeeze rollers that allow it to wring out thin clothing articles as well as the more difficult items, like jeans or uneven items with buttons, zippers, and snaps.
Storage of soap and other supplies should be located nearby, at a maximum height of 48-inches (120 cm). A laundry sink and an area for folding clothes should be located within proximity to the washer and dryer.
Typically, a laundry sink will double as a utility sink. The same basin where you rinse out fine washables is also the place where paint is cleaned from brushes.
A dedicated sink for the laundry, to be used for textile maintenance only, would be a welcomed fixture.
If clothes are to be ironed within the laundry area, an easily accessible electrical outlet should be incorporated. You will need a place to store both the ironing board and the iron.