There are certain rooms in your home where cleanliness is paramount. The bathroom and the kitchen are two big ones that come to mind, but a clean laundry room can also be important to your health and wellbeing.
Many of us don't think much about the laundry room, either. Perhaps your washer and dryer are tucked away in a closet, basement, or out of sight in a mudroom. Even if you have a dedicated laundry room, you probably don't linger in the room—you get in, start the wash, and get out.
But a healthy and clean laundry room can have a positive impact on the health of your entire family. Choosing safe cleaners and good hygiene practices will ensure everyone stays well.
1. Keep Your Laundry Room Free of Clutter
An organized space is a clean space and when it comes to the laundry room, keeping the space clutter-free is crucial. When we remove our dirty clothes from the day, it can have all sorts of germs, bacteria, and dirt from the outside world. If we then toss those clothes into a hamper or a laundry basket, that dirt and debris also transfer.
Put dirty clothing in a designated spot. One of the best ideas to keep a clean laundry room is to sort the clothes right away into a few wash piles—delicates, darks, linens, and whites. It's typically best to keep a dirty laundry bin for each bundle and then a clean laundry basket for transporting freshly washed clothing back to your drawers and closets.
Laundry rooms don't need a lot of additional décor, and it can create more spots for dust and lint to accumulate. Keep your folding table and drying rack tucked away. If you keep an iron and clothes steamer, you'll want to put them away when they aren't in use. You may want to keep a few items on hand to treat stains, tears, and minor repairs like loose thread and buttons. These items should have a home in your laundry room, along with the soap and stain treatments.
A dryer means lint, which can clog vents and even lead to a fire hazard in the right conditions. Be sure to clean your dryer lint out each time you use the machine. Keep a small, covered wastebasket or bin to hold anything you discard, and empty it frequently.
2. Check for Mold and Mildew
Another concern in a laundry space is mold and mildew. These hazards can be especially problematic if your laundry room doesn't have a window or much ventilation. Damp, warm conditions in a laundry room create the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew to flourish. Our laundry room in the Modern European happens to be one of the only rooms in our future home without a window—so we opted for solar tubes as a means of bringing in natural light.
Architect: Brooks & Falotico
One spot that many people don't realize is a concern is the door of your washer. Washer mildew is common, and front-loading washing machines can especially present a mold issue. Most manufacturers have improved their models over the last decade to prevent this concern, but it can still arise if you don’t take proper steps to prevent mold growth. Front-loading machines are beautiful, but I still prefer a top-loading machine in my own home.
To keep your washer clean, always remove your laundry right away when the cycle is complete. This tip may sound obvious, but many of us get busy and allow loads to sit in the machine for a while. Mold can start to grow in a matter of 12-24 hours, so it’s important not to wait.
Take a look at the manufacturer's instructions to prevent mold in the washing machine and follow the schedule they provide. Surprisingly, that may mean using vinegar to clean the door gasket and glass on your machine after each use. You may also need to clean the soap dispenser and accessories regularly.
When you aren’t using your washing machine, leave the door open to prevent mildew growth. Even leaving the door slightly ajar will help prevent mold from taking over. Many manufacturers also suggest regularly running an empty cycle to clean the machine. There are commercial washing machine cleaners, but some can contain harsh chemicals. Often keeping the machine dry will be enough to keep it safe.
3. Select Natural Scents, Soaps, and Softeners
For a clean laundry room, you'll want to focus on healthy products free of hazardous chemicals, synthetic fragrances, and other concerning ingredients. Choosing organic and natural cleaners is a good practice throughout your house for a healthier home, but it's imperative when you're washing items that touch your skin.
There are many safer and gentler laundry products on the market. My favorite is from The Laundress. Their signature detergent, denim wash, stain solution, and all-purpose bleach alternatives are extremely helpful for a safe, clean laundry room. The line of products includes non-toxic cleaning liquids as well, so they’re certainly a brand to explore.
Unfortunately, commercial dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners are often laden with chemical fragrance—yes, even those labeled as “fragrance-free”. Many also contain chemicals to "release wrinkles," repel pet hair, or protect against color fading. These additives can also be dangerous and problematic, especially when used on items you and your family wear.
There aren't many non-toxic dryer sheets on the market, but there are several alternative options—including wool dryer balls—that are safe and natural. Cleancult is another excellent source for laundry products, soap, and dryer sheet alternatives. Their wool dryer balls can keep your clothes static-free (or nearly static-free) for up to 1000 loads (and they’re less expensive than dryer sheets)!
4. Opt for Air Dry
Of course, if you want to forgo the risk of dryer sheets and other additives altogether, I strongly recommend air drying your clothing whenever possible. Not only is it better for your health, but it’s better for your clothing.
A simple drying rack is a great idea. Most fold away when they aren’t in use, and you can find many options for built-in drying racks as well. You can often install the frames in the wall above your washer, dryer, or folding table, and some designs are disguised as drawers that close away when not in use.
Another benefit of avoiding the dryer is that you’ll reduce the static in your laundry. When the laundry gets tossed around and rubs together, it creates a static charge. Instead, hanging it on a rack or line keeps it spark-free, more comfortable, and easier to manage.
Finally, if you choose to air laundry outside, it often smells lovely—fresh and clean—without any scented soap or detergent. The sun naturally helps to combat bacteria and odor. Not everyone has a clothesline these days, but a portable drying rack on a porch or balcony is an excellent option for items that could use a little more freshness.
5. Go Green with Your Laundry
A clean laundry room is healthier for you, but it can also benefit the earth. Many of the processes we use to clean our clothes are harmful to the environment. There's a lot of waste involved in those big plastic bins and detergent bottles, so eco-friendly laundry is important.
Washers and dryers use a great deal of electricity to run. What’s more, laundry detergents can contain chemicals that aren’t only harmful to you but may also be detrimental to nature. For example, phosphates common in many soaps and detergents can cause algae blooms and contaminate waterways.
Besides cutting back on dryer use and choosing eco-friendly laundry detergents, it's also helpful to sort your laundry carefully so you can wash everything on cool. Washing clothes in hot water can damage your clothing, and it also uses a lot of energy—about 90% of the energy that it takes to operate the machine. When you sort items carefully and wash on cool, you won’t need to worry about colors bleeding.
Washing machines have become much more efficient over the years, but you'll still save on water use if you choose a front-loading device (be sure to clean the door and follow the manufacturer's sanitizing instructions). Air drying is also great for saving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Laundry is a chore that we all have to do regularly. Even if we're careful with our clothing and wear items (like jeans and sweaters) multiple times, we still need to wash regularly. Our apparel, towels, and sheets touch our skin 24 hours a day, so it’s important to keep our laundry practices clean and healthy.
With a few steps, you can enjoy a clean laundry room that's good for you and good for the planet. So what do you love (or hate) about doing the laundry? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.