Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Nancy Bock, senior vice president of education for the American Cleaning Institute. This version has been corrected.
How is it that one of the most-used rooms in many homes is also one of the most neglected? This spring-cleaning season, take some time out to set up your laundry room so that washing and drying aren’t such a chore. Paint, decorate and organize, and it will become a room you’ll want to spend some time in. (And if you have a laundry room, you will spend time there: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans wash 400 loads of laundry a year.)
And while you’re at it, reeducate yourself on stain-fighting and garment-cleaning essentials to make your work as enjoyable as your space. “There is something to be said for the knowhow of our grandmother’s generations,” says Gwen Whiting, one of the co-founders of the Laundress, a New York laundry products company and washing service (she recommends Ellen Sandbeck’s “Organic Housekeeping” and the Laundress’s Web site, www.thelaundress.com). “They really knew about the fabrics, steps and good elbow grease. The only difference today are machines and more sophisticated soap ingredients.” Of course, it’s those specialty detergents and cleaning tools that are clogging up laundry rooms in the first place, so we found a collection of hampers, bins, hooks and other supplies to wrangle everything in an orderly fashion. “With the proper tools,” says Sabrina Soto, a designer and HGTV host, “your laundry room is bound to stay neat and clutter-free.”
“Detergents and cleaning supplies can be emptied into to matching jars or bottles for uniformity, making your space look fun and orderly,” Soto says. Clear glass canisters let you know when supplies are low ($5-$20, www.crateandbarrel.com).
As laundry products become more and more specialized, you might find that you have more and more products to organize. “Years ago, it was just a laundry product,” says Nancy Bock, senior vice president of education for the American Cleaning Institute. “Today it’s a laundry product for someone that may have sensitive skin issues. . . . We’re looking for things that make our life easier, better, healthier.” Label jars of specialty soaps and detergents with chalkboard sticker labels. Soapstone chalk on self-adhesive vinyl labels will wipe clean with a wet cloth ($10, www.crateandbarrel.com).
Place products that are most frequently used at a reachable level. And, Soto suggests, use a bin or storage caddy, such as a Vinea storage basket, to avoid getting scum and residue on shelves and other surfaces ($12-$35, www.organize.
Among the essentials that the Laundress’s Lindsey Boyd lists for a well-organized laundry room are a hand-washing sink or tub, hampers, drying racks, hangers, mesh washing bags, a steamer, trash cans and “a nice, clean work table.” She has a bar-height Ikea table for her laundry. For something similar, try Ikea’s Utby stainless steel table ($199, www.ikea.com).
Probably the most crucial part to getting your laundry organized is finding the right hamper for your needs. A four-bag commercial laundry sorter is good for separating laundry for a family of four or for separating out darks, lights, hand-washables and dry-clean-only clothes ($78, www.organizeit.com).
For another way to separate colors, try monogram canvas hampers by Portland, Ore.’s Beckel Canvas marked “dark” or “light.” Or give each family member a hamper with his or her own name (Mini, $32; Regular, $38, www.thelaundress.com).
Dealing with laundry-day backups? Steele’s rolling canvas laundry cart will keep piles of waiting dirty clothes off the floor. It’s part of Crate and Barrel’s new Clean Slate line ($135, www.crateand
In smaller spaces, Soto says to consider multifunctional pieces, such as the double sorter with ironing boardfrom Target’s new Threshold line, which gives you space to sort, treat and iron clothing ($60, www.target.com).
If you live in a townhouse with lots of stairs, you want hampers with handles. And to make schlepping those hampers up and down the stairs fun (or at least look like fun), use See Jane Work’s tall canvas bin with its chevron pattern in green, pink or gray. Reinforced handles make carrying easier ($90, www.seejanework.com).
“Keep your floors clean by hanging items like vacuums, brooms, dustpans and mops,” Soto says. The white Elfa utility laundry and cleaning center provides a shelf for products and plenty of hooks for hanging small and large items ($225, www.containerstore.com).
And whether your laundry room is closet-size or palatial, “take advantage of every corner,” Soto says. A retractable clothesline disappears when not in use and expands up to 94 inches when needed ($12, www.containerstore.com).
Yes, you’ll need hangers or clothespins for line drying, but we found clothespins with an unexpected purpose. The Good Home Co.’s scented clothespins in Lavender, Beach Days, Pure Grass, Line Dried or Cedar will freshen up a drawer of newly laundered clothes, a gym bag or even a box of winter clothes ($12, www.goodhomestore.com).
It makes sense: If you want a happy laundry room, then decorate with “something that makes you happy,” Whiting says. A brightly colored ironing board cover might make the dreaded chore of ironing cheerier ($24, www.etsy.com).
Don’t underestimate the power of the color white to keep a space calm. Even white accessories such as the Container Store’s Superior white wood hangers bring serenity to usually chaotic utility rooms (or cluttered closets). ($10-12, www.containerstore.com).
Keep the family socks and your sanity in check with the lost socks rack. Nine clips will hold on to lonely socks until you find their mates and will bring the room a touch of whimsy ($65, www.atwestend.com).
Roberts is a freelance writer.