There are a lot of chores I dread, to be honest. But laundry has to be near the top of the list for me. In addition to the work of sorting, washing, drying, folding, and putting away, my laundry room is in the basement (and our bedrooms are on the second floor). So hauling laundry up and down is truly an exhausting endeavor!
All that work has forced me to look out for some creative solutions. While I haven’t tried all of them personally, here are some ideas to make the monumental feat of laundry just a little easier.
If you struggle with mobility, strength, or pain, it can be very difficult to lift and carry a laundry basket. One of the easiest solutions is to find a laundry basket on wheels. This is especially useful if you live on one level, as you can simply roll the laundry from bedrooms to the washing machine. A cart like this saves steps, since it allows you to sort laundry as you put it in the hamper. Then it’s just a matter of wheeling up to the machine and adding one load at a time!
If you opt for a laundry cart, I recommend finding a sturdy model with a metal frame. This makes it easy to push the loaded cart. It also provides just a little support as you walk. If you have trouble bending, you may want to look for a model that is more shallow or sits higher than this one, so that the laundry is within easy reach while standing.
Another great option is a laundry trolley. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and help to transport a laundry basket without carrying it by hand. A model like this one is lightweight, so that you are not adding weight and effort when carrying a full basket. The solid frame makes it easy to pull, and provides a little support as you are standing by it or reaching into the basket. The large wheels on this cart also make it possible to wheel it outside, if you like to hang your laundry to dry outdoors. It would require you to lift the basket onto the trolley, which could be challenging.
A simple, inexpensive option is a granny cart. These carts can usually be pushed or pulled, and collapse down to be stored flat in a small space. There’s plenty of room for one or two loads of laundry, without the need to lift a laundry basket. Some models even make it possible to pull the cart up or down stairs (which makes them a contender in my search for laundry solutions!).
Hauling Laundry Between Floors
If, like me, your laundry room and living spaces are on separate floors (or if you do your washing at a laundromat), you may want a solution that keeps you from having to carry a heavy basket up or down stairs. One option is to carry the load on your back. Letting your back do the work saves your arm muscles (and if you have weakness or pain in your hands or arms, this is essential!).
A backpack like this is sturdy (and washable). The drawstring top keeps laundry from spilling out en route, but is still easy to open and close. The thick padded straps on this back would minimize pain and distribute the weight over the shoulders and back.
If you use a tall hamper for your dirty laundry, a trolley such as this stair climber dolly might be helpful. Simply set the hamper on the front of the dolly and secure it with the bungee. The cart can then be pulled up or down stairs with less effort (and no lifting!). When not in use, the cart collapses down and can be stored in a small space.
The classic solution for getting laundry down a floor or two to the laundry room, of course, is a built-in laundry chute. If you live in an older home, you may already have one of these built in! It’s also possible to retrofit your house with a chute. The beauty of a chute is that it carries all of the laundry directly to the place where you’ll be washing it. You will still need to sort and, eventually, carry it back upstairs. But it eliminates the need to carry a laden basket downstairs altogether.
Large jugs of laundry detergent and softener can be a lot of work–both in purchasing them at the store and lugging them home, and in using them in the laundry room. There is a growing trend that’s both environmentally friendly and extremely helpful to those of us in the chronic illness community: laundry sheets.
Typically, one sheet is required per load. The material dissolves during wash, so there is no residue or waste (and those big plastic jugs are notorious for being unkind to the environment). They come in a variety of scents, including unscented versions, which makes them great for allergy and asthma sufferers. They also tend to be free of harsh chemicals and other ingredients, which might be helpful to those of us with sensitive skin or eczema.
Another great option is to use a concentrated soap. These laundry detergents are easy to handle, inexpensive, and also great for the environment. I’ve gotten hooked on this particular company’s laundry soap. Each load takes just one tablespoon of soap, and each container lasts for more than sixty loads. When the container is empty, the company refills it–so there’s no plastic waste! The soap comes in a variety of scents, including unscented, and uses only gentle, natural ingredients. That makes it a great option for allergies, eczema, and other sensitivities. Since many of these soaps are made by small businesses, it also provides the opportunity to support local businesses. If you can, I recommend checking your local farmer’s market or other small shops for soaps like these!
If you prefer to use more traditional liquid detergent or softener, look for options with easy pour spigots. Many brands sell their detergents in these types of jugs (although sometimes the press button to dispense can be hard to use if you have hand pain or weakness). Another option is to pour detergent into a container such as this one. It involves a little work at the time of purchasing the laundry soap, but dispensing detergent or softener for many loads of laundry is simply a matter of opening the spigot. As an added bonus, jars like this look beautiful on an open shelf.
Hanging and Drying
When it comes to hanging clothes to dry, sometimes it can be difficult to reach overhead with heavy, wet laundry. In old traditional homes, drying racks such as this one were a staple (usually hung near the fireplace or cooking stove to take advantage of radiant heat to dry clothes faster). For those of us in the chronic illness community, these racks can be hugely helpful. They can be lowered to an easy height that allows you to hang your clothes without reaching or bending; or, if you use a wheelchair, to lower it to a workable height from your seated position. Once the rack is loaded, it can be raised up out of the way with a simple rope and pulley system.
Another practical solution is a fold-down drying rack. The benefit to a system like this is that it can be installed at any height, making it easy to reach from a wheelchair or from a comfortable standing position. When not in use, the rack folds flat against the wall.
Folding and Ironing
Folding laundry can be hard work. A shirt folder like this can be helpful, and reduce the effort on sore or weak hands and arms. Simply lay the shirt flat on the folder, fold in the sides, and the shirt is neatly folded in seconds!
It can be extremely difficult to struggle with opening and closing a heavy, awkward ironing board. To simplify things, a wall mounted board is a great solution! When not in use, the board stores flat against the wall. To use, simply pull the board down. The benefit to a board like this is that it can be mounted at the perfect height for you–and the height is right every time without making adjustments. If you are a wheelchair user, this is especially helpful. Your ironing board can be ready to go at an accessible height without wrestling it into place.
What are your favorite laundry solutions? I’d love to hear creative ways you’ve found to make this task just a little easier!