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Washing in winter: ideas for reducing laundry?

Posted by on Thursday 15 December 2011 in Featured, frugal | 20 comments

Hi guys, sorry for the radio silence for the last few days – I went on a drama training course on Tuesday and have only just recovered ;) It was a lot of fun and very useful but I’m farrrrr too lazy for what was essentially a five hour exercise class. My neck is sore and I’ve a huge bruise on my knee from stage combat training but on the other hand, pretending to beat up a new colleague for 2.5hrs is a really good bonding experience :)

ANYWAY, back to reality now. Lazy, lazy reality. I do like being lazy in winter because it can actually be an efficient/frugal way to do things: yesterday, John was out of the house all day so me & my aching body worked from bed until I had to go to out myself – no need for heating. And as I’ve said before when talking about linedrying laundry in winter, some things just get left until spring: throws/blankets get taken out of service, occasional wear that I won’t need for another few months can stay in the washing basket, and bedding etc gets left in the washing basket too until a nice drying-outside day, even if that’s another month (or longer) away. Lazy is good.

But I wondered what other strategies people use for reducing the amount of laundry they have to get through in winter. Aside from burst washing machine pipe incidents, the washing isn’t the hard part but the line drying is, particularly if you’re tight on space at home.

I remember looking into the issue of laundry a year or so ago and being shocked how much people wash clothes – a whole outfit in the wash every day – some people wash bedsheets & tumble dry every day. I mean, gosh! Around here, underwear gets changed every day, t-shirts every other day, jeans & jumpers not so much. They get washed when they’re dirty, which isn’t after one day for us desk jockeys. I also have different sets of clothes for different jobs – for example, my scruffs (for gardening/chicken coop cleaning/DIY) have a much higher dirtiness threshold than the nicer clothes I wear when I’m teaching.

How about you? Do you try to minimise the amount of washing you do in the winter (or all year around)? If so, what tactics do you use? If you don’t – how do you keep on top of it all in the cold days of winter?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Debbie

    I find washing in winter a nightmare. If it’s not windy, I put the washing out on the line and it seems to just hang there dejectedly all day and is just as wet when I get it in. Good drying days are few and far between. I have a tumble dryer so will dry bedding and towels in that if I have to, but prefer not to for reasons for economy. I will dry odd bits of clothes in it sometimes, but I feel that driers shrink things so try to avoid that too. We have no hall, no spare room and the bathroom isn’t big enough for a clothes horse either (except an over-bath type on which I dry our undies and socks) – there is usually one standing in front of the living room window blocking out the light as it’s the only place where there is room enough to stand one. Oh, and all of radiators are tiny so can’t dry much on those either. No magic solutions from me, sorry! :/ Roll on, Spring.

  2. Debbie

    Oh, I didn’t answer the question! Ideas for reducing laundry. We don’t throw our clothes in the wash every day either, except for undies, socks and usually my husband’s shirts. other things can be worn until they’re dirty. There still seems to be a lot of washing though! Still, it cold be worse. Thank goodness for washing machines! I have known people use a top sheet with a duvet cover, so it’s between you and the duvet. So you could just wash top and bottom sheets and wait longer in between duvet washes. That’s it for my ideas, looking forward to seeing other people’s suggestions.

  3. Attila

    I tend to wear thermals even indoors in the winter (to save heating) so if I’m going to be active, and therefore hot, for part of the day, I take the thermals off for that. I tend to wear tee shirts for two whole days, but if I’m doing housework for a while, I’ll wear scruffier clothes so the good stuff lasts longer. The thermals I will wear one day, air them and wear a different set the next day, third day go back to set one which are then washed, then day 4 wear set two, wash set two, wear a third set and so on. It’s not quite that organised in reality, but you get the idea. I always wear an apron in the kitchen and a napkin tucked in my collar at mealtimes to avoid wearing dinner! Another thing I do is spin the clothes twice. We have two lines, one more sheltered, so I tend to put things on the windier line from a first wash, take them in part dry or hang them on the other line if there’s room, and put the second wash on the windier line. I’d prefer to have it all half dry than some dry and some still wet.

  4. Karen

    We have about the house clothes and “streets”. I put the streets out to air to freshen them up. I have a small wahing machine(aboout the size of a large bucket) and this is used for underwear, socks and other small things. These are usually put out and then brought into finsh drying over night. My sister swears by freezing her jeans in her home freezer and only washes them about 3 0r 4 times a year. She says that the freezing freshes them up. I haven’t tried this. (Lack of freezer space!)

  5. datacreata

    I definitely leave it now until a blowing day then finish off in the front room overnight where our wood burner resides. Recently changed my deodorant and can now wear a top for 3 days rather than 2 without it smelling much at all so that has also cut down things. Use working clothes mostly and only wash when needed.

  6. datacreata

    Sorry, forgot to add that the duvet is turned over after a week therefore only gets washed once a fortnight, same with the pillowcase but a clean bottom sheet each week. Towels are used twice before washing. Got our washing down to 2-3 times a week maximum.

  7. Linda

    For short people (usually small children) just use one sheet folded up at halfway to provide both the ‘bottom’ and ‘top’ sheet in one go (apple-pie bed style). Halves the washing ;)
    Use hand towels for drying small people instead of full size bath towel. Those sports towels that absorb tons of water are great too –they wring out so well and dry super fast.
    Also using some of the quick-dry fabrics usually seen in summer for the layer that’s going to get grubbiest e.g. thermal leggings covered by quick-dry pants is far better for washing than jeans.

  8. JO

    We wear clothes until they are dirty and have sets of clothes for going to work, respectable casual, lounging around the house and dirty jobs with the garden/animals. We haven’t had the CH on yet so drying washing is a bit of a headache. Last w/e I HAD to wash sheets and towels because I couldn’t wait any longer, pegged them outside all Saturday, hung them in the house overnight, pegged them outside all Sunday then gave up and finished them off in the tumble drier. All that time I spent pegging them out, bringing them in, spreading them out in the house and pegging them out again and I barely saved 30 minutes worth of electricity for the tumbler. Grrr.

  9. Jan

    My son has just delivered a week’s worth of washing for him , his girlfriend and baby as their machine has broken and they can’t afford to repair it at the moment. Looking at the pile, i think it would be cheaper to pay for the repair….! Will sort it into temperature and colour piles, wash it tonight and hang as much as possible on hangers in the kitchen which has an aga on all the time, plus two clothes airers standing in front of the aga-dog not happy at being pushed out.I only use the tumble drier in emergencies.

  10. linda

    Last winter I bought a separate free standing spin dryer which spins at a high speed, clothes and sheets etc come out nearly dry.

  11. Hazel

    Waiting until things actually need washing rather than because they’ve been worn, like most of the comments.
    That, and trying to keep on top of my children, who all would either wear one outfit until it could walk to the machine itself or wear it for 5 minutes, change and then decide it’s easier to put everything in the washing bin rather than put some of it away…

    • Linda

      An ‘in use’ drawer is useful concept for the young ones -for clothes that have been worn but are not dirty. They should try and dress from these clothes first.

  12. shaz

    We too wear clothes until dirty or smelly(except underwear), beds are changed once a month but quilts etc turned weekly to air(I always air the unmade bed before making too!)

    We each have our own towel and they are dried on an airer in the sunniest room before being reused for 1-2 weeks , a friend of mine with 4 children says they get a clean one out each time they shower!!! no wonder theres always towels on the line when I visit!

    I agree that an apron when cooking and cleaning makes all the difference. The small towel tip is a good one and so is the tip on layering clothes, I have bben known to pick clothes because of their quick drying properties too(acrylic fleeces and drip dry school trousers etc)

    Great post

  13. louisa

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all your interesting comments!

    Debbie: good idea about the sheet between the sleepers and the duvet. I’ve been thinking about having a lighter bedspread on top too – possibly a blanket but possibly a light cotton quilt – not for extra warmth but to catch dog/cat hairs. Bedding is the thing I really struggle to dry in the winter.

    Attila: I don’t wear a napkin in my collar but I probably should – my boobs seem to be a food shelf! I do a lot of spot-cleaning!

    Karen: I’ve heard the freezing thing before but never done it – I think my jeans end up too spattered in dog-related mud to try it! :)

    datacreate: hurrah for wood burners, eh? I find that our stove dries out the air a little too much but drying clothes adds moisture back in – a perfect combination!

    Linda: great ideas for with littlies! I bet the towel change saves lots of washing.

    JO: yeah, it’s rare that I can be bothered to peg something out more than twice – with smaller things, I hang them on my indoor airer and put that outside. It’s not as effective but does save time.

    Jan: heh, hope they get it fixed soon and the dog gets over being usurped ;)

    linda: that’s interesting. Our washing machine is quite new so has a fast spin – but most cottons still come out quite damp. I might try giving them another spin though, see if that helps.

    Hazel & Linda: “In use” drawer – great idea!

    shaz: I don’t get that “new towel every shower” idea – if they’re aired/dried properly after each use, they’re not dirty enough to need washing. Well, except for when we shower Lily-dog, she’s a filthpot ;)

  14. Jan (#2)

    With out Wood burner we no longer have a drier, we just have an assault course in doors instead. On occasion it does get a little humid, but it only lasts for as long as the washing takes to dry, and then from Steam room its back to Sauna mode.

    • louisa

      Yes, I’m glad that we have washing to generate some moisture for the air – woodburners are surprisingly drying, aren’t they? I heart our living room sauna though :)

  15. Jan (#2)

    Opps that didn’t read right, “With our Woodburner we no longer need a drier.”

  16. Geraldine

    The drier function on our washer/drier packed in 2 years ago. I now have 2 clothes airers that I keep in the spare room. In winter or in bad weather the wet stuff goes in there, with the window locked on ventilate so it does n’t get too humid. I only do full loads. I mix loads with a ” Colour Catcher” sheet thrown in as well- this works really well to stop any accidents. We have different clothes for work, sitting around the house etc. I wear an apron for cooking. I change the towels twice a week and bedding once a fortnight. Works a treat!

    • louisa

      Thanks sounds like what we do, Geraldine – although we had to move our airer from our spare room as we don’t heat that much in the winter so things were taking ages to dry.

      I’m always surprised when I hear about people doing half loads – it seems such a waste :)

  17. Chiot's Run

    We try to not change clothes as often too and I check the weather each week to see if there will be a good day or two for drying outside. If so I save laundry & do it on those days, if not I use the dryer or line dry in the bathroom. I’m toying with the idea of getting an indoor clothesline, but haven’t done that yet.

    I always double spin my clothes too because I find they dry much quicker.

    Another tip, start investing in wool clothing it doesn’t need washed as often, usually just an airing out will make them good to wear again and again. Old wisdom & ways always seems to be so much better than the “newer & better”.

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