Lightening Your Laundry Load

Laundry Tips for Families with Multiples

Girl sitting in a washing basket
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When you have multiples, you have lots of laundry. Somehow the amount of dirty clothes that must be collected, sorted, washed, dried, folded and put away increases disproportionately with twins and multiples. And even though their clothing is tiny, infant multiples definitely generate more than their fair share of dirty clothes.

Your time is precious. You can't afford to spend hours out of your day tied to the washer and dryer.

These tips will help lighten your laundry load and turn that mountain of multiples' laundry into a molehill.

Baby Laundry

Get a head start. Start doing their laundry even before the babies are born. Don't wait until the last minute, since many multiples are born earlier than singletons. Babies have sensitive skin, and brand new out-of-the-package clothing can irritate them. Wash all of their clothing using appropriate products before they wear it. If you start during pregnancy, you'll have everything ready for them.

Make it handy. Consider your laundry needs when you set up your nursery. Position a hamper in a convenient place, perhaps by a diaper change station. A container with wheels offers a convenient way to transport dirty clothes to the laundry room, provided that it's located on the same level of the house. If not, choose something that's comfortable to carry, a container with handles or perhaps a removable bag.

Toss the babies' dirty items into it as soon as you take them off their bodies. Tie a stain stick or spray to the hamper (out of reach of the babies, but still handy), so that you can treat stains as soon as you remove clothing, before it sits in the hamper and the stain sets.

Be selective. Babies do make plenty of messes on their clothing.

Spit up and diaper disasters mean that they go through plenty of outfit changes during the course of the day. However, they don't have body odor, and they don't have much opportunity to roll around in the dirt, so they can often rewear clothing or pajamas. If it's not dirty, don't waste time laundering it. Hang towels, pajamas, and clean but gently worn clothing on hooks so that it's right in reach when you need it the next day.

Take care. Baby clothes can be delicate, and their small size increases the chance that they'll wind up lost in laundry limbo-land. Mesh bags help keep small items together so they don't get lost, but they're also a handy way to collect and identify the delicate items that shouldn't go into the dryer.

Establish a routine for doing laundry. Throw a load of wash in before you go to bed at night, then transfer it to the dryer when you get up in the night to feed the babies. Or perhaps the babies' naptime routine will provide a convenient opportunity to do a cycle of laundry. Try to do a load of laundry every day or every other day; if you let it pile up, it's much more difficult to get it done. The last thing you want at the end of the day is to have only one clean pair of pajamas, and two cranky babies.

Keeping Kids' Clothes Clean

Laundry is a family affair. Enlisting the cooperation of your twins and multiples will ensure that the chore does not become overwhelming for you, and will help your kids develop a sense of responsibility for themselves. Even the youngest kids are able to pitch in and the sooner you get them started, the better. There are lots of ways that they can contribute:

  • Sorting loads by color
  • Retrieving dirty clothes from hampers
  • Transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer (be sure to supervise if you're concerned about the dryer destroying delicate items)
  • Folding towels, dish rags or other easily managed pieces.
  • Pairing socks
  • Putting away their own clean clothes. Organize their rooms so that they know exactly where things belong. Labels -- or even cut out pictures for non-readers -- will make sure that things end up in the right place.

Provide incentives to make the chore enjoyable. Let your twins or multiples watch a video while they fold laundry or, better yet, read them a story. Rewards are always effective; offer a nickel for every pair of socks matched, or a quarter for neatly folded pillowcases and towels. Many multiples are motivated by a little competition, but be sure it doesn't get in the way of their efficiency. Don't let them sacrifice quality for speed; you shouldn't have to go back and refold sloppy towels or iron wrinkled clothes because they raced through the job.

Set up a schedule. Doing a load every day will prevent pileup. For some people, a weekly routine works: Wash sheets on Mondays, whites on Tuesdays, towels on Wednesdays, darks and jeans on Thursdays, and lights on Fridays. Use the weekends to catch up and wash delicates or items that require special handling.

Set some ground rules. Clothes that aren't in hampers don't get washed. Mom shouldn't have to waste her time retrieving clothes that are scattered around the room or stuffed under the bed. Kids become very compliant with this rule when their jersey isn't clean for the big game or their favorite skirt isn't available for the dance. Give each multiple their own distinct laundry basket. Clean, folded clothes go into their basket and they are responsible for emptying it and putting clothes away. Holding clothes hostage until the chore is complete will add an incentive.

Keep things straight. One of the most challenging aspects of managing multiples' laundry is figuring out whose clothes are whose. That's where a system of color coordinating clothes can be helpful -- if your kids are young enough to cooperate with your system. Older twins and multiples who prefer to choose their own clothes can help keep things straight by labeling their clothing with an identifying mark. Use a laundry pen to put an initial on the tag to avoid confusion.

Be smart about socks. Twins have twice as many feet and wear twice as many socks. You'll save "loads" of time by investing in numerous multiple pairs of the same socks. Designate a communal sock bin and streamline the process. Socks come out of the dryer and go straight into the bin -- no sorting, matching or folding.

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