Saturday, January 2, 2016

Large Family Laundry Strategies – How I Keep 9 Kids Clean and Why That’s Valuable

  • About our laundry facility
  • The frequency that I do laundry
  • Stain/soil removing strategies
  • Time-saving strategies
  • A Mistake-saving strategy
  • Our strategy for last minute cleaning in public
  • The value of overall cleanliness for kids

People notice when a large family’s kids are clean and well-cared for – and they notice when they’re not.  Some large families just don’t clean their kids up before going out in to public, and this really causes other people who are watching and making judgments about large families to frown and be critical.  Not that we are obsessed with people-pleasing, not at all, but I believe that many large families would experience more of the smiles and compliments they desire instead of criticism and sarcasm from people if they would simply take time to present their kids clean.  

It’s a sad but understandable fact I suppose.  I’ve personally noticed the difference in others responses to me when I’m in public with clean kids, vs. when I’m in public with not-so-clean ones for varying normal reasons.  *chuckle* I always strive to have the kids clean before we go out, but sometimes I’ve had to scoop up all the kids from the back yard to take one kiddo to the doctor suddenly, and they look like they’ve been having fun in the dirt, which they have been – but they are not their shiniest right then for by people who don’t know us.  *chuckle*  Our family of 11 has become known at places where we frequently shop, and smiles, friendliness, and clean kids does effect our reputation, and therefore our effectiveness in having a witness for the Lordour ability to draw others to us, and entice them to wonder what makes us different from the rest of the world. What makes us smile...

People have asked for my tips for doing laundry for so many kids, I suppose thinking that if clothes can experience all that they do with 9 kids and still be clean, surely there are some valuable tips to be had!   *laugh*  One friend asked out of curiosity, “So… does your washing machine just run all the time?”  No. *smile*  Not at all!  With a good plan and a few good cleaning strategies, laundry and clean kids can be accomplished fairly easily.  So I thought I’d take time to share my simple yet ON PURPOSE strategies with you.

Facility – 

Here is a photo of our small laundry room.  So far it’s perfectly adequate for the 11 of us, and simply but purposefully supplied. 

Our front-loader washing machine is energy-efficient, and easier on the clothes than the top-loader we used to have was as it does not pull the clothes around but rather tosses the clothes as it washes them.  It also uses far less water than our top-loader did.  We chose the largest capacity washer we could fit in our laundry room and was available to us, so we can fit large loads in every time.  And the front-loader gets our clothes very clean. 

Frequency – 

So here's my plan of attack. *smile* I do 2 loads of laundry, 4 days a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  I gather our 2 laundry hampers in the house (one in our master closet and one in the children's closet) and sort all of those clothes into two piles, white and colors.  Over the course of the morning I rotate those through the washer and dryer, and then two of our children fold one basket each and put those clothes away for us.  

It's also valuable to recognize that we as moms can greatly effect the amount of laundry our children produce. For example, my doing laundry only 4 days a week at 2 loads per day is also manageable because our kids wear only one outfit per day (unless there’s a genuine need for another one).  We do not allow multiple outfits just because it strikes someone’s fancy.  *wink* *smile* This would double or triple our laundry quantity, and waste our time, energy, and finances (by using a lot more laundry detergent and fabric softener needlessly). 

Stain & Soil Removing Strategies

- I use detergent from Costco because it works great and is inexpensive per load (but not Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand - that doesn't clean well enough for me) – I use a few different brands: All, Clear, and Gain. However I don't use Tide as it wears clothing out fast (I suppose it works so hard on stains that it actually removes color after just a few washes, and breaks down fabric so that it looks thread-bare and worn-out really fast in my experience).

- I use Downy fabric softener, also from Costco, because it smells so nice and fresh (but not the Kirkland Signature brand of softener as that just doesn’t seem to work) and is the best price I have found for large quantities.  I’ve often had people tell me that our clothes and kids always smell so nice!  And my husband’s co-workers in his office have commented in the past that his clothes always smell so nice.  *smile*  It’s worth the very minimal cost to us.

- I use Shout spray for most really noticeable dirt:  from the yard, from baby spit-up, dirty sheets, food on clothes - general things I want to be sure to get out.  I spray it and then let it sit in a white dish tub on top of my dryer while I sort the rest of the laundry; if it's more deeply dirty then I'll let it sit with the stain remover on it while I wash a load of whites, for example, and then wash that colored item next with the colored clothes next.  So sometimes stained items sit for about an hour before going in to the wash.  I wash them on the temperature appropriate for each item (whites in warm - unless there's a stain to remove then it gets cold; colors always in cold).

- For really bad stains I use a spray called Zout (I get it at Wal-Mart) for blood, red sauce, diaper stains, chocolate, ink, food grease.  I spray it and let it sit for at least an hour.  My mom has a friend who uses Zout at her bed and breakfasts and she claims that it takes out everything.  Then I wash those items in cold always, as warm/hot will set the stain.

- When there is a deeper stain like blood I treat asap.  I’ll strip that shirt off of the child, treat the stain and drop the shirt in to a dish tub on top of the dryer, and give them a new shirt.  I just let the treated shirt sit in the dish tub in our laundry room until I do laundry again (every other day), and it pretty much always comes out if I got it treated right away, and usually even if I wasn't.

- I also love Tide Pens.  I carry them in our van and keep one handy at home!  If one of the children spills something really noticeable like red sauce during a meal then I try to treat it real quick right then and I don't worry about washing it until next time I do laundry and it comes it beautifully because it had been treated immediately. *smile* My sister has even done this for a few guests at her restaurant (she’s was a waitress) when they’ve spilled something like wine, and it’s taken the stain right out.  Amazing. 

- I buy bleach pens (from the grocery store) for treating small stains that just need bleaching, or I couldn't get out of white items, or on items that are a light enough color where even if the color is removed from the garment it’ll still look better than having a black ink mark there.  Bleach pens (they have a gel bleach in them) are nice because they control the bleach and don’t let it go where I don't want it to on a clothing item. And it can't splash onto me while I'm working. 

- I use diluted liquid bleach (mixed 1:1) in a spray bottle for larger items that need bleaching (white tee-shirts, little girls’ stretch pants that have been in the yard, sometimes sheets).  Once I’ve accumulated 3-4 items that need bleaching then I’ll wash a load of those together to prevent bleach from transferring to items that I don't want it on.  I let bleach from either the pen or the spray bottle sit for a few minutes while I baby sit it (*chuckle* - can't leave it unattended with kids around) and so that it doesn't "eat" the fabric due to being left on there too long, and then I throw those items into the wash as a group, bleached items together.

Time-Saving Strategies

- I have a white, zipping mesh laundry bag (12x18-inches or so) for tiny or delicate items, so that they don’t get lost or pulled out of shape (i.e. bras, camisoles’, nylons).  This also helps me identify these items from the wash when the load is done so that I don’t accidentally put them into the dryer, but rather hang them to dry.

- Feather down items (our kids’ twin comforters, my down vest, down pillows) do not have to be taken to the dry cleaners! *beam* My mom and I have washed items like this for many years.  *smile* My mother taught me this, and for years I’ve been enjoying washing down.  I wash the item on cold, sometimes on delicate, with half the usual detergent amount, and no fabric softener.  Then I put the items into the dryer on low heat for 2 hours, and with 3-5 dryer balls or tennis balls.  This punches the laundry as it tumbles, fluffing-up the feathers. 

- Many unusual things can be put in to the washing machine that people might not usually clean there:  tennis shoes, canvas lunch coolers, car seat covers, pot holders, men’s hats (although these keep their shape better – which is important to my Honey – washed in the dishwasher)…then I let those air dry.

- I try not to buy things that need to be hung to dry or laid flat to dry; I just don’t have time or space for that.  I do hang the items mentioned above, plus jackets if necessary (most of them tumble dry on low), and church dresses made of rayon or something similar, but that’s about it.

- I don’t buy clothing that can’t be thrown in to the washing machine.  Once I nearly purchased a child’s jacket from Costco that said “spot clean only” – Ha!  Ya, right, with throw up, mud, food, and urine? No thanks - didn't buy that item.  I even wash items that say “hand wash only” on the “hand wash” cycle on our front loading machine and that’s been totally fine.

- I try to take some clothing items out of the dryer while they’re still hot and either fold them or hang them on a hanger, letting them cool flat (or hung up) when I desire for them to look pressed.  I take, for example, my husband’s and son’s button-down shirts and church slacks from the dryer and hang them on a hanger to cool (the slacks are wrinkle-resistant, too).  I don’t even have to iron them then and they still look smooth.  (We like a pressed, creased look, but I just don’t have time for that in this season of life, and my husband has graciously excused me from ironing much while we have so many babies and toddlers *chuckle*.)

- If an item has a small part that really should be pressed for church, but the entire clothing item doesn’t necessarily need to be pressed, then I just put an ironing mat (or a folded-in-half hand towel) on the bathroom counter and use the iron on that collar, or bent-upward chest pocket.  This takes just about 3 minutes and is a quick clean-up.

My Mistake-Saving Strategy

- I keep a tablet of paper and a pen in the laundry room so that I can write down any items in the wash that I need to remember to check at the end of the cycle, to make sure the treated stain came out (so the heat of the dryer doesn’t set a stain), or to hang them instead of putting them into the dryer.  It is easy to be preoccupied, especially for large family moms, and then those infrequent items that shouldn’t go in to the dryer; and once they did go through the dryer the stain was often now permanent from the heat, or the item was damaged because it was supposed to be hung to dry.  Now I check my tablet when moving a load from the washer to the dryer, and there are no more mistakes, and with little effort! *smile*

Last-Minute Cleaning of Children in Public

- I keep a package of baby wipes in the car to use for cleaning kids noses that got messy while we traveled, or for kid’s faces that were missed before we left the house.  Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand wipes are by far my favorite, as they’re a nice texture (not slimy, like some are), they’re a nice thickness so I only need to use one, the whole package is always wet and doesn’t dry out, and they’re inexpensive.  I’ve even taken baby wipes and wiped/scrubbed a toddler’s hair if they’ve gotten food in it. And I still buy wipes now that we don't even have any children in diapers!  *laugh*

- I periodically purchase a box of “Boogie Wipes” (*laugh* - Isn't that an awesome name?!) Which are individually packaged handi-wipes (I get them from Wal-Mart) so that I can put a couple of the little packages in my purse for use on really goopy noses while out and about or if someone gets sticky hands.  I hardly ever need to use them, so they’re not a substantial expense, but when they’re needed, they’re needed and very appreciated (probably by others as well as by my self! *laugh!*).  *smile*  They’re also handy for the children’s fingers that have gotten chocolaty after the free cookie some grocery stores give to children.

- Again, those Tide Pens are a great tool to have in one’s purse to disappear bad or dark stains.

Overall Cleanliness

- I make sure to bathe the children on a regular basis, washing their hair really well (and I do teach them to clean their scalp and make sure it’s not oily or have dandruff), and weekly clip their finger nails and toe nails so that they’re short and cannot collect dirt easily.  This may seem like it is unnecessary to mention but I’m telling you, people do notice when children’s nails are unkempt.  I also git rid of "bed head" and take a squirt bottle and a brush to their hair every morning as part of getting ready for the day, right after brushing teeth.  Children's hair that is really tangled or "bed-head" really doesn't look clean, but just misting their hair with a tiny bit of water and combing it out gets rid of the "bed-head" and they look shiny, smooth, and clean again.  It's good that I know they're clean (most of us know that our kids are generally clean) - but it's important for others to see that our children are clean as well.

It may seem like I’m constantly cleaning the kids, but really I’m not.  With some proactive strategies and intentional cleaning, it’s not too hard to maintain.  Basically I just make sure they are clean every week (or more if they're a teen *wink*) and that their clothes get cleaned well when we do laundry, and sometimes there is a little touching-up to do when we’re out if someone has a cold or a baby is teething and their nose is runny.  But just like most things, if we’re proactive and have a good routine in place, cleanliness isn’t hard – but it is very valuable.

Blessings on your efforts!


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