Laundry Days.

By: Jen Shoop

One of the most-asked questions I field via Instagram is how I dress my children so nicely in the face of all of the laundering, stain removal, and ironing it must entail. The truth is that my children also wear a lot of easy-to-care-for cotton separates like peter pan collar dresses from Busy Bees and Luigi for Emory and jeans with long-sleeved polos and printed turtlenecks for Hill, but I do spend a lot of time tending to their dressier clothes. Here’s what works well for us:

For stains, I swear by Palmolive dish soap diluted by hot water, applied directly to the area, and then immediately laundered with The Laundress Baby detergent, and this stiff brush is helpful in the process. For lighter staining/marking/spillage issues, Dreft spray works well.

In general, I really like The Laundress baby detergent. It smells phenomenal and is also very gentle on even the most delicate of clothes. It is not quite as effective as classic Tide, but I find Tide can dullen clothing over time. I spent a lot of time testing different detergent brands and for a time, I thought I liked Mrs. Meyers, but it simply does not clean clothing as well as Tide does, and a few of the other fancier brands are too heavily perfumed for Mr. Magpie’s taste. (People love Glamorous Wash, but it is very strongly scented — Mr. Magpie had me give it away, even when I diluted it with Tide!) In short, I use The Laundress for most things but if there is a big mess or I’m doing a big load of towels dirtied from art projects, I use Tide. I love these dryer sheets (they smell excellent — like roses!) although I just ordered a pack of wool dryer balls because people rave about them and they help with drying items (especially sheets and towels) evenly. You can add a scented dryer ball to the mix if you miss the scent that dryer sheets afford.

If I’m washing something with delicate ties or details, I put it in a mesh bag to keep it separate from other items. If super delicate (or washing my undergarments), I use the delicates wash from The Laundress or Tocca in a Rubbermaid basin.

For sweaters and woolen pieces, I like The Laundress’ Wool and Cashmere shampoo. I will soak pieces in hot water laced with the shampoo and a Rubbermaid basin I have for the purpose and then lay the sweaters on towels to dry. They lose their shape if hung…

For ironing, I’ve mentioned this no less than 235898 times, but I love my Rowenta iron. If you feel like you aren’t good at ironing, try this and realize that half the battle is having the right implement. It heats up near-instantly and gets VERY hot. It also has a good heft to it that enables you to get super crisp edges. I bought a Minky ironing board a few years ago based on stellar reviews and, irritatingly, it wobbles. It wobbles! Basically the one thing you don’t want in an ironing board, and now I’m wondering why I spent $65 on a board that doesn’t work when I could have spent $20 on one that has the same problem. Gr. Is it weird that I want to upgrade to a Brabantia? They are considered la creme de la creme of ironing boards (ha, yes – there is such a thing) and are extra wide, which I would LOVE. (Would shave precious time when ironing sheets!) I can’t justify it at the moment but maybe one day…

I add Laundress ironing water to the water reserve on my Rowenta and it imparts just the slightest scent and I love it. It’s the little things, people. I also tried their starch but didn’t love it. Classic, $2/canister Niagara is where it’s at. I like a super crisp line.

Random other laundry items I love:

+These laundry baskets are just the best. They stack, the handles make for surprisingly easier lifting than you anticipate, and they do not break/warp.

+These battery-operated fabric de-fuzzers are a must. They breathe new life into pilling sweaters.

+I’m now realizing I’m sort of a walking ad for Laundress, but I love their products — they smell great, work great, and are beautifully designed (and marketed). The only item of theirs I haven’t loved is their starch alternative. At any rate, I love their crease release, which I use on my duvet and pillows between launderings to keep things looking spiffy (and smelling fantastic). Don’t get me wrong: it will not substitute for a proper ironing, but it helps keep things a little smoother!

+Rowenta steamer. I upgraded to this a few years ago and it is excellent. I always found that the other ones I tried would squirt water unevenly over the fabric. Never run into that issue with this one, which is higher-powered and more efficient.

And random other laundry items worth a look:

+This cart for stowing laundry essentials. We don’t have a dedicated laundry room, so I keep all items corralled in one of these inexpensive white Container Store bins I keep raving about.

+Would love this laundry compartment hamper for easy sorting into whites, darks, etc.

+A clothing pin organizer!

+Some of you have asked for non-woven laundry baskets, and this one is very chic if you can handle looking at your laundry, and this is the one we have in micro’s bedroom. I like it because you can pull the liner out and bring the load directly to the laundry!

+Totally frivolous, but if you have a proper laundry room, would be amazing to keep detergents and dryer balls in these heritage jars with little scoops.

+These vintage-styled wheeled laundry baskets would make laundry days tres chic.

+For the serious laundry operation, this hanging dryer rack is apparently trademarked and “a part of British households for over 100 years” (?), but I love this wall-mounted style in crisp white.

+I have been eyeing this Le Labo x The Laundress detergent after one of you said you use it only for washing sheets. Love that idea — gives your bed a little extra love but ensures you don’t go through a bottle in zero minutes flat.

+A clever laundry bin for a little one’s room.

Is this enough on the subject of clothing care?! Ha!

P.S. More of my favorite home products and my favorite organization products in case the New Year is bringing you Marie Kondo vibes.

P.P.S. One secret to keeping the nursery tidy, and some cute nursery finds.

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18 thoughts on “Laundry Days.

  1. Great tips as always, Jen!

    Wondering if you have any specific tips/products for those of us city girls that don’t yet have the luxury of in unit laundry? Any decent looking bags or (God forbid) those old lady cart things for back & forth to the laundromat or wash n fold spot?

    1. Thanks, Cara! I hear you – I used these oversized garment storage bags while moving and they are VERY lightweight but surprisingly sturdy:


      Check the dimensions before ordering — the large is ENORMOUS. Probably too big for a normal laundry schlep?

      The other item, which is much more expensive and probably not worth it for that reason, is this Laundress laundry bag:


      There is also a smaller size:


      I am drawn to these two because both are themselves machine-washable and I generally find Laundress products very well-designed and sturdy! They really know laundry 🙂


  2. So many good tips here! I, too, am a Laundress fan — their Wool & Cashmere and Delicates detergents are my two faves. I have loved using wool dryer balls, too — I made the switch a year ago and won’t look back!

    Also, Mia, thank you for the reminder about Affresh tablets! Such a good tip.


  3. Jen, your stain removal tip using dish soap is genius!!! I tried it with a tomato sauce stain which to me is one of the worst kinds of stains, up there with turmeric. It came off with dish soap! It made total sense though as it’s an oil-based stain and dish soap is supposed to de-grease. It worked so much better than Dreft and Puracy stain removers which are what I’ve been using. I fully agree too that treating the stain quickly is key. I’ll have to see if it works with turmeric since we use it frequently in Indian cooking. Thank you for the tip! With a toddler I feel like I’m always treating stains!

    I used Puracy detergent for a long time. I love that it’s concentrated and it comes in a small bottle (space saver is always a plus). But lately they haven’t been available through Amazon’s subscription service. 🙁

    One thing I make sure to do monthly is to clean the washing machine with Affresh (you drop one tablet into an empty machine and run a hot cycle). It’s amazing how much gunk hides inside the machine! (You see it at the end of the cleaning cycle and wipe it off). Especially as we’re in a rental and who knows how often previous tenants cleaned the machine, if they did at all In the beginning I had to run 3 consecutive cleaning cycles (which sounds so sinful in a drought prone state ) but now I just do one cleaning cycle a month, typically after I wash the heaviest items like bathroom rugs. Then after the cleaning cycle I wash “low-stakes” items like kitchen towels in case there’s any residual gunk left (occasionally there’s a little bit) that sticks to the fabric. I read somewhere too that not using excessive amounts of detergent helps prevent a lot of the residue. Sometimes I also add white vinegar to a towel load since vinegar seems to help with almost any cleaning task!

    1. Oo these are great tips! I’d forgotten about the Affresh tablets! I bought those before we moved last time and just realized they’ve been chilling in our linen closet for like a year now! Thanks!! xx

  4. Since we have a dedicated laundry room and hang dry almost all of our clothing, we installed a tension rod across the entire room. We can hang everything on proper hangers and wait for it to dry. Before we placed the rod, we would hang them on door and cabinet handles throughout the house, which wasn’t aesthetically appealing.

    Pajamas and underwear are the only items that go in the dryer besides sheets and towels. This helps items last longer and reduces our energy use. My 97 year old grandmother has a line in her backyard for air drying everything. She has never used her dryer that came with the house when she bought it. We do use wool dryer balls and love them in use. Fair warning- they get seriously tangled in sheets and pillowcases. It’s a nuisance to dig them out. We also tend to lose them over time, but have no clue why. We are committed to not using dryer sheets though, so we deal with this slight frustration.

    I exclusively use target’s free & clear detergent pods. It’s hard to find allergy friendly detergent in pod form and these are the best I’ve found thus far. Nothing scented gets used here.

    I had a Cora ball in the washer to reduce micro plastic waste into the water supply, but it didn’t hold up well. I’ve heard great things about the guppy friend washing bag and likely will get that. As I work to become more sustainable and eco friendly, I learned about the micro plastics we unleash into the water supply through washing and was disheartened by it.

    One item that changed our laundry game in 2020 was a lightweight hamper with handles. We go room to room and gather laundry in this and use it to deliver clean laundry that isn’t on hangers. Before purchasing this, we attempted to carry laundry in our arms, constantly dropping a sock or small item. This simple addition was so worthwhile for us. This is similar to what we have. https://www.target.com/p/soft-sided-scrunchable-laundry-basket-gray-room-essentials-8482/-/A-75661916#lnk=sametab

    I love voyeuristic posts like these and appreciate that your readers also comment with their tips & tricks too!

    1. Hi Melinda! Been curious about the guppy friend too. Would love to know your thoughts when you use it!

      We also try to hang dry a lot of items. Clothes seem to last longer and don’t look as old, particularly knits and activewear. We’re lucky to have a patio in our apartment and we take advantage of the California sunshine for hang drying!

    2. Thank you so much, Melinda – these are fantastic! I had not even heard of several of these items before! Merci merci!!

      I love these posts for the comments, too. I always get a few new ideas 🙂


  5. I am less particular about the detergent but more particular about the laundry process. For example, I swear by separating cottons vs synthetics instead of the traditional lights vs darks. (Of course, a new pair of dark jeans/red shirt/etc will always get washed separately for the first few times in case of bleeding.) But much of the wear on clothing actually comes from the washing process, and cotton towels and tshirts can be very abrasive on synthetics like workout clothes. Also, air dry your high-spandex synthetics such as lululemon pants!! Nothing breaks down spandex faster than high heat. Hang them to dry and you will get literal extra years out of them.

    PS I have that Brabantia ironing board and it is indeed great. Takes up a lot of space, though.

    1. SUCH a good point – thanks, Anna!

      Weirdly envious of your ironing board…haha. Words you’d never think you’d read, huh?


  6. This was such a helpful post! I have a lot to learn to up my laundry game!
    I’m curious – what do you iron and when do you do it? Do you hang most of your children’s clothes?
    Will you do an updated day in the life – I’m so impressed you fit all this in!

    1. Hi Emily! I love those posts, too! Will do one soon. Thanks for the reminder!

      Don’t be too impressed — I probably pull out the iron once every 7-10 days when I’m laundering the sheets, and will just collect items that need ironing in the interim. It’s easier for me to do all the ironing in one fell swoop. I also will try to make it enjoyable for myself by making a mug of tea and putting on a show I’m excited about, listening to an audiobook, or calling my mama! Often that means I do this at night after the children are asleep (and it feels almost relaxing?) or during the last hour before our nanny leaves.

      I don’t usually iron too much of my children’s cotton clothing (like leggings, polos, etc) — just pull them out of the dryer as fast as possible before they wrinkle — but most of Emory’s tops with collars and all of her dresses get an iron. I do have to be honest that I am ultra leery when looking at collars on shirts for her now — ha! If it’s something super ruffly…ahhh! I better REALLY like it.


  7. With four kids, I’m pretty passionate about laundry too. I purchased a few of these items on your recommendation months ago and they have all been great. That iron is the best! And I think you will love the wool dryer balls. We started using them 5 years ago and haven’t looked back. They’re especially great for sheets and bulky items. I have to add that puracy baby stain remover is SO good. In fact, I actually paid for shipping directly from the company (I detest paying for shipping so you know it’s great). We also use it on our couch and rugs for removing the occasional sticky hand prints.

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