laundry on the line black and white

12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family
12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

The only thing worse than having to do laundry is having to do laundry for 10 people… who live on a farm. Living on a homestead adds a whole new dimension to laundry chores… and it has a name. Manure. I’ve learned many homestead laundry tips over the years. My expectations have been readjusted. I’ve had to learn to be more economical and efficient. And I’ve had to learn to face the task with an attitude adjustment. Here are 12 things I do to manage big family homestead laundry: 

Homestead Laundry Tips

{Be Thrifty}

I have come to have a whole new appreciation for thrift store clothes shopping since farm wardrobes are often disposable. (Most recently I lost a pair of jeans jumping a fence when a rowdy Jersey Beer (half bull, half steer) came bucking and kicking right at me. Tore a hole right up the thigh.)

Between damage such as that to farm stains, homestead laundry is often a one-season purchase. Hand-me-downs in our family have become the next child’s play clothes for every day and barnyard use. I’ll spend my money at the thrift store to purchase only their nice/shopping clothes or church clothes. I start at the super discounted (like everything’s less than $5) store where the clothes are “Eh,” but if you’re real choosey you can find some nice things that don’t look incredibly outdated. From there I work my way up to a nicer 2nd hand store like Once Upon a Child for the kids and cut my losses there.

We’re too far from the city to spend more than a day in town and things don’t get done if we’re off the farm clothes shopping for the best deals. (For me if I can’t find what I need in town, then I’ll take advantage of ThredUp which is pretty much a high-end online thrift store. Not everything on there is cheap, but you can definitely buy a quality wardrobe on there for $10 and under each.

{Wash Daily}

I’ll admit it. Laundry isn’t my favorite task. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. To tell the truth, I’m literally allergic to laundry. Fine, don’t believe me. But doing laundry for too long causes congestion, repeated sneezing, watery eyes, sometimes mild asthma. Usually, it doesn’t bother me unless we’re doing a seasonal clothes swap or I’m reorganizing the linens closet. For me, it’s a good reason to wash laundry daily.

Another reason is that I never have laundry that gets out of control. I usually have 1-2 loads a day instead of 7-14 if laundry was a once a week chore. 1-2 loads are totally manageable, easy to incorporate into my daily routine, and usually takes less than an hour. No getting up early, no staying up late. It also means that we can buy a smaller quantity of clothes because each item is back in the rotation sooner.

12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

One more good reason to wash daily? Spilled milk. Cleaning spilled milk happens a lot when you have a lot of little children and paper towels are expensive. But if you let soiled rags and towels sit for more than a day they STINK! And it’s a stink that doesn’t come out even after multiple washings. In which case, it’s cheaper to use paper towels, but frankly, I’d rather wash laundry once a day.

{Skip the Sorting}

Honestly, why even bother? Ok, I know why some people would bother. Sorting the darks & brights from the lights help to prolong the lightness of the lights, but when you live such a messy lifestyle as homesteading, particularly with many little children is, your lights aren’t going to last that long anyway. In our home, they’re pretty much one-season use. Which is about the same time you’ll start noticing that your white tee shirt isn’t quite so white anymore.

{Whitest Whites}

12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

Which brings me to my next point… the real sanity saver when it comes to white & light laundry is simply not to buy them at all. Perhaps you’re not aware of it, but it is a proven natural law that white clothes attract more spills, dribbles, droplets of grease flying through the air, splashed “mud”, and Sharpie marker tips than all other colors of clothes combined. My advice is, therefore, sound. Don’t buy them in the first place. The whitest whites are the ones left on the clothes rack at the store. Same goes for dry clean or specialty wash clothes. Unless you like to waste your money on beautiful plaid wool skirts that accidentally make it into the washer… and dryer and come out and will fit your 8-year-old. Ahem.

{Press Less}

Along the same line of rationale is to buy fewer articles of clothing that will need to be ironed. While you all know I love using ironing time to catch up on the best sermons or my favorite podcast, I’m happy to keep it down to an hour or so a week. There are several things I do to make it so. First and most obvious is not to buy a lot of clothes that will need ironing. Most of our girl’s ironing is our church clothes… the boys, however, sure to like their button-down flannels. I love them so I’ll let them have a few.

A few tips for keeping wrinkles out of homestead laundry…

  • Snap the clothes before you hang them out to dry.
  • Place your clothesline on the windy side of the house or string it high to catch the breeze.
  • Tumble them in the dryer for a few minutes to beat them up, soften, and warm them prior to hanging.
  • Hang them up and do it while they’re still warm. Folded clothes are wrinklier and when you hang them warm, the wrinkles will fall out on their own over time. 12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

{DIY Detergent}

Sure commercial laundry detergents smell pretty. I won’t deny it. But they’re awfully expensive and personally, I think they aren’t that great at actually cleaning. My favorite laundry detergent is homemade, inexpensive, and powerful enough to tackle farm clothes. It combines a bit of all that makes for a really great laundry detergent- washing soda, borax, and 100% coconut oil soap. (Coconut oil is the most cleansing oil you can use in your soap.) Then I cut the whole thing with commercial laundry detergent. That way there is a bit of that good smell we’ve all come to associate with clean laundry while it makes it more cleansing, and really stretches the value.

Since our clothes are particularly dirty and I want them to particularly not be so, I try really hard to resist the temptation to overload my washer. I use hot water to sanitize them and hope that I’ve left enough room in there for everything to move around. It’s a lot easier to remember since I realized that overloading the washer was tearing holes into our clothes.

{Beating Homestead Laundry Stains}

12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

The best way to tackle stains is to never give them a chance to set in. Washing and drying them might get them out and it might not. And once the stain has been dried, fat chance of ever getting it out. I’ll cut my coconut oil laundry soap into little “stain sticks” and keep one at near the sink to use when cleaning out a stain the same day. If you’re not using a once-a-day system for your homestead laundry, you’ll want to lay the clothes out to dry. I wring them out and toss them into the dirty laundry. With once-a-day washing, there’s no chance for mildew or mold to grow. Nine & a half times out of ten, treating stains like this removes them instantly.

{Hang It Up}

I know, it’s just an extra step, but it is the step that is the most pleasurable! And saves money. Some days, hanging laundry is the only chance I have to get outside- I relish it! The sun feels particularly warming and the breeze particularly refreshing those days so I have very happy associations with hanging laundry. I think the clothes must feel the same way too. Sunshine freshens their smell, fades their stains, and disinfects their germs which is of particular importance on a “muddy” farm!

{Cover Up}

I wish I could say that I was only going to point out the sensibility in placing a bib over your babies, toddlers, and even small children to protect their clothes during meal time, but I’m not. I think I need them more than the rest. Most of my shirts are splattered with evidence that I’m spending my time in the farmstead kitchen. I have aprons. You’d think I’d wear one, but I always, always forget. I’ve come to the point where I look at a child’s bib and think, “What good can that possibly do?!” I stopped wasting money on bibs and now my little ones get aprons over their clothes… and that’s if I just don’t strip them down first. Skin cleans the easiest of all… and it saves on an extra piece of laundry.

{Attitude Adjustment}

12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

The best way to learn to enjoy (or at least not hate) doing homestead laundry is to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness. Thank the Lord for your situation, for the family to care for, the modern tools and conveniences that make it less of a chore, for the variety of colors and styles we are able to wear to express our personalities. If you still find it difficult to give thanks while doing laundry duty, try washing laundry by hand. Honestly. I’ve had to do it for several weeks before and it was a painful, miserable, tear-filled experience.

{Routine, Routine, Routine}

Creating a laundry routine is critical to a once-a-day laundry system. Unless you want to get backed-up and have a huge pile to tackle, you’re going to need to fit it seamlessly into your day. My routine starts right after my shower. When I’m through, I’ll gather all the dirty laundry from the first floor, have a child get any from the second floor (there’s not supposed to be any, but we all know how that goes!) Next, I’ll circle the basement and gather dirty laundry & run my first load. If there is a second load, I’ll set the timer so I don’t forget to come back.

12 Tips for Dealing with Homestead Laundry in a Large Family

I hang my loads out to dry in seasonable weather or hang it indoors if it’s cold and rainy. I have 3 clotheslines strung from the rafters across one side of the basement. My daughter is in homestead laundry training and I don’t usually expect her to hang laundry unless she gets backed up. (We’ll add in hanging laundry next summer.) Laundry that was hung to dry gets a 10-minute tumble in the dryer to reduce stiffness. When it’s done it gets transferred to a table next to the dryer. Pajamas and unders get folded and placed in a dresser drawer assigned to each child. Socks are put into a boys pile & girls pile which each have their own dresser drawer and they can figure it out from there.

{Keeping Homestead Laundry Together}

My favorite part of my family closet in the basement? The clothes round I got from a clothing boutique that was closing down. Everyone’s clothes are hung in one place. I separate each child’s clothes from each other with a shower curtain ring. I LOVE it! Love, love, love it! This works SO much better than the daily clothes slots in our last family closet. Besides aesthetics, the only things missing in my family “closet” that would make it perfect is a built-in ironing board and a drying rack for hanging the little things like socks. If there were those 2 things I think it would be the perfect system.

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  1. Reformation Acres Thanks! I was just looking at your post on tallow soap…I just rendered beef tallow a few months ago and spent all yesterday working on lard from our freezer. Do you have your coconut oil soap recipe posted? I'll have to take a look after I finish with the other posts 😉

  2. I used to use Ivory but have been using the coconut oil soap for the last 3 batches and I prefer the coconut oil soap. Ivory is going to be superfatted or it would dry your skin out. For laundry soap that means that it can build up in your clothes. The coconut oil soap I make isn't superfatted so there are no excess oils that the lye has had a chemical reaction with. It makes things literally squeaky clean- I was using a glass mug to measure out the detergent and it was so shiny & squeaky 🙂 I don't know about the superfatting on traditional laundry bar soaps like Fels, but have you seen their ingredient list?! No thanks-

  3. I used to use Ivory but have been using the coconut oil soap for the last 3 batches and I prefer the coconut oil soap. Ivory is going to be superfatted or it would dry your skin out. For laundry soap that means that it can build up in your clothes. The coconut oil soap I make isn't superfatted so there are no excess oils that the lye has had a chemical reaction with. It makes things literally squeaky clean- I was using a glass mug to measure out the detergent and it was so shiny & squeaky 🙂 I don't know about the superfatting on traditional laundry bar soaps like Fels, but have you seen their ingredient list?! No thanks-

  4. You mention using coconut oil soap in your homemade laundry detergent, but when I followed the hyperlink for the recipe, it list Ivory bar soap in the ingredients. Are you still using Ivory or is there a coconut oil soap you recommend? We seem to have the same family and farm logistics and getting our "muddy" clothes clean has always been a struggle, lol! Thanks for the post!!

  5. We’d use it to make our clothes last longer (yay for the budget!) and to cut down on our electricity bill ( yay for the budget!)

  6. These were are wonderful gems of advice! We have a large family, too, and I've had to learn to do pretty much everything you listed the hard way. Some things you wish you'd read when you were younger but at least we're blessed with kids and clothes, right?

  7. I do laundry in much the same manner as you do Quinn. I do it daily (with 2 – 3 loads), and don’t bother sorting. I do, however, hang my clothes all year around unless it’s raining. In fact it wasn’t until I read blogs that I found out that some people use their drier all the time. Hanging clothes outside is just something that is part of life here in Australia.
    I also have designated farm clothes as it’s too hard to keep the clothes nice on a farm. My children know what is ‘going out’ & what is farm. I do think I possibly iron too much, but as we are getting two extra kiddos soon (so, so exciting), I will probably cut my ironing back.
    I really loved this post 🙂

    1. Congratulations Renata! That is very exciting! Hope you get your system tweaked so you can spend as much time as possible loving on them! 😀

  8. I am Grandma to 6 (soon to be 7) littles and would love to have this for our many winter sleepovers and also for our summer days after swimming. I love your blog and newsletter. Please send as often as you publish. I am 60 yrs young and just love reading of your relationshio with your grandparents. Its exactly what I strive for with my grandbabies. I have embraced my role as memory-maker. You’re a talented writer+thank you for your tips and for sharing your life with us!

  9. Love this so much. Winter is coming and this is my 1st year on the farm in the UP. Have really enjoyed hanging clothes outside to dry in the fresh country air.

  10. Thanks for sharing about your laundry routines and tips! Right now I'm limited to dry what will fit on my small rack that I use for my cloth diapers but this would let me dy so much more! Thanks for doing the giveaway!!

  11. I love to hang clothes to dry outside. The smell you get from drying outside cannot be duplicated by any fabric softner. But, alas, into every life a little rain must fall! In addition, this dryer would be perfect for drying those personal items that you don't want to dry in a dryer. Love, love your blog!

  12. Honestly, in the situation I'm living in right now I only have access to a dryer about 30% of the time….yet I have nowhere in my small space to hang my clothes!

  13. Loved this post! We are only a family of 4 in a small apartment, but I still feel like many of the tips apply to us. Plus, we hope to one day be a large family with a homestead, so the tips will be even more handy then! 🙂

  14. I have an outside clothesline as wwell as a dryer, but there are things (like bras) that don't work with either. Also some things that go on line or dryer, but need to hang for a bit — items that are basicly dry but have waistbands or pockets that need a bit more time. A laundry rack like this would also be useful for those days (far too often) where I don't get items on the line in time for them to dry or when it's a bit too damp out to fully dry.

  15. I have been trying to get into a laundry routine and you have some great tips in this post! Love reading your blog! We are getting into small scale homesteading and I’m addicted! Excited about the giveaway too! I could use it in my basement for laundry! It would be fantastic for so many things!

  16. Due to some of the outdoor allergies, I don't hang out as many clothes as I used to. I prefer letting those blue jeans air dry. Many of our shirts I shake out and hang dry on hangers, this looks handy for that purpose.

  17. What a lovely post Quinn. with our first baby due in less than a month we’re giving cloth diapers a try. Only we aren’t allowed a washing machine or dryer. There are 3 machines in the basement for 100 flats, so just booking one timeslot per week is difficult. We bought a Wonder Washer hoping it will be a sustainable solution. It will mean that we’ll join you in the daily laundry game soon. 🙂

    1. I am so excited for you! You must be getting so anxious & eager to meet your little one! It does sound like your laundry situation is a tough one, but I hope that you’re successful with the cloth diapers. I’m sure it will save you a ton of money in the long run. I’m a cloth-diaper drop out (I started to late in my motherhood with baby #5 so I was already set in my ways) and my youngest is going to be potty trained here in the next month or so and I will admit it’s going to be real nice not having that expense 🙂 Praying for the rest of your pregnancy, delivery, and transition into motherhood!

  18. Since my daughter has moved to a rental property, and no longer has access to my clothes lines, I would give it to her so she could use it as a portable outside clothes line.

  19. I avoid using the dryer as much as possible, and kids clothes never go through the dryer (they outgrow them fast enough as it is!). This would be great for rainy days!

  20. We've been line drying ever since our dryer broke nine months ago, but we had the first big rain today and our options are limited! This dryinf rack would be great for indoors when we don't have sunshine. 🙂

  21. Great idea for drying clothes in winter or when the sky is overcast.
    Enjoy reading about your homesteading efforts.

  22. When I was telling you Josh and I were looking at Amish homes to buy, one of the things I planned on doing with one of the (25) bedrooms was make a family closet. There is only 4 of us but I thought that would be so wonderful to have. So much less work carrying laundry everywhere! But…we have now decided to make this our permanent homestead!

  23. I would love to set this up in our sunroom – on rainy summer days or during the colder months. It would be much kinder to sweaters & more delicate shirts that my washline! Thank you for sharing! Love your laundry post! 🙂