Dirty laundry

by Deb Bennett

At the risk of sounding like I have leapt into my time machine and whizzed back to the 1950s, I’d like to discuss an issue that is the bane of many working women’s lives – the weekly washing.

Most of my friends are horrified that I still do all of the washing in our house. Yes I know that if children can operate a TV remote they can turn on a washing machine. And, yes, some men may even be capable of navigating those confounded buttons, but in my house the laundry remains the domain of the oldest grown-up female.

And, to be completely honest, I actually like to retain control of the washing in our house. I know if left to the family we would all wear shredded tissues like confetti throughout the week, bucketloads of water would be devoted to three pairs of undies, jumpers Nan knitted would end up in the dryer and – sin of all laundry sins – colours would be mixed with whites.

Yes, I am a tad anal about washing clothes. But my obsession has led to a system of washing, drying and ironing that I think is pretty damn efficient.

dirty laundry 3

So here are my golden rules of the laundry.

  • Separate: This is not just the whites from the coloureds but the really dirty from the everyday dirty. If you have recently binge-weeded the garden or your partner has decided to take up digging holes, soak those caked-in-dirt-clothes in a bucket of nappy wash overnight.
  • Delicates: Most modern machines have a cycle that won’t destroy even the most fragile clothes – I can’t remember the last time I actually hand washed anything and so far I haven’t fatally wounded any clothes. Set all ‘hand-wash-only’ clothes aside for the gentle cycle.
  • Dryer: In winter, anything that can go in the dryer should. Not only does this ensure clothes don’t hang forgotten on a washing line for days, if you take them out of the dryer soon after it’s finished, you won’t need to iron. Even on those lovely, hot windy days, I never hang undies or socks on the line.
  • Ironing: I might be one of the few people left in the modern world who irons, but I can’t stand the thought of crumpled clothes hanging in wardrobes. Business shirts and some t-shirts actually need to be ironed. My method is to iron straight from the machine when still wet and hang on a coat hanger in a doorway. If you iron in the evening, clothes will usually be dry and ready to put away the next day.
  • Clothes horse: Positioned strategically over a heating vent, ideal for the woollens that can’t be tumble dried. Cover with a bed sheet to ensure clothes dry twice as fast.
  • TV: It is essential when ironing to watch crappy TV. This way you are actually multi-tasking and not feeling at all guilty about yelling at Taylor as she advises Hope to repeat all the mistakes she made with Ridge while at the same time sleeping with Ridge’s father who is Hope’s grandfather.

And if all this seems like way too much hard work, you can always try this handy hint.

Mix a capful (10 mil) of lavender oil with one litre of water in a spray bottle. Set on fine mist spray. If the kids (or you) look a bit crinkled as you head out the door, give them a quick spray and wrinkles will fall away in seconds. Now if only it worked on skin!

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.


  • I’m with you, Angela! If it don’t smell bad and there are no (okay, minimal) discernible stains, it’s still clean. We have a clear distinction in our house – I do the girls’ washing (three of us) and my husband does the boys’ washing (two of them). We have very different techniques but we’re all happy with that. My husband would have a heart attack if I touched his washing.

  • Ooooh, this piece made me a bit squirmy Deb!

    Not just because we only iron every few years in our home for job interviews (or sometimes for the odd wedding/funeral). In fact, my nearly-3yo was unable to identify an iron or ironing board to her grandmother in a recent shopping catalogue (I was so proud!). I think it’s because I am so conscious of how energy-heavy heating is. Just take a look at your meter some time when you turn your dryer/hairdryer on and off. Heating uses energy at an extremely high rate (the same reason fluoro bulbs are more efficient than the old incandescents). Each load of laundry costs around $1 in energy.

    As I type this, I’m looking out on my sea of clothes horses in our central living space, which is heated on these cold Winter days. Our clothes dry within 24 hours this way. In Summer, the herd of horses migrate to our sunny deck and dry within 2-4 hours. Perhaps you have solar panels that power you home, so avoid any guilt about the energy level used, or maybe I just overthink these things. For me – I’m OK with my undies and socks staying clear of the dryer and saving some of our precious finite energy resources (and some $$$!).


    And Carolyn and Angela? You’re onto a good thing – the science backs you up: http://theconversation.com/the-dirt-on-clothes-why-washing-less-is-more-sustainable-11531

    • Yes Mia, I agree my methods are incredibly old fashioned, but I have a mental block about hanging undies and socks anywhere (I’m sure there’s something Fruedian happening!) I also have a wonderful old metal hills hoist the kids managed to swing on without breaking when they were little, so that definitely gets a workout in summer. I find in a Melbourne winter I want the washing done and dusted as quickly as possible – I feel weirdly happy when the laundry basket is empty!

      • Wait, they can be empty? Wowsers! You’ll be telling me you fold the clothes before you put them away next.

        We are lucky in Queensland to not have to worry about lack of sunshine. Even in winter it’s rare for things not to try within a few hours.

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