How We Deal with Half-Dirty Clothes

posted by Andrea | 01/8/2019

Doing laundry for 6 people is a lot — especially in the winter when we wear multiple layers to stay warmer inside and have ALLLLLLL our snow gear to stay warm outside!

Plus there are all the towels, bedding, PJ’s, special blankets, stuffed animals, etc. etc.

It definitely adds up after 3-4 days!

– an old picture of Nora, playing in the dirty clothes! –

.

I’m still committed to “only” doing laundry twice a week (a system that’s been working really well for me for over 2 years), and since I don’t want to do 10 loads of laundry on those 2 days, I’ve come up with a few different methods to deal with what I consider “half-dirty clothes” — clothes that have been worn but aren’t worthy of washing just yet!

I actually first broached this topic on my blog over 6 years ago with a reader question… at that time, my response was that I just tossed everything in the wash because I didn’t care about half-dirty clothing!

Now, 4 children later, I’ll save all the laundry I can! 

If you’re looking for a system for half-dirty clothes, I’m sharing 3 ideas our family uses in today’s post… of course, if you have a system that works well for YOUR half-dirty clothes, I’d love for you to share it in the comments! 

.

KID’S CLOTHING:

In general, almost everything the kids wear goes into the hamper every night at bath/shower time. They usually get pretty dirty and sweaty every day, and they usually spill something or get marker, pen, paint, or glue on something every day!

We have a designated hamper in their bathroom. They know to put their clothing in the hamper right before they hop in the bath or the shower — and I finally have them “trained” to put things in the hamper right-side-out! Hallelujah!

We also have a mesh laundry bag clipped to the hamper for their socks. This works REALLY well!

Usually, the only half-dirty clothing for the kids are the clothes they wear to church. In this case, we simply hang them back up in the closet and wash them every few weeks. The kids only have a couple items of “church clothing” so it’s really easy to know what needs to be washed eventually!

Also, they have a special shelf for pajamas and they wear those a few nights in a row until I wash them again.

Obviously, we’ll need to tweak this system as they get older, more independent with their clothing choices, and less messy! But for now, it seems that most of their clothes really do need to go straight into the wash!

.

DAVE’S CLOTHING:

Dave has a designated shelf at the bottom of our closet for the majority of his half-dirty clothing. Anything he will still wear again goes down there instead of in the hamper — and then, when it’s time for me to do laundry, I know I can wash anything on that shelf IF I have the room. Otherwise, I’ll save it for the next laundry day.

He has a slightly different system for the dress clothes he wears to school each day — and that’s simply to remember what shirts and pants he’s worn a few times and then I’ll do one large load of dress clothes for him every few weeks.

It’s not a perfect system, but it works for him and it saves me a bunch of laundry, so I’m not complaining!

– the bottom shelf is for his half-dirty clothes –

.

MY CLOTHING:

I am the QUEEN of half-dirty clothing because I often have to change my clothes a couple times each day for various activities and events.

Sometimes I’m playing with the kids outside so I’ll just wear leggings and a warm fleece, but then we head to church for Coffee Break and I put on nicer pants and a sweater, but then I want to be super comfy again later in the day, so I throw the leggings and fleece back on…. etc. etc.

I have many days like this where I change halfway through the day, so I can’t justify putting any of the clothes in the wash (unless they are actually soiled).

Instead, I have a 2-part system to remind me which clothes I’ve worn already… but aren’t quite ready to wash.

HANGING CLOTHES: I hang them backwards on the hanger — this works because I always hang everything else the “right way”. Another option would be to actually put the hanger backwards on the bar.
FOLDED CLOTHES: I fold them inside-out and put them right back into the drawer or on my shelf.

This method works SO well for me right now, and it assures that my hanging clothes don’t get wrinkled and my folded clothes don’t get stretched out or crumpled up.

.

So… that’s how WE deal with half-dirty clothes!

I’d love to know what systems or methods YOU use!

41Shares

Filed under: HomeClothesCleaning

Leave a comment

31 comments

  1. Katek

    01/16/2019

    I’ve tried all sorts of systems to keep track of half dirty clothes. And then one day I read something that simplified my life completely. I don’t remember where I read it but basically it said that “half dirty” isn’t a thing. Clothes are either dirty and need to be washed or clean and need to get put back in the closet/drawer. Clothes need to be washed when dirty, regardless of how many times they’ve been worn, and don’t need to be washed when clean- regardless of how many times they’ve been worn. At the end of the day I evaluate whatever I have on, and it either goes in the hamper or the closet. No tracking how many times it’s been worn, or any extra clothes to keep track of.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    interesting… and SO simple!
    Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

    Kate beckett Reply:

    Meee too. I read this some place years ago and this is my motto. My husband tosses his on a chair or hangs on back of bedroom door. I’ve tried to get him to adapt to “,my” way but he hasn’t yet.

    [Reply]

  2. Sun

    01/14/2019

    This is so neat to read. I don’t really love the way I do it, but I also can’t put worn clothes away since we have allergies. So once something’s been outside, it goes into the wash. The kids wear fresh clothes every day, and we usually do too because of allergies and just prefer that fresh clothes feeling because I perspire a lot too.. 😉 But if I will reuse an item the next day, I fold it up and put it in our room knowing I will put it on right away and it won’t be leaving a mess. Things like loungewear, we hand on the back of our door so it can air out. I do laundry every day since it’s easier for me to have a nightly habit of one load every day than to spend all day except on sheet day. Thankfully the older kids wash their own laundry and sheets; so one load a day is enough for all the rest of us and all towels.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, I never even thought about allergies — good point!
    Well, I’m sure it’s worth the extra laundry to have fewer allergy symptoms! Glad you have a good system going with the kids doing their own wash — good job mama!

    [Reply]

  3. Debbie

    01/09/2019

    My husband does his laundry 95% of the time so I don’t have to deal with his half dirty clothes. He also works in an environment where he gets pretty grungy so he puts his clothes in the hamper every day. He’s got a set of hooks in the laundry room where he hangs his pajamas/lounging clothes that he changes into after he showers. I usually am the one who will include those with my laundry. For me, I just re-fold or re-hang my half dirty clothes and I usually remember when I’ve worn them twice or thrice because I can smell my perfume on them. Then after wearing it a 2nd time I just put it in the hamper to wash. I do laundry only once every 2 weeks because of this half dirty clothes process.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow that’s amazing — once every 2 weeks for laundry would be fantastic!

    [Reply]

  4. Amy

    01/08/2019

    Y’all have organized ways to keep your half-dirty clothes… I have a chair and my husband uses the top of the cedar chest to set aside things to be worn again. This certainly is not an ingenious method, but it works for us.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha!! well I just don’t like things laying out in plain site — so I have to come up with a way to keep it in my closet but separate!

    [Reply]

    Sonja Reply:

    haha! My husband and i use a chair too! it’s kinda hidden by a huge wardrobe in our Master bedroom so we can see it but guests just passing by the bedroom cannot! LOL!

    [Reply]

  5. JJ

    01/08/2019

    I used to try laundry twice a week, but it did not work for me. And I dislike laundry so much, so I thought doing it less would help. Nope. Haha! I keep on top of it so much more if it’s part of my daily routine. We don’t use hampers, since we live in a ranch. Every kid just takes their clothes to the laundry room. We never had hampers as kids, because we had a laundry chute. I always thought that was the coolest thing when I was little, haha! We do reuse towels for us and the kids. And this may not apply to the main topic, but one way we cut down on sickness spreading with multiple little ones is by each kid having their toothbrush in their own drawer with their own toothpaste(my husband and I each have our own, too, but that started because I don’t squeeze it “right” ) and their own washcloth to wipe their mouth after they brush. They always wiped their mouths on the hand towel(and little kids don’t always wash their hands as thoroughly as you hope, so that is just a cold waiting to happen). It has helped SO much!!! And I just grab the washcloths and hand towels when I do wash. Also, after my daughter was really sick this summer, my husband brought home more hand soap when I needed more. I normally bought foaming soap, but he brought the regular hand soap. I noticed how my kids had to wash their hands longer to get the soap off and realized that probably helps, too! Maybe it just makes me feel better. Who knows! Haha!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is exactly how I am with the dishwasher — if I don’t do it every day as my “routine” I’ll put it off and hate doing it even more!
    Glad you found what works for you!

    [Reply]

  6. Demi

    01/08/2019

    My husband and I each have a rail of 6 hooks on both sides of the bed. Anything that can be reworn goes on them along with robes, pjs, my purse (with keys in case of break in) and tornado go bag (external hard drive, birth certificates, etc)

    Teenager does her own laundry.

    The 9 year old’s clothes are almost always dirty so they go in the hamper with our stuff. Funny story: I once caught him putting clean clothes in the laundry instead of putting them away. As punishment he had to wash/fold/hang EVERYONES laundry in the house with my supervision. He always smells his laundry if it’s questionable now. I’m planning on easing him into washing his own in the next year or two.

    Hoodies go on a hook rack by the front door.

    We have one of those giant garden bathtubs in our bathroom… the kind that never gets used… so we put two laundry baskets in it. ☝️ for clothes and one for towels. When the basket is full, it’s a full load of laundry. It’s not helpful for your situation, but might be an idea to pass on.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing how you keep your things organized. So interesting to me that you have a tornado go bag — do you have many tornados where you live? Good for you for being prepared!
    Also, my dad was a builder and ALWAYS tried to talk homeowners out of doing the gigantic bathtubs — such a waste of space. Glad you are utilizing yours now 🙂

    [Reply]

    Demi Reply:

    I live in Oklahoma and our town was pretty much leveled in 2013 by an F5 that came out nowhere. We get a handful a year within 10 miles of us so I just keep the go bag packed year round. It actually works out well because I always know where the important paperwork is (and spare undies/socks if I’m behind on laundry!)

    If it was up to me I’d pull out the tub and have a giant shower! But I’m overruled so it’s just a large hamper. Lol!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow — scary! We actually have a “tornado shelter” in our basement — a solid concrete room! Our basement was re-dug roughly 60 years ago after a massive tornado went through our town — so now we have a “safe place” to go if it ever happens again. That said, I don’t have a tornado to-go bag like you. Maybe I should put a few extra supplies down in our tornado shelter — just in case!

    [Reply]

  7. Brandette W

    01/08/2019

    I do laundry 2 days a week, about 3 loads total. It can be more often or more loads if something gets dirty like rugs, bedding etc. in between wash days.

    My husband works in an office and his work pants are reworn a few times before they are washed, his shirts are washed after every wear.

    My cozy Mom clothes are washed after every wear since I am working around the house cleaning, cooking, taking care of kids. If I wear nicer clothes out, those are worn a few times before they are washed.

    My son’s PJ’s and school clothes are washed after every wear.

    All undies, bras, socks, special blankets for son are washed every time.

    In general, my husband and I have always reworn the nicer clothes a few times before washing again. The exception to this is shirts…they are always washed each time. When my son was a newborn/baby, I always dressed him in fresh one-piece zip up PJ’s each morning and all his clothes were washed after each wear.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like a good system! Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

  8. Heather Ratliff

    01/08/2019

    I pretty much feel the same way!

    My daughters’ clothes all go in the hamper except for church clothes for my oldest. My youngest, at 8, still needs hers washed more regularly.

    My husband works in a kitchen all day and sweats a lot so all his clothes are washed every time he wears them.

    I, however, wear my shirts twice (hang them backwards on the hanger) and my jeans for a couple weeks unless they get really bad. Socks…well, those get washed every time. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha yes, socks and undies are washed every day! for sure!

    [Reply]

  9. Margaret

    01/08/2019

    3 Command hooks inside the closet door for jeans or shorts, sweatshirt for layering, and tees. Since those clothes get worn only a few hours before I change for work I can get several days out of them in the winter–not in the summer, though! Over-the-door hooks on the room door for PJs, robe, biking clothes, and my dog’s Thundershirt: when I need that I need it in a hurry.
    Work clothes, i.e. scrubs, are NEVER reworn. They get finger-and-thumbed right into the hamper as soon as I’m done exercising in the morning after work. Why get 2 sets of clothes sweaty?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    my sister (a labor and delivery nurse) takes her scrubs off at work as she doesn’t even want them coming home with her!

    [Reply]

  10. Natalia

    01/08/2019

    My system is somehow similar, except that I have a (small) walk-in closet, with space for a rack of hooks on one wall and a chair underneath (that I also use as step stool to reach the higher shelves). The everyday clothes that I want to wear again and again go either or the hooks or wait patiently on that chair. The church and nicer tops go on hangers, but to the front (on the right side), so I choose those first.
    My husband’s church shirts go in the hamper right away, his pants back in the closet. I only wash those pants a couple of times a year!! His work clothes go either in the hamper or at the foot of the bed on top of a linen chest, to be worn the next day.
    For my little one I have a basket on the night stand next to her closet where the “wear again” clothing goes. At almost anytime you’ll find either pjs or pants and shirt in it.
    My teenager… well, that’s a little misterious. The good part is that she’s in charge of her own laundry now! (After I noticed that I was washing loads and loads of clothes that I didn’t see her wearing. She was trying them on, or just considering wearing, and then dropped them in the hamper for me to wash, dry, fold, put back in the closet. Amazing how the amount of laundry has diminished considerably after a few weeks of her having to do it for herself!)
    Sorry for my lengthy story…

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like a very organized system 🙂
    And good call making the teen in charge of her own laundry. I know more and more parents who are doing this and I think it’s a good plan!

    [Reply]

  11. Wilma

    01/08/2019

    we use hooks–either behind the door (against the wall) in our bungalow, or now that we’re renting an apartment in a big city, there are hooks on the inside of the closets. anything worthy of re-wearing gets hung on them. pjs go under the pillow 🙂 my laundry situation has changed for now because we do not have laundry in our building–i have to shlep it about 200m away to another building (at least we don’t have to pay for it!). i still find that i need to do laundry every two to three days, especially if there was a wet bed, etc (3 kids). laundry is no joke 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I like this idea — we don’t have as many hooks as it sounds like you do though.
    Also, I can’t even imagine doing laundry for a whole family at a laundry mat — good for you for wearing clothes a few time to cut back on the number of loads you need to do!

    [Reply]

  12. Erin M

    01/08/2019

    Our kids have a laundry basket on the floor of their closet that is the “wear again” basket. My youngest doesn’t use this system because he plays so active. Church clothes get put back in the drawers for multiple wears. Sweatshirts will get worn several times. My husband has a section of this closet that gets already worn things hung up in it. I can grab from it as needed for a load. We also have hooks for cozy clothes that don’t go outside and exercise clothes that can be worn many times before washing.
    I’m also a mom of 4 and I think these systems have saved me 100s of loads through my kids lifetimes. It’s better for me, the clothes and the world that lightly worn clothes don’t get washed often.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    for sure — we’ve saved SO many loads of laundry by wearing items a couple of times!
    Thanks for sharing your system

    [Reply]

  13. Annette Silveira

    01/08/2019

    I think you have it just right. The thing is to have a place for the half-dirty clothes to go, wherever that works for you. We fold or hang the item depending on what it is and just use it again until it needs washing.

    [Reply]

  14. Erika

    01/08/2019

    We have hooks in our closet that half-dirty clothes and pajamas get hung on. If it’s a tee-shirt or something I don’t want a “bump” in, I’ll put it on a hanger first and then onto the hook. Like you, I’ll wash this stuff if I have room in the load but otherwise it waits until the next laundry day (I am LOVING doing laundry only 2 days a week!).
    For the babies, it’s rare that we get more than one day of wear per outfit or sleeper but if we do, they also have hooks in their closet. This system works so well for us, and cuts down on so much additional laundry!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I use hooks for Clara’s sleepers and sleep sacks too! And yes, twice-a-week laundry is glorious!

    [Reply]