Ending the Laundry Hassle: Encouraging Your Teen to Care for their Clothes

Jan 18, 2023
Ending the Laundry Hassle: Encouraging Your Teen to Care for their Clothes

“Mom, have you seen my jeans with the holes in them?” “Hey Mom, is my soccer uniform clean?” “Dad, when you are shopping, can you pick me up some more socks? I’m running out.”

Back in the throes of potty training, most parents heard from a friend with an older child, “No one goes to college in diapers.” However, there are many students who leave for college and have never run the washing machine. According to a study by Mulberry’s Garment Care, 48.6% of males and 32.4% of females have never done laundry until after their eighteenth birthday. Tell your teens since they want to be above average, you are going to teach them to do their own laundry. This is a chore each person in the family can do on their own, even starting at age nine or ten. With a family of seven, my life became exponentially simpler when I stopped worrying about doing a full load of everyone’s clothes and let each person wash their own. High efficiency washers ensure water isn’t wasted like we worried about in the 80’s.

Teaching your teen how to do their own laundry will prove worthwhile for both present and future. In a few simple steps you can have your student off and running. When implementing any new idea, it is helpful to have a “why” discussion, pointing out the reasons you are transitioning this task from your plate to that of your student. You might mention they know when they need items like sports uniforms or required apparel for work or school. Therefore they can plan to have it washed, dried, and ready to go better than you can. They should know that you have always wanted them to be above average and learning this skill puts them in the top 48% (for men) and 32% (for women) of kids graduating high school. You might also remind them that your job is to teach them what they need to know to be a successful adult, and this is one important step in that direction. There just isn’t enough time to teach all the “adulting” skills the week before college, so this one they can learn and practice ahead of time. The other two steps are simple.

Ask them to gather their laundry (I said simple, not easy) and meet you by the washer. Show them how to sort, read labels, and run the machine. The main cardinal rule of laundry in our house is “towels by themselves.” This eliminates the dreaded lint ball problem. A quick tour of their closet to point out any dark colored cotton items that might bleed and a word about turning all their favorite T-shirts or underwear turning pink might be enough to keep them from washing lights and darks together. Then step aside and let them have at it.

Resist the urge to take this responsibility back. You will be tempted to pick up their clothes off the floor or grab their basket and throw a load in while they are at school. This is counter-productive if your goals for them include independence and maturity. Close their door if you need to, but let them manage this on their own. You (and their future spouse) will be glad you did.