Tips for tackling laundry: helping family members be safe and successful

By Kathy Riggs

The beginning of the school year and family routines is just around the corner for many households. Whether sending a son or daughter off to college or training children still at home to successfully and safely do their own laundry, the University of Kentucky Extension Service has compiled great information for laundry room safety.

In general, family members should be reminded that most laundry detergents and aids, such as chlorine bleach and borax, are chemicals. Entering the laundry room to treat and launder a batch or two of soiled clothing should be viewed as going into a lab to successfully complete a lab experiment- Ok, so maybe that’s a bit of a stretch- however, there have been hundreds of accidental laundry room poisonings each year that should not be taken lightly. (The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports 6,397 kids 5 and younger were accidently exposed to single-load laundry packets in just the last 7 months of 2017- )

Besides being aware of potentially harmful products in the laundry room, here are some additional safety tips from Kenna Knight with UK Extension Service.

Safety tips:

  • Read and follow product instructions.

  • Pay close attention to “Caution,” “Warning,” “Danger” or “Poison” statements.

  • Keep products in their original containers with the label intact.

  • Never combine laundry detergents with other cleaning products unless directions for safely doing so are included.

  • Keep laundry products out of the reach of children and pets.

  • Always close the laundry detergent container, box, bottle or pouch immediately after use.

  • Wash your hands and any items used to dispense or measure laundry products after each use.

  • Choose to do laundry at a time when you can give it your full attention, with no distraction.

In addition to being safe handling laundry, achieving success cleaning and removing stains from laundry can provide a true sense of accomplishment.

Sorting tips:

  • Color — Separate whites, darks and bright colors. Different temperatures are needed for each to reduce chance of color loss.

  • Fabric — Sort according to fabric type and texture.

  • Surface — Separate lint givers from lint takers.

  • Construction — Tough or delicate materials should be separated.

  • Dirt — Sort heavily soiled from lightly soiled garments.

  • Pesticides — Always wash laundry that has been exposed to chemicals separate from other items.

Time saving tips and best practices:

  • Close zippers, hooks, hook-and-loop fasteners and eyes to prevent snagging. Tie drawstrings and ribbons to avoid tangling with other garments.

  • Empty pockets and brush off loose dirt and lint. Melted gum, candy, crayons and other pocket items can create extra work and machine damage.

  • Make sure non washable items, such as belts, trims and jewelry, are not included in laundry.

  • Repair items before laundering. Rips and tears grow if left unrepaired. • Treat all stains and spots with a recommended pretreatment.

  • Some items, such as permanent press garments, need to be turned inside out to prevent product damage.

  • Place delicate items in a small, mesh laundry bag.

Laundry is one of those household tasks that must be done on a regular basis. It may not be a glamorous task but doing it well will keep family members looking clean and tidy. It can also keep favorite or more expensive clothing items looking great for an extended amount of time. Even young children can get in the action learning to empty the dryer, match socks, etc. Additional information on this topic is available from    .


Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to or call 435-586-8132.

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