How Martha Stewart organizes the laundry room

Story highlights

  • Martha Stewart says its time to update laundry room design to make it practical and attractive
  • She made a pantry closet in her farm's guesthouse into a laundry workroom
  • Martha Stewart offers more ideas for whiter whites, darker denim and soft towels

The laundry room at 86 Elm Place in Nutley, New Jersey, where I grew up, was an uncomplicated and multipurpose space in the basement of our house.

It was a real room in an otherwise mostly unfinished space. It had two deep soapstone laundry sinks, a wringer washing machine (later replaced with an electric top loader and a gas dryer), a large chest-type freezer, an old four-burner gas stove, a small upright refrigerator, and many shelves, on which were stored cleaning products, Mason jars, oversize pots and pans, and some simple kitchen equipment for canning and preserving.

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My brother Erik and I spent a lot of time in the laundry room—we soldered metal, we stretched skins from the animals he had trapped, and we built things. I mixed gesso for gilding projects, and I helped Mother dry Dad's socks on metal sock forms and Mom's kid gloves on beautiful size 7 glove stretchers. These days, even when laundry-room activities are clearly focused on just caring for and maintaining clothes, it can be hard to keep the space organized.

But that will change when you outfit the laundry room or closet with a few key supplies and adopt some smart strategies. It can be fitted with stackable appliances, and sinks can be built into clever storage cabinets containing everything one needs for the tasks of washing, ironing, folding, and sorting.

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I recently finished a project in just such a small space, a pantry closet off the kitchen in the guesthouse at my farm. I am thrilled with the result: a windowed, well-apportioned workroom that allows me to do everything a larger laundry room would except for big ironing projects, which can be done easily enough in the adjacent hallway.

I have a complete set of cleaning and washing and ironing tools and supplies, a good folding table, and excellent sturdy shelving to hold heavier items like soap canisters, cleaning kits, and even extra towels and linens.

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I suggest that you revisit your laundry room's design and make alterations that will indeed turn the frequent tasks of washing, ironing, steaming, and folding into more of a pleasure and less of a chore. You may even opt for a brand-new redesign. Many kitchen cabinetmakers are building cabinets, shelving, and brackets that can be used for other installations, such as in mudrooms, flower rooms, craft rooms, and, yes, even laundry rooms! I've highlighted some of my favorite details. I hope they help you to re-imagine your own laundry room, no matter how big or small the space.

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Keeping it clean

For garments that look and feel good as new, think before you wash. Just follow my tips for handling a few common laundry conundrums:

Whiter whites

You can never bring white linens back to their original whiteness, but oxygen bleach (gentler than chlorine varieties) will maintain the color and lift stains. Check fabric labels before you begin. presoak extra-dirty whites in bleach. Add more to the wash with the detergent. use hot water.

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Dark denim

Use a liquid detergent, and set the water temperature to cold or warm to keep jeans and other denims from fading. Turning items inside out will also help preserve their colors, by protecting the garments from abrasion. Wash them with similar colors—the indigo dye can bleed into the water.

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The softest towels

Proper care from the outset keeps towels soft longer. Stay away from fabric softener— it actually reduces absorbency. And avoid using chlorine bleach on white towels, which can be damaging. dry towels on medium heat, and remove them and fold immediately.

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