Creative solution to small house laundry woes
May 23, 2017 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Fed up with compact washer and dryer, but no room for larger ones... I think? Help me not tear my hair out while doing laundry.

We live in a small house with a small kitchen. When I purchased the house (as a single person), it contained a full size washer and dryer in the kitchen in a super awkward layout that only left room for one sink cabinet and one counter topped cabinet. Not ideal, so when I renovated the kitchen I opted for a Whirlpool front loading compact washer and dryer, valuing counter space over huge laundry appliances because it was just me.

Now there are two of us, and the W/D suck, and I hate doing laundry with the fire of a thousand suns. A few of my complaints:

- Despite being repaired under warranty multiple times, the washer has a door sensor problem that causes the washer to pretend like it is going to start, and then not actually start because the door doesn't register as "locked." This happens about 50% of the time when you try to start a load, but takes 1-2 min to happen so you either walk away and come back to an unwashed load, or waste 2 minutes staring at the washer and then repeatedly slamming the door.
- Now that it is no longer under warranty, the washer leaks during 75% of loads. Not enough to be catastrophic but enough to be annoying.
- The dryer sounds like a rocketship in our kitchen. No amount of leveling or rubber pads has ever made this better.
- Front loader mold smell. Can't leave the door open between loads because it is in a traffic path (see: small kitchen). We clean it monthly but it doesn't help for long.
- Doesn't wash clothes well. See above. Clothes just don't look or smell clean.
- Husband is large man with large clothes. Dogs are large with large beds, towels, etc. We do laundry every day, usually multiple loads a day, and can't keep up because the washer can hold approximately 2 days' worth of husband's clothes. We also both have hobbies that produce extra laundry.
- Clothes come out of dryer super wrinkly, probably because we do too large of loads to combat above problem.

I am desperate to improve our laundry situation. I want to wear CLEAN clothes and not hate laundry. We can't stack the W/D because of a window above them, unless we moved them over so they were straddling the threshold between kitchen and dining room which would be... awkward. And also in the direct sight line of front door. Could we make this look less awkward somehow?

We also can't just plunk bigger machines in the kitchen because the refrigerator door doesn't open all the way as it is. There is also a traffic path in front of the W/D that has only MAYBE 2 extra inches of clearance for deeper machines.

There is a narrow (25ish inch) but very deep (4.5 ft maybe?) hall closet that I have dreams of doing something with but the narrow width seems to lock us in to stacking, front loading, compact machines which I don't think would solve any of our problems.

Am I missing some creative solution, or crazy place to stash a washer and dryer? Are there magical compact unicorns out there with more than 2.0 ft capacity that are actually good at washing more than 3 socks, are top loading, and quiet? Where do people in small houses keep their laundry machines?

TL;DR: My washer and dryer suck but I don't have space for bigger ones. Help!
posted by raspberrE to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There is a narrow (25ish inch) but very deep (4.5 ft maybe?) hall closet that I have dreams of doing something with but the narrow width seems to lock us in to stacking, front loading, compact machines which I don't think would solve any of our problems.

Just one thought: Is the door frame to the closet 25 inches, or is that the actual width inside the closet? Our full sized front loading Samsung set is stackable and 27 inches wide, which is pretty common. So there may be a way to widen the doorframe, or even the closet itself enough to fit a full sized stacking set.
posted by The Deej at 8:13 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is there any way you could get rid of the washer/dryer, and instead get a laundry service? We had a laundry service (which picked up and dropped off) for a few months on a temporary assignment and didn't find it as expensive as I thought it would be.

If you need to have your own setup, are there any sheltered outdoor situations where you could put the washer/dryer? Any chance you have a garage or carport or sheltered deck? All of these could be good situations for the right location.
posted by arnicae at 8:14 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

A friend has a stackable top loader set, they are expensive but it's a great solution for her tiny place. They do have to do many loads because the top loader is so small but it gets her clothing clean, which the front loader never did.
posted by fshgrl at 8:31 PM on May 23, 2017

When my washer wouldn't register the door being closed, I finally took the thing apart and shorted-out the sensor that reads that status. Totally violating the warranty, but I was fed up. Worked for years like that.
posted by intermod at 8:35 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

A downstairs neighbor had one of the combined washer/dryer front loader units. It never worked for them either. I think the compromises for the engineering are just too great.

I have had great results using a compact stacked set - top load washer on the bottom, dryer on the top.

I have had terrible results with compact 110 volt dryers and portable washers (top load) on wheels that hook up to a kitchen or bathroom faucet. I would not recommend going that route.

My brother lives in Brooklyn and uses a laundry service that picks up, washes, dries, folds, delivers. I'm insanely jealous, and I LIKE doing laundry. The price and quality of this service varies widely by geography.
posted by sol at 8:37 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can get a top loading stackable. We had one like this in the bathroom in an apartment and it worked just fine.

You can also consider sending some items out (either drop off or having a service pick them up) to be laundered. Like maybe just work clothes for the week. They come back so nicely folded, even if you just do it for a couple weeks it would give you a break.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 8:39 PM on May 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Garage? Right outside your kitchen or bathroom (to take advantage of the water pipes & electricity proximity) in a shed you build or buy, or a covered patio-type situation (depending on the weather where you live)?

My full-size washer/dryer is in a basement-type area we have, only accessible by going outside of the house. I'm not gonna lie -- it's a pain in my ass at times, carrying the laundry that distance and back. But it sounds way better than the situation you've got.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:46 PM on May 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Before we remodeled our teeny tiny house our washer was in the laundry space and the dryer was in the (detached) garage. Kinda sucked on cold winter's nights to go out there, but I was able to have a top-loading washer and a dirt-cheap ugly-as-sin but otherwise very reliable floor model dryer because no one ever saw it.
posted by vignettist at 8:51 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Would it be possible to put a washer/ dryer near (in?) the bedroom? Can you get a good washer and a system (drying rack and dehumidifier in closet) to air dry? Or have you considered splitting the location of the washer and dryer?
posted by oceano at 9:29 PM on May 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

We've used a top loading combo unit like TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln pointed out for many years and it's been fine. It's pretty compact compared to the separate washer and dryer that was in there when we moved in. I've never even seen a front loading one.
posted by bongo_x at 9:34 PM on May 23, 2017

nth'ing the stackable unit posted above. After I moved out of my parents' house, I didn't have "standard" side-by-side units for years until moving into a rental house. In our small house in Seattle, we bought a unit just like this in lieu of a regular units because the stackable one could go in a particular spot in the bathroom versus having to go down into the basement to do laundry.

Nice electrical bonus: The stackable one we bought only used a single 240V outlet so the wiring was less complicated than having to run a 240V for the dryer and a 120V for the washer.
posted by fireoyster at 9:50 PM on May 23, 2017

Put 'em outside, or hand wash and hang dry.
posted by aniola at 10:09 PM on May 23, 2017

I don't know if this is possible in your climate, but my grandmother (and every other grandmother in our area) did not have space for washers and dryers in their small houses. So their washers (and, later, dryers) were in a covered area attached to the back of the house. If the house is already small, the back is not too far out of the way.
posted by stowaway at 10:40 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

We've had no problems with our front load washer (a Kenmore that came with the house). You obviously have a bad one. There are plenty of front load options that clean clothes well and don't leak. One time when I looked at the stacked top loaders as TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln listed, they seemed to have a much smaller dryer than the ones made to be stacked with a front loader washer.

For using the 25" wide closet: you need at least 27" for a full-size washer and dryer. If the drywall/plaster is removed you could gain an inch. The studs of either side of the closet can be cut down an inch or two to make room. The closet door and/or doorway would probably have to be removed.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:57 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

For your current and any future front load, you should always wipe down the clear plastic on the door and any part of the rubber seal you can access (I like to use a microfiber cloth) before you leave it and leave the door ajar. This should prevent the musty smell. You don't have to leave it open, just enough to let air in.

What is on the sides of the hall closet? Can you remove one side and make a laundry alcove in a bedroom or bath?

I think the best thing to do right now is to replace the compact washer with a real washing machine and move the dryer somewhere else, maybe into the hall closet if it will fit. Most of my clothes (shirts, dress pants) get put on folding drying racks (sometimes under a ceiling fan which speeds up the drying), and the rest (socks, undies, jeans) in the dryer. The clothes will last a lot longer and you use less electricity as the dryer takes a lot less time to dry the smaller load. You do not mention any problems with your current dryer other than the wrinkles. It may not have the problem if you are drying smaller loads. Will it fit in the closet?

There are slightly larger compact washers than 2 cu ft, but I think you want a full size. When we were looking last year, my first choice would have been a Speed Queen. The are about the only economical holdout to the idea of washing clothes by moving them around in water. All the rest have gone to the get them wet and shake them method due to water conservation treaties. I was told that Speed Queen may also be going this route this year to comply with regulations. Unfortunately, my wife thought they looked dated so we went for a monstrous shiny front loader that does get clothes remarkably clean. Speed Queen does make a 26" model that is actually 25 5/8" that you might squeeze in your closet.

Another brand to look at is Bosch, or Miele if you have deep pockets. Maybe Electrolux, too. The European manufacturers have a lot more experience with the low water compact high efficiency washers

The one good thing about small houses is they may not have many load bearing walls on the inside, so you might be able to get away with thinning walls, as ShooBoo suggests, or removing them. And depending on your kitchen layout, it may be better to add a wall by blocking in a doorway if your kitchen is a walk through.

Incidentally, for the ultimate creative solution, my Mother-In-Law has an Indesit washerdryer from the UK which washes and dries all in the same unit. It takes a long time to wash and dry a load but it is pretty novel idea. The clothes have a bit of a hot rubber smell for a while when using the dryer option due to the seal heating up.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 12:17 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Combined Washer/Dryers are usually compromised machines - the ideal drum size for the same weight of clothes is different for the two jobs & that usually means long drying times. Otherwise combined washer/dryers would probably dominate the market! But they do take up less space...

A friend used to stack their washer / dryer in the landing / stairwell space in a specially built cupboard they had built in above the stairs.

Honestly, it sounds like your machines are just not very good ones. We have a Samsung condensing tumble dryer & a Bosch front loader washing machine. Both work well & are very, very quiet compared with machines we’ve had previously. Looking at the brand list that Whirpool Corp. operate in the UK they are the bottom of the barrel options here - no one who was looking for a high quality machine would buy them. I don't know whether they target different market segments in the US though?

On the mould issue: always wipe the bottom of the door seal after each wash & at least leave the door open a crack so it can air. No need to leave it right open. Make sure you clean the lint trap in the bottom of the machine when you do the monthly hot wash as mould can accumulate there in both top & front loaders IIRC.
posted by pharm at 1:27 AM on May 24, 2017

I had my washer in an alcove off my upstairs hallway for a while. Look at your house carefully and think about ways to modify it. Can that closet be widened a few inches if need be? Can an alcove be carved out of your bedroom? Can your bathroom be expanded enough to put a washer in there?
posted by metasarah at 6:22 AM on May 24, 2017

Can you change the closet into an open alcove? Remove the door and it's frame entirely, which should give you enough space for a stackable full size washer and dryer (27" wide, 33" deep, 80" high) and their necessary hook-ups. If not, garages are the traditional place to relocate a washer and dryer that won't fit in the house.

You should look into your water/detergent situation as well. If you have hard water/rust, changing your detergent can eliminate some of the problems you're experiencing.
posted by givennamesurname at 7:55 AM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Where do people in small houses keep their laundry machines?

We go to the laundromat that's a block and a half down the street. We do laundry once a week, using two giant washing machines at the same time, and one giant dryer. It takes us about two hours, and we often pop into the bar next door for a cocktail. We never have to listen to loud washers/dryer noise at home and don't deal with leaks or lint or moldy smells.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:33 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depending on climate, home configuration, and personal inclination, you might be able to get by with a larger washer and no dryer. When our dryer died a few years ago we started using the laundry drying rack (that we'd already been using for items that shouldn't be tumble dried, like sports gear and handmade stuff) for everything, and it's worked out fine. Usually we just keep the laundry drying in the living room, because we're tacky like that and also it's sort of like having air conditioning if we point a fan at it.

The rack folds up and can be jammed in between the fridge and wall if we're having people over or something. (It's from IKEA, and they've got a ton of different styles.) We'd hang laundry outside if we had actual outside space to use, but we don't. (Not a whole lot of space inside, either.)

There's only one category of laundry I do that really needs a tumble dryer, and that's down. Once a year or so I bring my down coat and down comforter to the laundromat with some clean tennis balls (and the comforter didn't fit in the dryer we had anyway, so this isn't much of a change.)
posted by asperity at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Browsing around a bit, I see stackable units (either two separate or one apartment-style top loading) that are smaller internally but are 24" wide. I've had several of the top-loading, apartment style units in different places, and though the dryer took two cycles to actually dry clothes, it otherwise worked fine.

Washing big items (like heavy blankets) will probably require a trip to the laundromat. We ended up just using more blankets instead of heavy ones, but we're also in a warm weather state.
posted by cnc at 11:08 AM on May 24, 2017

Front loaders really have to be left open, or the mold will happen. Can you live with just a washer, and line dry clothes? Relocate the washer & dryer to a bathroom? Leave the washer in the kitchen and relocate the dryer, which only needs an electrical line, and not plumbing.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on May 24, 2017

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. Unfortunately, we do not have any kind of garage, carport, or shed, or anywhere on the property remotely near plumbable/electrify-able space to be able to add one. We also don't have room in the bathroom (5 ft square) or bedroom, nor do we have stairs. (If we did - under the stair laundry is genius!)

However, the idea of moving just the dryer to the hall closet (if it fits) is a great one... that would save a lot of expensive plumbing work relocating the water lines. One of the walls of the closet is load bearing but the other is not so we may be able to do some combo of removing the door frame, thinning the walls, etc. That would also still leave some space in the closet for storage, which would be nice as its the only non-bedroom-closet storage in the house. Still not sure if a full size washer would fit in the kitchen depth wise, but we can get creative. Off to get a measuring tape...
posted by raspberrE at 4:57 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

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