Small living space filter
June 13, 2017 3:07 PM   Subscribe

For those without laundry facilities in your living space, what do you do with items you want to wash separately but don't have many of?

I am thinking about icky stuff you don't want to throw in with your clothes or sheets: bath mat, kitchen wash cloth, kitchen dish cloth (tea towel), bathroom hand towel. When I had my own washer, I stuck dirty ones in the laundry area if I wasn't up for washing and eventually threw a small load of these in. But if you use a Laundromat or wash/dry/fold service, what do you do? Do you take them every week and put them in their own washer? Do you let them pile up to critical mass and stick them somewhere in the meantime? Do you tell your laundry service to wash them separately and do you actually think they do it?

I thought about how to eliminate all these items completely, but couldn't come up with a good solution. Paper towels are a very wasteful alternative to a dish cloth, and I don't get the point of those wooden bath mats except to drip water all over the floor.
posted by unannihilated to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We have a laundry sorter and stick all of our whites and kitchen stuff (conveniently also white, or otherwise ok to bleach) in one section until they reach critical mass. Then off it goes to the wash & fold to get hot washed and bleached.

Caveat is that things need to be dry before they go into the sorter, otherwise it does start to get whiffy.
posted by RhysPenbras at 3:15 PM on June 13

I don't know about yours, but my bath mat says "wash separately" and I do, as seldom as I can get away with it. I like Rhys' solution for the things that can be bulk-washed.
posted by ubiquity at 3:29 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm gross because I wash all that stuff with my regular clothes and towels. It all still comes out clean. (Caveat, I don't have any whites.)
posted by ejs at 3:32 PM on June 13 [6 favorites]

Oh, just to clarify. I live with another person, so I can no longer do the wash it every couple months thing I used to do. It's also another reason I won't wash it with my clothes or sheets.
posted by unannihilated at 3:34 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

It never occurred to me that I shouldn't throw my kitchen and hand towels in with my clothes. After all, if they're so dirty they're in danger of contaminating my underwear, I probably shouldn't be using them on my dishes or my hands - things that I eat with.

For cleaning cloths (including the kitchen washcloth), if I'll sometimes give them a hand wash with soap and water in the sink, and then let them dry completely before throwing them in the hamper. But again, they don't usually get that bad before I wash them.

I do keep paper towels for the occasional gross thing like the cat missing the litter box. If I was insistent on never, ever using paper towels, I would probably just wash those cloths in the sink extra well.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:35 PM on June 13 [4 favorites]

Another vote for just throwing them in with the regular laundry. I don't really see too much a problem with shared stuff going in with mine. If you're sharing a home with someone and sharing bath mats and hand towels, their germs are already your germs. Only thing I would not do is wash these things with delicate items like thin shirts and blouses because of the agitation factor.
posted by eeek at 4:01 PM on June 13

Do you have a microwave?

Your kitchen wash cloth and dish cloth should be hand washed with lots of dish detergent, rinsed well and then placed sopping wet into the microwaved and microwaved until they have come to a boil. This ensures that between the microwaves and the boiling they are much cleaner than the laundry machine would get them. As soon as they get a residue of cooking oil in them that the detergent does not release they should be tossed.

You can do the same with a small bathroom hand towel and kitchen hand towel, hand washing them, especially if you use linen instead of terry cloth. However you don't need to microwave them, you can simply hand wash them and hang them to drip dry. In lieu of ironing they may be plastered wet against a smooth clean dry bathroom wall, such as the inside of your shower stall and they will dry flat, if they are linen. I use liquid detergent and when the bottle is empty bring it upstairs, add a little water and use that water to hand wash items like the hand towels.

Bath mats are a vector for foot rot and fungus and such and if they get soggy take awhile to dry, so one way to deal with this is to minimize your bathmat use by drying yourself off in the shower/ bathtub before you step out. If you start by wringing out the wash cloth you used to bathe with and then rubbing that over your limbs and torso it will gently take off any left over skin particles and remove water beading on you while you start the process of drip drying, and only then do you grab an actually dry towel and use that. Long hair has to be carefully drained very gently and then wrapped up in a towel so it won't dribble. If you do this before you step out onto the bathmat you can get away with no bathmat depending on your floor, or using only a small towel as a bathmat, which can then be washed with regular towels and replaced often. If your home is cold in the winter drying off before leaping from the warm water into a thick layer of terry cloth can require fortitude, but you can try solutions like sitting on the edge of the tub and drying your feet thoroughly and going from feet in the bottom of the tub to drying off straight into a pair of warm socks to avoid having to use a bathmat.

In some other cultures people hang their towels in their bedrooms rather than in bathrooms - this can prevent the fecal coliforms when the toilet is flushed concern, or the room mate who uses your clean bath towel as their dirty bathmat, and they dry faster than in the bathroom. You may want to think along those lines, if the basis of your problem is "can no longer store soiled dish clothes in laundry room...." the solution may simply be "Store small soiled laundry items in different room entirely" and if the problem is that you don't want an ugly plastic hamper in your hall/bedroom/etc it's a decorating problem which requires a closet, decorative screen, basket etc so that the alternative solution works with your big monthly laundromat run.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:28 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

This thing is the bomb. I used to use it in the bathtub for small loads when I lived in an apt without a washing machine.

Inspiration here.
posted by 6thsense at 4:29 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]

Do you mean you live with a roommate and you don't want to be the one who has to do the washing for the apartment yourself? Or is it a germ thing?

I have no problem throwing in napkins, hand towels, wipes, etc., in with my regular clothes. I also don't separate whites from darks either, so YMMV.

Get a few packs of 10 washcloths at Ikea, and use those for wipes around the house. Let them dry and then throw them in a bin to be washed later. They can sit around for at least a month if they're dry before being tossed in.

But when we wash our big bath towels, we try to purposely put all towels together in a load. So maybe just save your household towels up for when you are going to wash your own bath towel.

Regarding the bath mat - well, I don't use mine much, so I don't wash it much/ever. When I do, I just hose it off in the tub with some soap, and let it dry in the tub. The washing machine messes up the rubber backing anyway. (I just towel off before I get out of the shower and step onto a towel most of the time, so no bath mat needed.)
posted by hydra77 at 4:31 PM on June 13

I launder this stuff separately too. When I had no in-home laundry, I had a separate hamper for these things and washed them when there was a load's worth. It meant having more spare dishcloths than was probably efficient and sometimes I would fill a basin with hot, sudsy bleach-y water for washing out the dishcloths. All of my towels and sheets (even kitchen towels), I washed together. My rag towels for cleaning things, I washed with dishcloths and kept separated until there was enough for a load.
posted by crush at 4:32 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

Growing up, my mother washed the kitchen washcloths with the towels. Our towels always stunk of mildew when we used them after showering, even fresh out of the dryer. So, I highly, highly recommend not doing that. I figured it out later after moving out, and she washes washcloths separately by hand now, but she had to buy new towels because the stink was permanent on the old ones. I don't have to bring my own towels anymore.

1. Drop the kitchen washcloth and use a Scrub Daddy or similar scrub device that doesn't stay wet. Washcloths and sponges are gross.
2. Tea towel and bathroom hand towel get replaced frequently, hung to dry, then put in a pile until being washed with towels -- I use a small amount of bleach, but I'm a bit traumatized from the washcloths growing up. If these items are swapped every few days and allowed to dry after, they shouldn't build up enough mildew to stink.
3. If you use cloth napkins, they, like kitchen washcloths, should be washed separately and with bleach and detergent on the hottest temperature. If I did use them, I would either wash by hand in the sink or bucket, or dry, pile up, and wash when a load is ready. Significant residue should be rinsed off before drying.
4. Vacuum the bath mat. Mine's never been washed, but I dry myself in the shower first.

The point of the wooden bath mat is so you don't slip on the floor.

Also, depends on where you live. Arizona is warm and dry, so doesn't really matter what you do, but areas that get cold and wet or hot and really wet need the above steps.
posted by flimflam at 4:45 PM on June 13

Never occurred to me not to wash washcloths or towels with other laundry. It's...laundry? It's...being put in a machine specifically to clean it? If there was something truly disgusting, I might not put it in the hamper with used clothes, but that kind of disgusting would call for an immediate or nearly-immediate wash anyway, to avoid smells.

Never had a mildew smell problem. I use kitchen sponges that I microwave a couple times and then toss, though.
posted by praemunire at 5:10 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I have a small house (with W/D) but I use an 'alternative Wonderwasher' for those types of items if I feel the need. It also came in handy when my regular washer conked out and would take weeks for the fix-it man. It can hold up to 5lbs at a time. I got mine on Amazon. Maybe you could check that out.
posted by donaken at 5:22 PM on June 13

It's a germ thing, not a responsibility thing. Generally I'm not a germaphobe at all (I am always firmly in Camp Eat It), but the idea of putting a dish cloth that my roommate wiped his hands on after working with raw chicken in the same (cold) water as my underwear and then having that water swirl all over everything is gross to me. Maybe the water temp is the critical difference here between what you guys and I are doing. If I were washing in hot water it wouldn't feel quite as squicky, but nearly all my clothes are cold water wash.
posted by unannihilated at 5:40 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]

I was all my kitchen cloths separately in hot water. Same with the towels. Same with the rags. But I don't wash it all together. These are all separate.

I don't know how much space you have, but you could consider getting an all-in-one washer/dryer combo machine.
posted by shockpoppet at 5:52 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I wash all that stuff with my regular clothes and towels.

Likewise. I moved to an all-cotton bathmat and I wash it, my dishtowels, my clothes and my bath towels all together. Everyone's got their own tolerance levels for grossness but mine are low and it makes stuff like this a lot easier.
posted by jessamyn at 6:32 PM on June 13

We wash all the household towels (kitchen and bath) together on warm or hot, separate from clothing (which we generally do on cold). For towels we make sure we own enough to keep drying things while a washer-load's worth accumulates in the hamper; the bathmat gets chucked in when it needs it.
posted by Lexica at 6:50 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]

I wash rags, kitchen rags, bathmats, shower curtain, handtowels, etc in with my clothes with cold water and hippie laundry powder. They've always come out clean. Try it, if you are still squicked out then buy more of the offensive item so you can rotate them out more frequently m.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:20 AM on June 14

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