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24 'Hacks' That Can Make It Easier to Do Laundry With Chronic Illness

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Laundry can be a real pain – between sorting, carrying heavy loads, bending over repeatedly, making trips to and from the washer/dryer, hanging, folding and putting clothes away… it can be a time- and energy-consuming process for even the healthiest of people.

So when you live with a chronic illness that causes extreme pain and fatigue, trying to accomplish this process can feel like running a marathon you didn’t train for some days.

To help make laundry more doable for those who are struggling, we asked our Mighty community to share their “hacks” for doing laundry with a chronic illness. These tips can make the process easier whether you’re sick or healthy, but remember: even if you’re not feeling up to doing laundry at all, that’s OK. You are a warrior, no matter how full your laundry baskets are.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. Leave the washing machine lid open so you can put everything in as you go instead of having to put it in a hamper and then transfer. I don’t even bother separating anything anymore.” – Savannah E.
  2. Tide pods! I know, I know, haha. But when you have to go downstairs to do laundry and you walk with a cane, only taking one pod (instead of a heavy bottle or box) helps.” – Cherry T.
  3. Little and often. I’ll do small loads throughout week to keep it down. I get my partner to do the bedding one or twice a week depending.” – Danny C.
  4. I have a ‘grabber’ to pick up laundry so I don’t have to keep bending over. My next house will have a dressing room next to the washer and dryer, so all clothes should be contained. I’m only halfway kidding.” – Josie V.
  5. This might sound odd. I sort my dirty laundry into two baskets. One is pants and the other is tops and socks and underwear. It makes folding a lot easier when the load comes out of the dryer.” – Rebecca M.
  6. I have a rolling laundry sorter cart which helps in two ways: first, it eliminates the need to sort which was always a hurdle for me (my cart has three (large) bags/sections but you can get sorters with two to five sections). I just assign a load type to each bag and put dirty items in the appropriate bag as I go. Second, wheeling it around is much preferred to laundry baskets. It has made such a difference! I’m lax about folding and putting away, and I literally can’t remember the last time I ironed, but my life is all about doing the bare minimum now.” – Danielle D.
  7. I started sending the laundry out. I realized it was only $3 to 5 more than doing it myself, plus they fold everything for you so all I have to do is put it away. They even do pick up/drop off which was really helpful after surgery when I couldn’t lift or bend.” – Jill F.
  8. I have plastic totes that I use as my laundry baskets. They are taller than laundry baskets and have long handles. I find them easier to carry up and down stairs than regular laundry basket. I use our full-size reusable shopping bags as lightweight laundry baskets while on vacation, especially when laundry is not in the condo/room.” – Annette Y.
  9. I live in an apartment. I have to walk a block to machines, so I got a hamper with an over-the-shoulder strap, and a hamper on wheels. I also put [the] hamper on my walker – all helps so much.” – Cheryl L.
  10. Hire a housekeeper to fold and put the laundry away. I have also dropped larger items like comforters at the dry cleaners. This way I can still wash my laundry but the hard part for my arthritic hands I get some help with. Picking and choosing my battles has helped me learn how to manage several household tasks.” – Janine T.
  11. I use very little detergent and am now only able to use detergent safe for babies. I then set an extra rinse. Once the first cycle is done I start a second cycle that is only rinse and spin, I then add an extra rinse to that cycle as well. Only after my clothes have been washed once and rinsed three times can I then touch them to transfer them to the dryer. I have MCAS [mast cell activation syndrome] and have extreme skin sensitivities to most soaps and all detergents.” – Stacey G.
  12. Just remember it doesn’t all have to be done in a day. I usually run all the laundry on Saturday, but fold on Sunday. Depending on how I feel, I will put it away on Sunday too, but sometimes that waits several days.” – Katie N.M.
  13. Having the washing machine a little bit high so I don’t have to bend a lot. For ‘everyday clothing’ I use a setting where the clothes come out very dry. Also I dry my clothes on a folding clothes line inside [my] home so I don’t have to stay in weird positions or raise [my] arms. Besides, I have a lot of clothes so I never run [out of] clean clothing when I can’t do laundry, and for clothing items that are still OK I use a clothing refresher.” – Nieves D.
  14. No more ironing! I use wrinkle releaser sprays for items that need to look crisp, and they work beautifully!” – Sara L.J.
  15. I have my hubby carry the baskets down. I sit on the floor to load the washer. Smaller bottles of soap and softener are easier to handle. He helps me hang everything and carries it back upstairs.” – Johnna C.C.
  16. Getting a step stool to sit on while folding it out of the dryer into a basket, and my fiancé puts it away. Using a grabber to grab things out of the washer to put into the dryer. Having a reward for standing and bending so much since it puts me in so much pain, I do it early in the morning and reward myself with an hour relax time or nap!” – Camara B.
  17. I buy only dark clothes. Black gray and navy so I don’t have to sort my laundry. I leave my washing machine open and throw my dirty clothes in until there is a full load to run.” – Anna M.
  18. “I bring hangers with me and hang items as soon as they are out of the dryer. So much easier than folding, then hanging. At least it saves me a step, and doesn’t waste spoons.” – Annie M.
  19. If it’s not machine-washable, it’s not the garment for me! Which means missing out on some really cute stuff. But who has energy/money for dry cleaning these days…” – Erica R.
  20. The laundromat. They have waist-high big folding tables, rolling carts, front-facing machines and dryers at different height levels. And you can usually wash and dry everything at once so it gets done much faster. Or if you can’t do that use cold water, you can mix all your colors so no sorting, it’s easier on the bills, and it’s usually easier on delicates!” – Morgan V.
  21. I tied a belt to the laundry basket so that I can just drag it down the stairs, but then I need help from my son or boyfriend to get it back up the stairs. They also help with putting it in the washer and dryer. I’m working on training a service dog to help me so that I don’t have to rely on them so much.” – Jen D.
  22. Give up on folding. Use hangers and those stackable hanger systems so all you have to do is hang it up. Undies and socks can go in a drawer. Easy peasy. Less shoulder pain.” – Jenn B.
  23. Make sure I’ve got the TV on or some music on to keep me motivated on doing it.” – Tiffany L.
  24. Not wearing clothing unless necessary…?” – Ami C.
Originally published: March 21, 2018
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