17. Laundry

How do I wash and dry my clothes and linen?

How can I make sure I always have clean clothes?

How you choose to dress makes a statement about the type of person you are. First impressions count. Dressing in a neat and presentable manner means clean clothes are a must. If you look well groomed and smell fresh, others will respond to this positively.

What to do

To make sure you always have clean clothes available, follow these hints:

• Put all dirty washing into a dirty washing basket as soon as you take it off. The dirty washing basket may be in your bedroom or bathroom or laundry. By keeping it all together you know when you have enough to do a load of washing.

• Timetable doing laundry into your week. You should wash clothes twice a week depending on how much you wear.

Helpful hints

To keep your clothes looking new, it is important to separate clothes before washing. Clothes can be separated into:

  • white and light coloured clothing
  • colours
  • dark and black clothing

Each set of colours should be washed separately.

Each item of clothing should be washed according to the instructions on the garment. For example, some may say hand wash, whereas another may say machine wash. You should follow these instructions to prevent your clothes becoming damaged. For example, they may shrink.

How often should I wash my bed linen, bath towels and tea towels?

Tea towels and bath towels should be washed each week. If these aren't washed regularly they become unhygienic and dirty, spreading germs.

Bed linen, sheets and pillow cases should be washed at least every fortnight.

To remember when to wash bed linen and towels it is useful to mark on a calendar or in your diary when to wash. You can then keep track of when you need to do it.

Gemma's experience

Gemma places a big "W" on her calendar when it is time to wash the larger items like sheets and linen.


A. What washing machine is best for me?

Helpful hints

These days there are different kinds of washing machines. There are top loading machines or side loading machines. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The one you pick will depend upon what is best for you. The best way to select a machine is to visit a showroom and pretend to use the different models. Look at the ones that have simple instructions, and the least number of steps to operate. It is useful to have someone go with you to purchase a washing machine.

The top loading washing machine is good if you can stand with good balance. The side loading machine is good if you require a wheelchair or need to sit to load or empty the machine. The door on the side allows better access.

B. What steps do I follow to make the washing machine operate?

To remember the different steps to make your washing machine operate, develop a checklist. The following points are general steps to follow:

What to do

• Load sorted washing into the machine.

• Identify how full the load is. Whether it is full or half full or quarter full.

• Identify the correct amount of washing powder and put it in the washing machine.

• Shut the washing machine lid.

• By looking at the washing machine controls:

   Identify the load size and alter the load control accordingly
   Identify the water temperature- and switch to cold water.
   Identify the type of wash cycle required and alter the control. This maybe:
         Heavy Duty

• Press start.

• Note the time it started and check every half hour to see if the cycle has finished. You can then prepare your clothes for drying


Drying clothes can be a problem. What are the options?

Remembering to wash the clothes is only half the task. Getting them dry is another issue in itself. There are a few options for drying clothes.

Clothes Line

OPTION 1: Using the Clothes Line

This is one of the most environmentally friendly and cheaper options! To help get the clothes from the washing machine to the clothes line a washing basket and trolley can be used. You can then push the washing to the clothes line.

The clothes line is great for drying sheets, tablecloths, towels and bigger clothing, like jeans, jumpers and sloppy joes.

A concrete level path connecting the backdoor to the clothes line, makes pushing the trolley much easier. If you can carry the washing basket to the clothes line, save your back by purchasing a washing basket holder that attaches at waist height to your clothes line. Having a peg holder on your clothes line or attached to your basket or trolley means your pegs are where you need them.

Hanging clothes on the clothes line is not always the answer. It may be difficult if you have unsteady balance, weakness or increased muscle tightness in either your arms or legs. If you have had a fracture in your shoulder, you may find it difficult to reach your hands up sufficiently high enough to hang the clothes. If you can use only one arm to help you, you may find it difficult to hang the clothing and peg it on using one hand.

OPTION 2: Using the Clothes airer

If you do have difficulty either reaching the clothes line or transporting the clothes in a basket from inside to the outside line, a clothes airer may be an option. These are useful if you live in a unit or a small home where there is not enough room for a clothes line. They are also cheap to buy.

A clothes airer can be erected both inside or outside. This makes it good if it is wet outside. It is a mini clothes line and is still environmentally friendly. It is best used for clothing and underwear, tea towels and small bath towels. The clothes don't usually need to be pegged on.

The clothes airer is at a height that allows you to be seated when hanging the clothes. This is great if you are in a wheelchair or if you need to be seated as it enables you to maintain your balance and not have to lift your arms above your shoulders.

A clothes airer can be placed near a heater in wet weather. It mustn't be placed too close or it will pose a safety concern and fire hazard. The clothes airer does have limitations. Clothes airers are normally small and do not let you hang a lot of clothes at once. They are not suitable for hanging sheets or large linen and if there are a lot of clothes it can take a long time to dry.

OPTION 3: The Electric Clothes Dryer.

This option is less environmentally friendly and uses a lot of power, which increases your electricity expense. It is useful when it is raining outside and if you need something to dry in a hurry.

Remember, not everything is able to go in a clothes dryer. Make sure you look carefully at the washing and drying instructions on the clothes label.

Helpful hints

There are many brands of dryers. All are side loading and are able to be mounted on a wall or allowed to stand on the floor. When selecting your clothes dryer it is best to visit a showroom to see the different models available. Look at which ones have the simplest instructions, and the least number of steps to operate. It is useful to have someone go with you to purchase a clothes dryer.

When mounted on a wall, the clothes dryer is at eye level and allows people to remove and load clothes without having to bend over. This is good for people who do not have any problem walking around.

The floor standing clothes dryer is good for people who need to sit to reach into the dryer. If you are unsteady on your feet or have restricted movement in any of your limbs and you are prepared to sit, the floor clothes dryer is the safer option.

Finishing off

No matter how you choose to dry your clothes, another hard part is remembering to bring them in, fold them and put them away or iron them. Keeping up to date with the washing and drying of clothes is important. If clothes stay damp they can smell and you will have to rewash them. If you don't keep up with your washing and drying you will have no clothes to wear! Washing and drying of clothes needs to be timetabled into your weekly timetable so whatever you want to wear will be ready whenever you need it. Section B Number 12 Managing Your Time, will enable you to timetable your washing into your week.

Gemma and Brenda's experience

Gemma and Brenda had chosen to move into their own homes. Gemma had no physical problems, however, Brenda was in a wheelchair. The occupational therapist took them both to Harvey Norman to purchase a washing machine and dryer each. Gemma was moving into a unit and Brenda was moving into a house with a small backyard. Gemma chose to purchase a top loading washing machine as she became dizzy leaning over to load and unload the front loading machine. Brenda on the other hand, purchased a front loading machine as it was easier to load and unload. As Brenda had a backyard she purchased a clothes airer to dry her clothes on. Gemma purchased a clothes dryer that could be wall mounted to save space in her laundry.

Both Gemma and Brenda had different needs. It took some time but both of them got exactly what was best for each of them.



How do I iron?

The first thing you will need to do is get an ironing board and an iron. Ironing can be a drag when you have a whole basket to do. The secret is to keep up to date and only iron what you have to. Ironing sheets, tea towels and pyjamas may not be a priority.

Helpful hints

Standing is the most common way to iron. This is fine if you have no difficulty standing and you can stand for a long period of time.

You can also iron sitting down. It is one way to make ironing easier. It takes some practice though. At first it can seem unnatural. However, some people find it works for them.

here are many different irons available. Some are lightweight. These ones are good if you have weak arm strength. Some irons have automatic turn off. These ones are good if you have problems forgetting to turn it off or you find you get distracted from ironing.

Gemma's experience

Gemma reported having difficulty keeping her clean clothes separate to her dirty clothes. Once Gemma put all her dirty clothes in a dirty washing basket, she kept her clean clothes on a chair in her room. Gemma hated ironing and she said the pile of clean clothes for ironing kept getting bigger. The pile became so big Gemma asked the occupational therapist for some help. Together they worked out Gemma didn't make any time for ironing. So they added this to her weekly timetable. Three one hour sessions were made. Gemma found she became tired after standing for fifteen minutes of ironing, so decided to sit for the next fifteen. She then decided to stand for fifteen and then sit. When Gemma had set this time aside in her timetable (she decided to do her ironing when she was watching her favourite television show) she rarely had a problem with keeping her ironing under control.

Who can help me with my laundry and ironing?

The occupational therapist at your local Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit will be able to help you develop checklists to independently perform your washing and ironing .

If you continue to have difficulty doing your laundry or ironing, some useful contacts include:

  • Home Care New South Wales who provide a fee-for-service.
  • The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit who can assist you to locate another fee-for-service or no-fee-for-service program.