It’s a simple math problem:
If the average American family produces between eight and 10 loads of laundry each week, and each one takes around 90 minutes to complete, how many hours are spinning away in the laundry room?
If you came up with 12 to 15 hours, you’d be correct, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Yes, keeping up with the laundry can seem like a never-ending cycle in many households, but there are ways to make the job more efficient and orderly.
NO NEED TO AIR DIRTY LAUNDRY
With so much time spent doing the task, it’s no wonder modern laundry rooms are morphing into control centers where everything is within arm’s reach.
But that doesn’t mean you need to show off this back-of-the-house operation. It’s better to rely on your organization skills, an artistic eye and a ruthless aim to contain the clothes piles.
Most laundry rooms need a place to store the products we depend on for keeping things clean, including detergents and spray bottles. Cabinets and shelves are a wise choice because they use the vertical space above and around the appliances. Cabinets also give the room a cleaner look.
“Cabinets give you a place to store items that may not look good to be exposed,” said interior designer Amanda Patton Swaringen, of Carolina Design Associates in Charlotte, N.C.
In addition to cabinets and shelves, fabric curtains also can be used to conceal the less glamorous aspects of a laundry operation. And curtains bring in color and a soft touch that complements the hard surfaces on cabinets.
At a home in South Charlotte, Swaringen fashioned a heavy drapery not only to conceal the pipes under the sink, but also to hide laundry that’s waiting to be tossed into the wash.
“There’s room for two big baskets under there,” Swaringen said. “The drapery actually slides one direction or the other direction, so it’s all one big piece.”
SORT LIKE A BOSS
When it comes to laundry, you don’t need to do it all alone. Delegate. Give every family member his or her own laundry bag and instructions to deliver the contents to the laundry room. Brass grommets on the back of Pottery Barn’s Canvas Hanging Hamper allow you to hang the bags to save space. $69 at potterybarn.com.
Most any baskets will do, but you can also find rolling carts that are made for hauling textiles. Restoration Hardware’s canvas Laundry Carts with steel and rubber frames are manufactured in America. $129-$229 at restorationhardware.com.
CLEVER SPACE MAKERS
In many homes, the space between the washer and dryer is considered the crevice of lost socks. There are more practical uses for what can amount to precious inches of storage space, especially in smaller living quarters. Pull-out shelves are a solution that can give you access to the depth of space between your appliances. Fashion your own setup, or choose a ready-made device such as the Venture Horizon Laundry Caddy. It gives you a place to stash laundry detergents, fabric softeners and other items. $50 at wayfair.com.
It’s smart to have a place nearby to hang those freshly ironed clothes and no-iron items as they come out of the dryer. Even better if you can accomplish that while economizing on space. The InstaHANGER might look like a lightweight at first glance because of the built-in photo frames for pictures of your kids, pets or favorite vacation memories. Actually, it holds up to 50 pounds, including wet swimsuits or winter coats. $45 at Instahanger.com.
FOLD AND PRESS
An ironing board is a must for most families, but Swaringen suggests many households can do fine with a compact version that folds into the wall. “We do a lot of fold-down ironing boards,” she said. “You can run electrical to them, so you can plug everything in that wall.”
The Style Selections Wall-Mount Hideaway Ironing Board has an interior shelf for storing your iron and starch above the swiveling ironing board. The door on the recessed unit can be mounted on the left or the right. Close the cabinet door to keep up the room’s tidy look. $160 at lowes.com.
Want an ironing board that pulls double duty? The Wood Wicker Ironing Board Center with Baskets is a full-size ironing board that folds down on both ends for storage. Use its middle section to fold clothes. Four fabric-matching baskets can catch all the odds and ends you need to keep handy. $100 at hayneedle.com.
PUT IT WHERE?
Here’s where most new-home buyers would prefer to have their laundry rooms, according to the National Association of Home Builders:
37 percent prefer them near the bedrooms.
20 percent like a laundry room close to the kitchen.
17 percent would rather wash and dry in the basement.
12 percent would keep their laundry machines in the garage.
This post originally appeared on ChicagoTribune.com on June 2, 2014.