How to Teach Your Children to Do Laundry

Parents start out doing everything for their kids and it's easy to forget that at some point those children have to learn how to do it all themselves. If they're ever going to be responsible adults, kids need to learn how to do laundry. It's even better if they learn it young and can practice and help while they're at home - long before they really have to do it for themselves.


  1. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 1
    Start them young. Most 5-year-olds with a step stool can reach a top-loading washing machine. Have them assist you with each step and explain why you do the things you do. They will slowly learn the process for themselves. A 7- or 8-year-old child should be able to complete this training in a couple of months and be doing laundry with little or no supervision. Preteens may be thrilled that you're giving them some responsibility. Laundry-inept teenagers will probably require more discussion before they agree to participate, but they may also enjoy the freedom of taking care of their own clothes (and avoiding Dad's raised eyebrows over their thong underwear in the family wash.)
  2. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 2
    Create a child-friendly washing area. See "Things You'll Need", below. Organize your laundry products where the child can reach and use them, but where they are still up and away from any younger children.
  3. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 3
    Teach them how to sort dirty laundry. Have the child help sort out whites, darks, colors, bedding, towels, etc. As you do so, explain that different colors and types of laundry are separated and washed in different water temperatures or require additional products to help clean them the best way. You will likely have to repeat these instructions many times before it all starts to make sense to a younger child. Over time, teach these additional preparation skills:
    • Checking pockets for forgotten items
    • Reading the care label of each unfamiliar garment before washing
    • Turning printed shirts (such as T-shirts) inside out to prevent unnecessary wear on the printing
    • Recognizing when they have an appropriate-size load of laundry - not too little, not too much
    • Recognizing items that should not go in the washing machine, such as dry-clean-only or hand-wash-only items.
  4. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 4
    Teach them how to use the washing machine. Show them the various controls and explain how they work. Washing machines can be complex, but most people only use a few of the functions on a regular basis, so start simply with a normal wash cycle. Have the child push the buttons and turn the knobs on the machine. They will feel empowered by their new found ability to control this big machine! Over time, teach the following additional washing machine skills:
    • When, where, and how to put in the detergent and the laundry, itself
    • Loading the laundry evenly so the washer remains balanced
    • When to use hot, warm, or cold water
    • How to use a stain-stick or pre-wash agent
    • When, where, and how to use fabric softener in a washer
    • How to make a quick wipe around the opening/top each time to remove any spilled laundry products.
  5. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 5
    Teach them how to use the dryer. Show your child where the lint-catcher is, and how to check and clean it out before they start adding damp laundry to the dryer. Oddly enough, this is often a favorite task for kids! Then teach them how to remove the laundry a few pieces at a time, shake them out to remove all washer-induced twisting, and place them in the dryer. This can be quite an exercise for younger children who have to repeatedly climb up and down a step stool! Over time, teach them:
    • To examine the damp laundry and recognize items that shouldn't go in the dryer
    • Which dryer cycles to use for different types of laundry
    • The correct direction to turn the knobs (might save you a $60 repair bill).
  6. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 6
    Teach them how to wash items by hand. Show them:
    • How much water to use in a washbasin
    • How to add detergent
    • How to scrub out stains
    • How to squeeze excess water from hand washed items (the toughest part).
  7. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 7
    Teach how to hang or lay laundry flat to dry. An accordion-style, folding drying rack is a great tool for younger children who aren't tall enough to reach a clothesline. Show them how to reshape and lay out sweaters and other air-dry items so that the air can reach all sides and dry them quickly.
  8. Image titled Teach Your Children to Do Laundry Step 8
    Teach how to fold and put away the clean laundry. Do it with them and over time teach:
    • Matching and folding socks together
    • Turning clothing right-side-out
    • Folding shirts, sweaters, and pants neatly
    • Hanging dresses, blouses, dress shirts and dress pants
    • Folding towels and bedding


  • Even after younger kids think they can do it all on their own, be a silent observer for at least a couple of weeks. Inevitably there will be situations that you forgot to mention, and you will be grateful for the opportunity to teach those odds and ends.
  • Don't depend on your kids to do all the laundry all the time. While it may be nice for you to never have to do the laundry, they will eventually notice that you never do it anymore.
  • Don't nag older children and teenagers to help with the laundry. Sit down and talk with them about why you're doing this (it's your job to teach them, and their job to help the home run more smoothly while they live there.) If you listen to their concerns and explain your own, reasonable teens should at least agree to learn this important life skill - even if they don't end up helping out much.
  • If your kid is overwhelmed by this process, have them start at the end of the process and have them do just the last step. Then work backwards and keep adding one step until they are doing it all.
  • Making a rule that says "the person who does the laundry gets to keep anything (including change) found in pockets" is a good incentive.
  • When they wash by hand, give them dishwashing gloves to protect their hands.
  • Multi-task so that laundry has minimal impact on their life. Load washing machine and start laundry before going to school (5 min). By the time they get home from school, the laundry will be ready to be transferred to the dryer (5 min). After another hour, they can come back, fold, and put away their clothes (15 min). Total time < 30 minutes.


  • Don't expect a young child to carry a full laundry basket up or down stairs. Even preteens can have a difficult time with this, as can adults. It's better for you to carry it down the stairs than to overhear your child telling the emergency room worker: "Mom made me carry this humongous load of laundry down the stairs," after they've fallen and broken their leg.
  • Some kids will want to start a lint collection with all the lint they collect from the dryer. Good luck talking them out of it.
  • No matter how well you teach your children, expect accidents to happen. Expect sweaters to become doll clothes because your ten-year-old forgot to check before they tossed them in the dryer. Expect someone's red socks to co-mingle with the whites and turn every piece of underwear he or she owns a delicate pink. It can be best, for your own peace of mind, to keep a close eye on any special-occasion, dry-clean-only, or sentimentally valued articles.

Things You'll Need

  • A few laundry baskets that will hold approximately one wash load's-worth of laundry
  • Scoops, cups, or individual packets (zipper bags) that your child can easily manipulate to add laundry products
  • Rubber dishwashing gloves
  • "Laundry wipe" (an old washcloth or rag) to wipe up spills
  • Folding drying rack
  • Plastic hangers or clothespins
  • Detergent, dryer sheets, and whatever else you use to clean laundry
  • A washer and dryer

Article Info

Categories: Teaching Children to Do Chores