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How to Teach a Teen to Do Their Own Laundry (and Why It's Important)

Denise is a psychiatric nurse. She is passionate about writing, photography, travel, cooking, holistic health, adventure, and family.

Why Your Teen Should Know How to Do Their Own Laundry

Do you remember when you first lived on your own? One of the first things you most likely faced was doing laundry. Unless you grew up with a mother who encouraged you to learn this task while at home, you were on your own to figure it out.

In my home, my mother did not want any of her children to do their own laundry. It wasn’t so much the idea that she was devoted to her six kids, as it was the fear that we would break her washer and that would have been a greater inconvenience for her than to teach us how to do it.

I’m now raising my teen nephew, and it occurred to me early on that he will need to learn many things before he is ready to be on his own. As his ‘parent,’ my job is to teach him these skills so he is prepared before he graduates from school. Unlike my own mother, I am unafraid of what he could possibly do to my washer or his clothes in the learning process.

Parents, my plea to you is to allow your child to transition into the role of a young adult through measures of success in the home. Letting go is an act of love, and independence is a sign of good parenting.

Important Points to Keep in Mind

First, know that your child will make mistakes in the process of learning. Some of those mistakes may seem like they are great blunders. But, remember that we all had to start somewhere and we all made similar mistakes. Having a good memory in times of ruined clothing is a gift of kindness you can give to your teen.

Second, know that your child will need to practice that skill so don’t expect to teach and then take it away. Also, don’t allow your resistant child to manipulate into you taking over for him. If he does not get clean underwear washed don’t make it easy on him and run out to buy him new ones. Rescuing a child from the discomfort of their poor planning does them a disservice.

Third, be clear about your expectations, both for your own peace of mind and for the consistency of your child’s routine. If you tell your daughter that she will be responsible for her laundry, but you will continue to wash her sheets and towels used, then stick to that agreement. Set a day of the week aside in which the machines are hers to use without you interfering; give clear consequences if the laundry is not completed.

Fourth, trust your child with your appliances. There is a different learning curve for everyone, and what one child picks up quickly, another may struggle with. But, trusting your teen to get the job done properly is an important step in easing them into the role of the adult.

How to Do Laundry in 10 Easy Steps

  1. Sort clothes: dark colors; whites; permanent press; delicates; jeans; etc.
  2. Check labels for special washing instructions; if in doubt wash in cold water.
  3. Check all pockets for items left; check a second time as they go into the washer.
  4. Load washer in a manner to allow proper balance alignment when on the spin cycle.
  5. Select proper water temperature and level and start the machine.
  6. Add the right amount of detergent for the level.
  7. Add softener as needed, if desired.
  8. When the wash cycle has ended check labels for proper drying instructions
  9. Place clothes in the dryer or hang up to dry.
  10. Select temperature control; check and empty the lint collector; start the machine.

Common Laundry Mistakes

  • Not checking the pockets is probably the number one mistake when doing laundry. I still remember the time my youngest daughter left a tube of her favorite Raven Red lipstick in the pocket of her beige shorts. Everything (and I emphasize everything) in that load came out with splotches of red here and there. It was all damaged and a difficult lesson learned.
  • Second to the pocket problem is not checking labels. It is a common problem that still happens to me on occasion. My favorite memory of the shrinkage dilemma occurred shortly after I was remarried. My husband, a big bear of a guy, had a favorite wool sweater he loved. One afternoon, I pulled out the laundry and to my chagrin, discovered I had inadvertently washed it with the other clothes. It was the size that would fit a stuffed bear, which is exactly what the girls used it for afterward.

What Is the Right Age?

One of the questions that parents frequently have is: what is the right age for a child to learn to do laundry? The answer is that each child is an individual and their readiness and interest will depend on that. Our task as parents isn’t to burden our children with jobs we don’t want to do; pushing them into a role before they are ready. Our job is to teach and guide.

My children began to do their own laundry when I returned to work full time. It was a choice for them in exchange for the extra income, to help out by doing their own clothes. They were ten and twelve. That may seem far too young to many readers, but it worked for our family, and that is what you have to take into consideration.

Good luck and happy parenting. It is a wonderful learning experience that can build the confidence of your teen.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on September 28, 2011:

Hi mcleodgi-nice to meet you and thanks for sharing your family experience. It is nice to know that not all of us live with those same beliefs now, isn't it. LOL

As much as my nephew probably wishes he had maid service one day he will (hopefully) live on his own...

Ginny McLeod from Overland Park on September 28, 2011:

I think you're absolutely on the mark. My paternal grandmother was raised in the Victorian British culture. My great-grandmother would not even allow her or her sisters in the kitchen while she cooked though fortunately, my grandmother took some cooking classes in school. My grandmother did the same thing to my father, it was back in the time when only girls were allowed to take the cooking classes and only guys were allowed to take the wood shop classes. As a result, my father still doesn't know how to cook much of anything but soup and spaghetti and he eats out a lot.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on May 14, 2011:

LOL you're funny. Glad it helped. :)

Amy D. from Mostly in My Own Little World on May 14, 2011:

YESSS!! Voted Up and voted useful 10 times....only the first one took though. Hmm. :) I just printed out your little how to list and enlarged it. Gonna hang it my laundry room. I have taught my boys some...but I'm a little like your mother about my appliances. I just got a new set and the washer just takes all the guess work out of everything so I'm going to start all over again with my boys. 6 peoples' laundry is a little much for me to handle on my own anyway lol.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on January 24, 2011:

Hi Rich, thanks for your comments. I almost added the tissue check to this hub, but left it to the 'check pockets'. But, I do know what you mean. I've had that mess a time or two!

richtwf on January 24, 2011:

A very useful hub this one. One of the practical skills of life which we must all learn.

I remember doing laundry duties in my early years and then when I joined the Naval reserves I learnt how to iron properly and once I joined the Navy I practised the hard graft of hand-washing everything! Those basic life skills have held me in good stead and certainly put to good use as a volunteer in Africa and Central America. A reason for everything that we learn in life!

One thing I always do before putting in any wash is to check that there is no tissue sandwiched anywhere - What a nightmare that can be!

Great hub Denise and thanks for sharing. God bless.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on January 23, 2011:

Munirahmadmughal-thank you for your comments and feedback. Lovely words reminding us about Truth of living and Being. Thank you for visiting my hub and for the vote up. Blessings to you as well.

munirahmadmughal from Lahore, Pakistan. on January 23, 2011:

"Practical Living Skills Guiding Your Teen toward Independence How to do Laundry".

The hub is full of information, full of education and full of personal experience. It is wonderful and merits "up".

The zeal and zest with which the writer has written this hub is commendable.

Teaching an art or skill to a Teen is onething and to create a sense of feeling independent is an other which of great value and significance.

Washing clothes and washing own body and washing many other things are all daily needs, may be less in degree or more.

This is a step towards removing the pollution in any form and bringing the purity at all costs.

Pollution is of many kinds and man dimensions, external as well as internal. Falsehood is a pollution. Truthfulness is a purity. Dishonesty is pollution honesty is purity. To help the poor and the needy or the deprived in any sense is purity and to deny a helping hand despite being available is a pollution. To behave politely and respectfully wherby dignity of mankind is maintained is a purity while using harsh and uncalled for language is a pollution.

Generosity is a purity while miserliness is a pollution.

Fixing priorities keeping i view the economic principles and budgetry rules is purity and extravagance and wasting money and wealth without any rhyme and reason is pollution.

The hub is excellent by all standards.

May God bless all.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on January 23, 2011:

Hi Tim-nice to see you. I agree, the end result is confidence and self esteem. It is so important and most parents must believe that they get it thru osmosis. Thanks for your comments. :)

Tim Nichol from Me to You on January 23, 2011:

Hi Denise. really does start with the parents. So many young people these days don't seem to have a clue how to do laundry or cook anything beyond Kraft dinner. It seems as though they've been pampered the whole time.

I learned many domestic chores along the way. Not only does it allow a certain independence, it builds a good bit of self-esteem as well. I would consider such things essential life knowledge.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on January 23, 2011:

Danette, thanks for the vote up and sharing your experience. What a disadvantage. My learning experience was the summer following H.S. when I left for a 3 month job on Mackinac Island. I did the same thing, and the other girls in the dorm had to teach me. Talk with you later. :)

Danette Watt from Illinois on January 23, 2011:

oh yeah, and I'm voting this thumbs up - useful

Danette Watt from Illinois on January 23, 2011:

I remember my first laundry day in boot camp. I looked at the washer and said to the woman next to me, "What do I do?" I vowed then and there that if I ever had children, I would teach them the life skills necessary to be on their own, including doing laundry.

When I first told my older son that I was taking my cue from the mother of a boy he knew and that come middle school he would be doing his own laundry, he howled! He was so mad at me at first. Then, he went off to college and realized what an advantage he had over some of the other students he knew.

That and being able to cook basic meals, and now he is a great cook.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on January 23, 2011:

LOL that is funny! Thanks for the comments. It does start with the parents, doesn't it. If we do it all and then c/0 that as teens, we are doing it all...well, I guess we have only ourselves to blame for that monster. That's great that the children help at such a young age already. Team work! :)

cardelean from Michigan on January 23, 2011:

Great hub on independence. As a teacher I find all too often that my students want me to do EVERYTHING for them. In fact one year I had a student, 8 years old, ask me to wash his glasses for him. I very politely told him no but that the sink was over there and that he was more than welcomed to head over there to clean them. He looked at me stunned, went home and told his mom and then next morning I was greeted with a phone call from an irate parent asking why I didn't clean his glasses. Building independce is such an important life skill. My daughter just turned 4 but I already have planned that when she turns 5 I will teach her to do her own laundry, and maybe her little brothers. Just kidding, but my kids do take their clothes to the laudnry room now which is the early stages of building that independece. Great hub.