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How to get your Teenager to do the Laundry

Updated on July 16, 2011

Sniff Testing and Clothes Rotation

This is a system that is somehow transferred between teens and is widely used. This is not to be confused with personal hygiene. With personal hygiene teens are way ahead of the curve and will stay in the shower until the hot water is gone.

When it comes to clothes though, the following system is used:

If you have a hole in your sock, you don't throw it away or sew it. What you need to do is find two socks that look similar but the holes are in different places and wear two socks. That is better for basketball and skateboarding anyway because it protects the feet and soaks up oh so much more sweat and grime.

Underwear usually are not that dirty. You put them on right after a shower so they smell like Irish Spring. Most underwear are good for at least two outings if you turn them inside out. You just take a long hot shower and then you AXE them. You smell manly.

Shirts are made to be worn in layers. That bottom layer is meant to soak up all the sweat and dead skin cells. That shirt can be good for at least two outings and the outer shirt never has to be washed if you don't spill chili on it. As a matter of fact, the inner shirt is worn just to protect the outer layers. If three layers or more are worn, then the innermost layer may be discarded and a substitute used. Sometimes when all shirts normally reserved for the inner layer are completely used up an outer layer must be used. This should be reserved for emergencies only. Usually the best combination of 2nd and 3rd layers should be left together. If you separate them, you might not be able to find them again in the pile. The inner layer can be pealed off easily and replaced.

The first layer wear rotations can be extended if the correct deodorant is used. This has to be chosen carefully. The teen needs to find out what deodorant other teens are using and use that. Never use a white stick or powder based deodorant that leaves a residue. Only something that can't be seen and has a masking scent. Nothing that can be seen on the bare armpit.

The second layer can always be extended by using Axe and a good airing. If the cat has been sleeping on any of the layers, then the layer may have lost its expected rotation life.

Piles of dirty clothes may be used quite a few times if they pass the sniff test. The sniff test is comprised of selecting an item from the pile, checking it for stains, holes and worn spots are desirable, and then sniffing the most likely offending parts of the item, like the arm pits of the shirts, etc. If no offending odor can be detected, then the shirt can be worn.

If the shirt has an odor then it should be sprayed with a good body spray or a couple drops of cologne and thrown back in the pile. It might pass the next time.

A teen with plenty of clothes can actually last quite a long time without washing his/her clothes.

At some point clean clothes will be needed. You will know it is time when you hear one of these two statements:

"Hey mom, could you wash my white shirt?" or, "Did you wash any of my boxers?"

This is the time to be vigilant, this may be a teaching moment and you must not miss it.

Show all your cards

This is the time for all out honesty and no game playing. Make sure the teen knows what your expectations are and that you will be able to follow through on them.

You need to say something like this: "I expect you to start doing your own laundry. This laundry basket is for you. If you would like some instructions or help to get you started, I would love to help. But as of this moment, I expect you to take care of your own laundry."

At this point, the teen may wish to argue. Remember the outcomes for arguing with a teenager? It is very important to not argue at this point.

Even if the teenager does not want to wash his/her own clothes, and they don't want any help, a set of basic rules is needed to provide guidance and support. Have your guidelines ready to post near the washer.

Here are some helpful guidelines for doing laundry:

You may load the washer with a normal load which is around 3 pairs of jeans and three T-Shirts, and socks and underwear.

You may use 1/4 cup of laundry detergent for each load. Please use the measuring cup provided..

Some things wash better together than other things. White clothes are usually best to wash separately from colored clothes. This guideline is especially important when you have white clothes that you would like to see stay white. Blue jeans can turn white clothes blue. Red shirts or socks can turn white stuff pink.

Use caution and ask for help if you are washing something that is special to you and you do not want to ruin it.

The dryer is meant to dry clothes it is not meant to iron clothes. Take your clothes out of the dryer when they are done drying. If you leave them in the dryer and someone else needs to use it, your clothes will be placed in your hamper.

Watch those Subtle Messages

Be really tough on yourself now. You must not let the teen know that you have no confidence in him.

Unfortunately, we sometimes send a message opposite of the message we want to send.

You see the situation like this: I want my kid to start doing his own laundry. One week later, you notice that none of his laundry has been done. You panic and do just one load. You now have strengthened the behavior you wish to extinguish.  Now it is going to be all that harder to change.

The underlying message you are giving is, "I do not think you are capable of doing laundry. Therefore, I will do it for you. There is no way I can wait you out." It is important to not give this message.

The teenager realized that if he/she waits long enough, then it will be done for them. And they reason like this, "I don't care about my laundry. Most of the time I choose something to wear out of a pile of dirty clothes anyway. The pile is good for at least three rotations. I can wash clothes any time in the future."   And they are right on every count.   You must not fight the facts and the truth.

BUT most importantly, you must not cave in.   You have made your stand, you must not do their laundry.

Remember What a Favor You are Doing Your Teen

By following this plan, you are providing your teen with several important tools:

1. You are teaching him/her how to do laundry. Everyone has to do laundry sometime in their lifetime.

2. You are teaching them that you believe they are capable.

3. You are teaching them that you can make rational decisions and follow through with those decisions.

4. You are teaching them that they can take responsibility for their own needs


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    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Diane Inside Thanks for the comment, the fact that you loved it is a huge compliment, thank you. Although you do sound a little like my sisters who think that we got special treatment. Hahaha!

    • Diane Inside profile image

      Diane Inside 

      8 years ago

      loved this and very funny, I don't have teens or kids at all but I remember my mom, working alot and so laundry didn't get done, unless I did it. Guess she thought if she didn't do it eventually someone would. My brothers never tried. I think she spoiled them more when it came to household chores. But anyway I really liked this hub. Nicely done.

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Thanks for all the the avatar TnFlash.

    • TnFlash profile image


      8 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Great Hub! This works better than my plan of offering them money$.

    • Gigi2 profile image


      8 years ago from UK

      I found leaving my sons washing for two weeks worked wonders, he can use the machine quite easily

    • SteveoMc profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Thanks for the comments. I know that a well thought out plan will for the most part work, if it doesn't, modifying the plan is easy. It is having no plan that usually will not work. Most of the stuff we do, is without a plan. You cannot control what others do, only what you do. Make sure you do your part. Love comments, thanks.

    • the pink umbrella profile image

      the pink umbrella 

      8 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

      will this work for boyfriends? My boyfriend is a 24 yr old man who dosnt do his laundry. the thing is, when i start laundry, i dont stop until its all done and hung and put away. But he is so big and has so much laundry that it would take me 3 days to get through it all as he waits until he has exhausted all of his clothes and desperately needs clothes tommorow. Like i said, if i do it, i do it all the way and it takes me forever. I just want him to do like a load a week and keep on top of it! ugh!

    • BJBenson profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I hope this works!


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