February 14, 2016

Eliminating Plastic: Part 2 - Laundry

I am sick and tired of plastic laundry baskets. It never seems to take long before they end up looking like this

The first handle broke within the first month I had it. The others followed.

All handles are broken, which makes it extremely difficult to carry to the clothesline. It's a piece of junk. Sure it could be recycled, but I'm also sick and tired of having to spend money on another limited-life plastic product every six months. I retired this one to simply holding dirty laundry in the laundry room.

Solutions? The biggest drawback to non-plastic ones is that they are going to cost more, although they'll surely last longer. While looking around on the internet I found a number of options, although a lot of them seem to be intended as laundry hampers:
  • Wicker - prices seem to range from $80 to $250 for a good-size one. The only disadvantage to wicker is that it can mildew. Better for hampers and laundry storage. (Some nice ones here). 
  • Wood (woven) - some really nice ones here, and they say they're okay for carrying wet laundry out to the line. Prices for a good laundry-size basket are $65 up. 
  • Straw - the ones I found here are absolutely gorgeous but way out of my budget.
  • Seagrass - don't know if these would mildew or not. $79 at PotteryBarn.
  • Wire - is a possibility as long as it won't rust.  Here's a vintage-style with wheels at Target for $173. Amazon has the laundromat roll type for just under $159,

While I was pondering all that, I received a Christmas gift from my daughter-in-law that was just perfect. 

"Deluxe Utility Tote," AKA my new laundry "basket,"

It's a water-resistant canvas tote made by Thirty-One. I was thrilled that it's large enough to hold a load of laundry from my washing machine. It has reinforced webbing shoulder straps plus hand-carrying straps on the ends (also reinforced). A wire frame is sewn into the top, so it stays open and keeps it shape. And it has pockets! What a relief to get rid of that plastic laundry basket.

This got me thinking. My other problem was my clothespin holder. I used to have one of those fabric clothespin holders that can be hung on the clothesline. That one worked better when I had a long, classic clothesline rather than a space-saver umbrella style clothesline (because I kept having to relocate the pin bag). When the fabric wore thin and tore, I switched to a small repurposed, plastic tub. This worked for awhile.

Eventually it went the way of all plastic.

When DIL alerted me to a clearance sale, I took a look and I found a small tote I thought would work well for clothespins. I'm really happy with this one too.

Meowy is frequently my laundry snoopervisor.

"I'm bored with hanging laundry, yawn, wanna play?"

This was one of several options that
would make a good clothespin holder.

Like the laundry tote, it's made of water-resistant canvas, has reinforced webbing handles, and a wire ring to help it keep it's shape. The drawstring is handy to sling over my shoulder when going to or from the laundry room.

Along with that, I got a small matching tote for miscellaneous laundry items. 

Unfortunately these are discontinued items! I'm so glad I snapped
them up when I did, although they have dozens of other possibilities.

I was on a roll now. The next thing to replace was that broken laundry basket which was still in use to hold dirty laundry. For that, I got the "Stand Tall Bin."

It comes with reinforcing rods to make it stand
tall. For me, this holds one load of dirty laundry.

How much? Not as expensive as the options I listed at the beginning of the post, but they are still pricey. If ordered alone, the Deluxe Tote or Stand Tall Bin are each priced at $50. But! Thirty-One offers several ways to get discounts, and when I ordered it, I took advantage of one of those.

Every month the company runs different customer specials. For every $35 (up to $105), I could qualify for one of those specials. (I know I'm going to sound like a commercial here - sorry! I'm really happy with these and want to pass on what I learned). When I bought the tall bin plus a tote for grocery shopping, I got two of these storage cubes for 60% off each.

It comes with a choice of window or chalk panel, on which I could have
written "sock yarns." Organization & storage are 2 huge areas I need to
tackle if I'm going to continue eliminating plastic from my life. I'm eyeing
a variety of mix & match storage boxes for my sewing and knitting stuff. 

Averaging my total purchase with the number of items I bought made all of these items quite reasonable.

Another way to get discounts plus free items is to host your own blog, website, or facebook sale. For example, if you click here, you will land at a page entitled "Leigh's Online Thirty-One Party." If you click "shop now," you can browse the catalog, get the specials, and I would earn credits toward free or discounted items. If you host your own party, you would be getting the credits. (Like the customer specials, the hostess specials change regularly too.) Just click on "Host a Party" at the top of the page, or email me and I'll put you in touch with my daughter-in-law.

Another option: if you really like the products and are interested in a flexible home business that doesn't call for huge start-up capital, you could become a consultant. For more information click "Become a Consultant" at the top of this page or email me and I'll put you in touch with my daughter-in-law.

All I can say is, I'm very relieved to have replaced my laundry room plastic. Next week I'll show you some totes that I love when I go shopping.

Okay, the floor is yours. Do you have plastic problems in the laundry room? What solutions have you come up with?


Sue said...

I made a canvas bag to hold my clothes pins. Super cheap, too- it was made out of a 50-cent remnant and some leftover thread. It's just a simple, small rectangular tote, with handles that are long enough to hang from the crook of my elbow but still allow me to easily access the pins while I hang laundry. The clothespin bag, therefore, comes with me by default while I move down my stationary clothesline.

I do still have a plastic laundry basket, but I've had it for 13 years now and it isn't broken at all. I don't know why, because it wasn't a fancy expensive one or anything. When it eventually breaks I'll replace it with canvas.

My daughter's plastic one broke to pieces last year and I got her a set of three canvas bags with internal wire frames that hang from a metal frame. Easy for her to sort clothes, and the individual bags come off the frame to be carried to the washer and clothesline.

Cathy said...

Part of me hesitates to comment, since you shared such nice products, but since you asked what others have done, I will share my solutions.

I remembered my mom having a cloth "basket" that fit on a metal folding frame, similar to the old TV tray legs, except on wheels. I looked and looked, and finally found one online by using the words "laundry cart" in my search. I love it because it folds up neatly and is stored right next to my washer. It cost me $30 and shipping was free. I could have also purchased a replacement cloth bag for an additional $10, but decided I could make my own using the one that came with it for a pattern if the need arises. So far it's been in use for 3 years and shows no sign of wearing out. And I can just toss it in with my whites if it gets soiled.

For my pins, I use a small apron with large pockets, the kind that waitresses use. On mine, the pockets are the size of the apron, and originally were divided into two pockets via top stitching. It was frustrating to me that I would empty the right pocket first and it was not as natural for me to reach into the left one, until one day it occurred to me I could just take out the top stitching and have one big pocket. Problem solved. I can't say how much the apron cost. It was an old one that I had hanging around. It's so handy to have the pins attached to me as I hang clothes rather than hanging on the line or someplace that I have to keep moving or reaching for.

For dirty clothes I have a couple of wicker baskets lined with cloth bags that have lasted longer than I would have imagined. I don't recall when I got them or how much they cost, but they predate the cart by at least a couple of years.

I too hate plastic and suspect they are designed to fall apart so you have to replace them often,

Chris said...

Our wicker laundry basket, finally died after 15 years. It helped that I painted it to seal the wicker, as we purchased it raw. I really loved that basket. It was so easy to carry out to the line. So when it died, my husband tried to find me a replacement.

He couldn't though, so bought me a rectangular wicker basket, more often used for storage under coffee tables. It was stained with a varnish, and I guess because it was rectangular, instead of oval (like my last one) it started to fall apart within its second day of operation.

It didn't like to be pressed up against the side of a person, with a heavy load of washing. It decided to loose some pieces of wicker where the rectangular shape was forced to bend against me. I haven't really used it as a laundry basket since.

What is funny though, I uncovered an old plastic laundry basket, which was the same age as the original wicker one! Only I'd used it to hold ironing and it never went anywhere. I'm using it now, and its still like new. Even when my toddler has decided to turn it over, and use it as something to perch from. It must be the newer plastic products, which are made so cheaply.

I also have a peg tote similar to your one, many, many years old and has lived outside all that time. Only its made of heavy-duty canvas, with a netted base, to allow the rain to drain out. It hangs from heavy duty rope too, with a metal clip, so I can hang it on the line.

I remember paying between $10 to $20 many years ago, but the people at the markets assured me it was made to live outdoors, in our harsh Australian conditions, and last. They weren't wrong, and I've certainly got my money's worth!

Jessie - Rabid Little Hippy said...

This is a timely post as our plastic baskets are dying a slow death, as are our 3 dirty clothes hampers. At the moment I continue to use the lesser broken ones. We discovered the other day though that our wheelbarrow cart is a perfect replacement. It's made of metal and has a tarp liner (which when I find it I will make a canvas or calico one) and being on nice tough wheels it copes far better with our less than even "lawn". My old basket trolley seems to have lost a wheel or two although I suspect children and not wear and tear are more likely to blame.
We also use some of those silicone buckets popular for toy baskets etc. They work well to fold the kids washing into or even to cart the wet and dry between the line. They are smaller but they work enough for now.
I think I will keep an eye out for baskets such as yours and make the replacements as the need arises.

Judy said...

If you have a someone who welds have them make you the metal/wire frames of your baskets and then make the cloth linings. For Cathy's idea on the apron for clothes pins you could use a nail apron from the hardware/lumber yard as a template if you want a nicer looking one.

Because I now live in an apartment and have to use a laundromat for my laundry. I use a rolling duffle-bag to take the clothes to-n-from the laundromat and up-n-down the stairwell. For a dirty clothes hamper I use one of those old-lady wire folding grocery carts. Sure beats the heck out of those plastic ones.

When I was a kid and Mom hung clothes on a line in the backyard, she used lined bushel baskets to haul the clothes to-n-from the line. Her clothes pins were in a bag that used a wire clothes hanger for the frame that she slid up-n-down the lines.

Tanya Murray said...

Recently two of my wicker baskets have started to break up. Luckily I have a third in back up but I was concerned to read that Chris above found it near impossible to find a replacement basket. It fills me with dread. I'm so set in my ways and hate change. I don't know what I'll do when this one goes to God! The biggest enemy of my wicker baskets is my husband who leaves them out in the rain. This is VERY bad and spells death for wicker baskets.

Chris said...

Where we used to buy them, were in those gift stores which specialised in kitchen and bedrooms. Copperart/Homeart, remember them? Don't exist any more.

You might be lucky to find them in a cheap import dollar store, every once in a while. They're called an oval, willow laundry basket. I bet if you asked ALDI, they'd probably try to get them in too.

I noticed a few you can buy online in Australia. Cobra Cane, or something like that. But not many options online. My husband was trying to find me a Christmas present at the time, and wasn't able to in our local stores.

I think they're still available, you just have to look REALLY hard. I may ask our local ALDI, if they thought of getting any in.

Fiona said...

Target has some very good laundry bag's. They are a fairly heavy nylon with mesh sides and a heavy Web strap that you can use to carry them, they also have handles. One other feature is they have a wide band of fabric that you can loop over a curtain rod or clothesline. ..it does up with velcro and is quite convenient when your gathering the laundry....loop the cloth hanger on the line and slide it along as you put clothe's into it. We also got a nice clothes pin bag at our Amish store. It is heavy canvas with a cable loop in the top. It has a heavy wire "handle" with hooks that lets you hang it on the line as you hang your clothes to dry...or when get them off the line. There are some super good alternatives to plastic here. Thank you Leigh for starting this idea exchange.

Patty@inStitches said...

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. I have two plastic baskets, both over 15 years old, and inherited, one from my aunt when she entered the nursing home in 2001, and one that was my mother's, when she passed away. They are both smaller, only hold one load of clothes each, but the hand holds are molded into the rim and very sturdy. And free to me - best price ever.

Erika keller said...

I've been using an old hanging plastic flower pot to hold my clothes pins for 5 years now. It moves nicely along the clothes line as I am hanging up the clothes. It lives in the outhouse where the clothes line is attached and shows no signs of becoming brittle.

Quinn said...

They look very sturdy and nice, Leigh! Where are they made? I followed your link but my laptop is running so slowly it was taking forever to load a page with all the pictures.
I currently use laundry plastic baskets that have reinforced handles, and - touch wood! - they are holding up well. I also use them to help reorganize frozen food when I'm emptying the chest freezer to defrost it ;)
And...I'm in the process of making some of the old-style clothes-peg aprons (extras for etsy) because it's so much easier for me to have the pegs right at hand and also that way I don't forget and leave a hanging peg bag outside to get rained on.

Leigh said...

I like your clothes pin holder idea, especially for having a long clothesline like yours.

I'm guessing your older plastic basket is made of heavy-duty plastic, while the newer ones are lighter weight. The one I picture above was so soft that after the handles broke and I tried to carry it, it would cave in on itself and be very awkward.

Leigh said...

Never hesitate to comment! And I did open the floor for other ideas. :)

I really like the apron idea for clothes pins. But of course, I like aprons anyway. :)

Leigh said...

A coat of paint was an excellent idea! Yes, and I think you're right about those older plastic baskets being more sturdy. Nowadays everything is made with only maximum profit in mind. I like the idea of the mesh bottom on your tote too. Very useful for the days the tote is forgotten and has to endure a good rainfall.

Leigh said...

Wheelbarrow! Brilliant! The wheeled laundry carts sound wonderful unless one has to go downstairs to get outside and then across rough bumpy ground. The wheelbarrow type would be so much better for that.

Debbie - Mountain Mama said...

These products look awesome - I will have to check out their site! I use a three bag laundry sorter cart on wheels for my dirty laundry - it has a metal frame, and each of the bags clips on and stays open - when it's full you just take the bag to the washer and the other two bags stay on the cart. This way I can sort my colors - darks, whites, and colors - and it stays organized. My laundry is in my master suite so I don't use a laundry basket for folding - I take it right from the dryer to the bedroom chair and fold on the bed. Easy peasy!

Leigh said...

Those rolling duffle-bags are perfect for going up and down stairs, good idea. Using a wire clothes hanger to fashion a clothes pin holder is a good idea too. Of course, wire clothes hangers are getting hard to come by these days.

Leigh said...

Tanya, I don't know about Oz, but in the US willow ones can be had from Michael's. Another reader emailed me the link, here, and the price is good too! (Thanks Fran!)

I think Aldi is an excellent option too. They offer well made products at excellent prices. I love ALdi.

Leigh said...

Nylon would be good and something I hadn't thought of.

Yes, this idea exchange has been a lot of fun and helpful too. Lots of good possibilities out there. I get discouraged when it seems the only option is plastic!

Leigh said...

The very best price, LOL. And your story confirms the poorer quality of products nowadays. Some things I refuse to buy anymore. I look for alternatives like we're discussing here or simply live without.

Leigh said...

Now that's a very clever idea!

Leigh said...

Quinn, that's a good question and I just scoured their website but have no clue as to where the products are made. I do know that they are avid supporters of charities helping women and young girls, both in cash and products.

You mention chest freezer and that's another area I need help in. I'm currently using cardboard boxes because I fear the plastic would weaken by being frozen. That will make another "Eliminating Plastic" post for discussion!

Leigh said...

Sounds like you've got a wonderful setup for your laundry! I've admired those 3-bag laundry carts, but just don't have the room for them. I use a willow basket in the master bathroom, and then transfer it's contents to the Stand Tall Bin I show above. It's a good system, which is what we all need: a system that works for us.

Quinn said...

Freezing does make plastic brittle! I found that out using some of those thick flexible plastic bushel-basket type things in the barn a couple of years ago. Flipped one over a fencepost just to empty it out and it shattered!
I use the laundry baskets just to hold the food while I'm defrosting. My freezer is tiny, and I haven't found even any wire baskets that are worth the space they take up. So everything gets stacked in there and I rely on a "map" to tell me where to dig. Not the best system, but not likely to buy another freezer while this one keeps working - hopefully for years and years :)

Leigh said...

Well, your system sounds basically like mine. I only use a few boxes because of room issues. I had to dig through multiple layers to unearth a frozen rooster yesterday. I had it all piled up in the middle of my pantry floor! That would be a good use for a small plastic laundry basket. :)

Rain said...

The laundry plastic...I got rid of that many moons ago! I'm also on a quest to rid myself of plastic in the home. Right now I rely way too much on Tupperware. I love the tote idea for your laundry basket. I have a wicker basket. It's very pretty but the cats love to use it as a scratching post, so there is always a little trail of wicker from the bedroom to the laundry room. When I buy my property I'd love to install an old fashioned laundry chute!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

My very favorite household chore is laundry! Recently, at a thrift store for less than $4, I purchased a large, brand new condition plastic bin and it's working well. I also buy every large wicker laundry basket I find (thrift stores) and they work well for a lot of things, including laundry. I have a cloth clothes pin bag that hangs on the line and the best advice I can give is do NOT leave your baskets or bags outside, not even when you're doing multiple loads of laundry. The sun will break them down very quickly and you're back to square one.
I have a hand made wooden hamper for dirty clothes and never leave them in it long enough to mildew; I like to stay on top of the laundry detail. If it's above 30 F, clothes are hung on the line; when it's below, clothes are hung on the multiple clothes horses upstairs.
I don't have a lot of plastic in my house because I've been giving it away over the last year or so.

Kirsty said...

I use the big blue IKEA bags you can buy for 50p. I've got bags I've used for laundry for 10 years and they never give up. They're used to take laundry to the machine, out to the line and for clothes that are folded waiting to be put away. Because it sometimes takes a while to be put away I've got away about 6 of them!

deb harvey said...

at k-mart we got laundry totes of white mesh. some are vertical and some are horizontal.

i like them because they are not plastic and hold themselves open.
i have to go down steep basement stairs and the plastic is dangerously umwieldy and large when i add the width of my hips.
i don't know how these totes will hold up in the long run. also cats like to claw the mesh so keep them away from the cats.
leigh's totes are obviously sturdier than mine but if you have very little laundry the lighter mesh totes may serve your needs.
i think they were mainstays brand.

deb harvey said...

i am interested in freezer baskets also. i'm frozen to the marrow by the time i get to the bottom.
the baskets i find are slant sided and i want straight sided so room isn't wasted.
if i could find wire baskets i think they would be good for freezer use.anyone know of a source?

deb harvey said...

we have a laundry chute but you cannot put so large a thing as a sheet in it. clothes only but no heavy coats.
had a sweater dryer of mesh but it immediately became a cat hammock!
aldi's has one this comming week in three layers that hangs up where cats cannot get to it. i've got it marked for purchase.
i love aldi's.
all we've bought from them has been very sturdy.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hi! Well, one of my laundry baskets is plastic but has lasted a long time here. I don't always hang out a lot of laundry so it probably doesn't get as much use as yours. I think I should hang out more but then either I don't have time or too tired. I guess the thing is to keep working away at these things. Nancy

Leigh said...

Cats! I got grins out of both of your stories.

My grandmother had a laundry shoot. It was in the hallway on the second floor and went all the way down to the basement where she had a cloth bag attached to the bottom to catch laundry. Very handy.

I love Aldi too, and have to agree that their products are first rate.

Leigh said...

Sandra, thank you for mentioning sun damage! Yes, the sun is very hard on things, including plastic.

I usually have to hang damp dirty clothes out to dry before I put them in my dirty laundry tote. We have too much trouble with mildew to leave anything damp and crumpled for any length of time.

Leigh said...

Finding something bit enough to hold all the laundry can be a challenge!

Leigh said...

I forgot about K-Mart, but then ours closed down last year. Mesh would be a great idea for laundry, especially damp stuff. Minus the cats, that it.

Leigh said...

Nancy you must have one of those older laundry baskets, one that was made before cheap quality became the standard. I don't always hang my laundry out, for example if it rains or is icy I use the dryer. I'd love to get one of those huge folding laundry racks to put in the living room next to the wood stove on days like that. Last time I looked, they were about $150.

Unknown said...

I always wanted to find a vintage wicker basket like my mom had, it was nicely made and lasted many years (she may still have it!) Anyway, I have an older plastic basket with handles intact, but find myself draping the clothes over my arm to carry out. I also have a vintage cloth clothes pin holder that hangs on the line. Kathy

Unknown said...

They all look totally fab. My old plastic one looks almost as bad as yours except with dire consequences. Someone who shall remain nameless (yes you Glenda) unplugged my iron and sat it in the basket. It got covered up with clothes and when i plugged the iron in i didnt realise where it was. Pooey did it stink and i now have melted plastic all through the iron. Oh Well, cant get good help these days. (LOL) Serves me right, i should do my own bloody ironing.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

I have two little racks that I can use also. Plus hubby made a big wooden bar that stretches the length of the bath/shower that I hang things on hangers on. It is the guest bath and seldom used so that doesn't create a problem with them hanging there. Nancy

Renee Nefe said...

the basket that my daughter uses was bought in 92 and has a duct taped handle now, but still doing it's job. My baskets were bought around 2001 or so and are still holding up fine. these are all plastic. I have to admit to being super lazy and for my clothes pins I just poked a hole in the bag they came in and stuffed a child sized hanger in the hole. It has held up surprisingly well. When it fails, I'll make a new bag out of some scrap canvas that I have from making my sewing pattern bins.

Leigh said...

I'm imagining an armload of laundry, LOL. I wonder if the newer wicker baskets are as study as the old ones? I remember a wicker laundry basket from my childhood, but don't recall whose it was.

Leigh said...

Oh no! What a miracle you didn't end up with a huge fire! Yes, one problem with plastic is that it also melts!

Leigh said...

I should have made duct tape handles for mine, LOL. And if your clothes pin bag works, it works!

Ed said...

I'm lazy and just throw mine in the dryer but I do appreciate finding something that is made to last versus cheap plastic stuff that gets thrown away frequently. When I was in college, I used a large mesh drawstring bag for laundry which worked quite well for my purposes. It wouldn't work well in your application of hanging wet clothes up to dry though.

Kris said...

I received a nice deep wicker basket as a wedding shower gift in 1976. I've used it all this time and the wicker is still fresh and the handles in great shape. It must've been expensive, even for the time, and it's been of great value to me ever since. (P.S. The marriage only last 2.5 yrs ... definitely NOT of any value. ;-))

Leigh said...

A bar for drying in the bathtub sounds like a really good idea.

Leigh said...

I think mesh makes a good laundry bag, but you're right, hanging on a clothesline needs something more basket-like.

Leigh said...

Nice to know some things last well. :)

Bexter said...

I use a wicker basket. It will only mildew if you leave wet clothes in it overnight. Even then once the basket has dried, any mildew stains will not affect future use. It only affects its

Debby Riddle said...

I use wicker baskets bought from Michael's craft chain, when they go on sale. I think I spent $4.00 a piece last time. They do mildew, but can be sprayed with bleach and scrubbed clean, with a generous hose rinsing. They can also be repaired with apple prunings or willow or any green cutting, woven in. I have painted some, which adds strength, and covers stains. Spray paint gets in the crevices best. Shellac is a natural product , made from bugs,which I also use for baskets. They don't make wicker baskets like they used to, they were much sturdier a generation ago. I still have one of my mom's

Farmer Barb said...

IKEA has shopping bags that they sell for $1.99. They are big enough to carry two Dwarf Nigerian goats (they don REALLY walk on leashes) and have lasted 25 years so far. Woven hdpe

Leigh said...

Deborah, I was hoping to get some ideas on your question too. I'll have to start looking around because my freezer desperately needs organizing. The cardboard boxes are okay, but I'm open to something else.

Leigh said...

I'm thinking sun drying would really help fight mildew as well, maybe even bleach out some stains if there were there(?) (We have a terrible time with mildew here so I'm always trying to keep things light and airy.)

Leigh said...

Good tip about the bleach. Also repairing! Because it's true, they don't make them like they used to.

Leigh said...

And sturdy enough to carry 2 Nigerian Dwarfs? Wow, that's pretty amazing. I wish we had an Ikea around here.

Ngo Family Farm said...

Ooh, very spiffy organization and much prettier, too! I actually just use a few woven baskets with handles that I got for a couple bucks at the thrift store years and years ago. Still going strong! And I do a lot of toting laundry here ;)

M.K. said...

Thanks for making me consider this! I also hate our over-sized, awkward, ugly laundry baskets. I think I'll order something from LLBean. They have great tote/laundry items. I have their credit card and earn free points toward merchandise, so I can get them basically for free. I REALLY like the clothes pins on the side pockets! Mine hang on the line in a cloth bag and they get wet and turn black - ugh. Having them on the bag would be genius!