Industrial Engineering Laundry – Ergonomics For Quicker And Easier Laundry

Lead Engineer- Michael Kirk:

There are two sections, theoretical “By The Book”, where you will hear the most optimal situations you can hope to achieve. These are good to know, so you can think about them when doing laundry. There are lots of good ideas in there.

Finally, we will go into real world tips to get closer to optimal, so you can save time and effort right away. 

This study was funded by Elizabeth P. Thank her for donating to study Efficient Laundry!

Engineering Theory- The Most Optimal (by the book)

Ergonomics is a hybrid of human health and engineering. This combines the mathematical and logic rigor of engineering to studies in humans. This data comes out as measurements, estimations, and best practice.

Enhancing Attention

  • One book suggested human attention is limited to ~30 minutes on a routine job. No reason to feel bad about getting bored of household tasks, you are only human.
  • Room Temperatures above 79 degrees are bad.
  • Work quickly, being motivated is proven to make you work quicker. Literally, thinking, can make you more Efficient. Rally! Don’t be weak!

Information Processing

  • Making a decision is fatiguing. Regardless if its trivial, the mind needs to see, understand, think, and convert into an output. It should be noted that after basic skills are obtained, people get better at speed.
  • Since these tasks require decisions, both in muscle control and mind, proficiency will happen with time. 

Best Practices- For Reach

  • A 5th percentile female can reach approx 2 feet, and this can be extended an additional 9 inches when standing.
  • Bending over is not desired. A rolling cart may help elevate baskets off the floor and ease transportation.
  • Motion is not desired, if you can grab multiple items per bend, you will save time and effort.
  • Another reminder, Motion is not desired, items that need to be put far away can be tossed aside. Hang up all necessary items, once.

Ergonomic Facts

  • Pulling motions are best done between 120 and 180 degrees, with best performance at 150 degrees. while pulling >120 degrees. This means its easier to pick items up below you, and put away higher. 
  • However, any sort of grabbing without bending over or reaching is encouraged.
  • Use a power grip! Instead of using fingers, use your fist to pick up. This is stronger than fingers.
  • Discomfort will cause inefficiency, even a 5cm/2in too high counter can cause shoulder pain.
  • Static, holding still, restricts blood flow and requires longer rest periods. Dynamic movement allows blood to circulate during relaxation. 
  • To reach further, bend your hip(8.2in/20cm) and rotate(1.8in/4.5cm) and extend shoulder(4in/10cm). Those are your 3 ways to extend. 


  • For long tasks, if you can adjust between sitting and standing, this is preferred. Equipment exists to change the height level.
  • Sitting is better for blood flow.
  • Try not to hold the same position for more than 15 seconds, that is when lactic acid begins to build up.
  • Avoid moving/transportation to put something away.

Reduce or Increase Stress

  • Stress can be good, according to one book, a 10/10 is too stressful, a 3-5 stress is beneficial. 1/10 stress was not enough. 
  • The arrangement of your workplace(dimensions, relative locations, etc…), makes a major contribution to how a task is handled. 
  • What are the accuracy requirements? Do things need to be folded/unwrinkeled? Could you change this to be happier doing laundry? Or make more challenging?
  • Is there flow? Work-rest cycles may be beneficial and for extended tasks, having start-stop times. 
  • Environment- Temperature, family/pets, surroundings.  

Reduce Boredom

  • One book had root causes of boredom, here is a take on how to make tasks less boring.
  • Short cycle times may be boring. Is there an opportunity for process flow?
  • A task with few opportunities for body movement gets boring, its okay to stretch/exercise muscles. 
  • Could cooler temps get you motivated?
  • Have coworkers. Should we be doing laundry with family?
  • People with high abilities and eager to excel find boredom, so next time you do laundry, try to be more Efficient. This is your new challenge, let us know if you find any discoveries. 
  • Dim work environment causes boredom. Changing color RGB light strips are a solution to boredom, or maybe the book intended to use brighter white light.

Real World Tips – Applied Efficiency

Here are applicable to everyone efficiency tips.

Sort Clothes Faster

Upon research, there are Efficient Comparison Sorting Algorithms. These can be used to sort your laundry faster. A take at Laundry Quicksort

  • Pick 2 items to collect, one for each hand. IE: Mrs Socks, Mrs. Underwear
  • Collect these with minimal digging, and put away
  • Put away large items that prevent seeing new items, don’t think too hard about this.
  • Continue with this routine, picking large quantities as a priority, and removing large items that inhibit seeing.

The goal here, limit motion like digging around and extended searching. Like Quicksort, your visible items are your ‘sorting set’, and items you cannot see are not sorted. All while picking up many items reduces the number of times you bend/turn to get clothes.

Hanging up clothes may be better separated into a different task. This is highly dependent on if you are sorting clothes near your closet and are near hangers. 

If laundry is done at the individual level rather than family level, it be quicker due to less sorting.

Workspace Tips

  • Limit Transportation. Do your work within range if possible. Consider Swapping the contents of drawers to make sorting possible without taking steps. 
  • According to one book, locations of items should have priority- Most important items in front, then items by sequence(multi step items), then items by similarity, then frequency.
  • Turn Less, consider that turning your body is motion, if doing laundry on the bed causes you to turn significantly, consider sorting in a different location.  


Note: this equipment suggestion is best practice, it serves to give you an idea what an Ergonomic Laundry Basket would be. Elevated, with wheels.

If you are interested, these are called Laundry Carts.

Even better, some laundry carts have false/auto adjusting bottoms to elevate laundry to make it easier to reach. Push laundry carts instead of pulling. Although changing muscle groups has economic advantages as well.

Next Steps

Get excited about doing laundry, like you never have before. I was shocked at how fast Quicksort had me putting away clothes. 

With 5 ergonomics books under my belt, I expect more household tasks to get optimized, and laundry to be further studied with MODAPTS, which are used to code task time like reaching and grabbing. They use this in Sweat Shop Sewing. 

Make More Efficiency

If we can reach 5,000 dollars, we are currently at ~2000 dollars, I will match and we can finance 2 interns to work 12 hours a week for 28 weeks completing studies that will help everyone.

The goal is to raise 5000 dollars to create more studies on Industrial Engineering Life.



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