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Laundry and Sensory Issues

Tips on completing laundry for individuals who may experience sensory issues


Doing laundry is necessary, but can be a sensory overload for individuals with autism. This resource provides helpful tips for completing laundry for individuals with autism.

A man holding a laundry basket and hanging up laundry

Touch – 

  • If you don’t like touching certain fabrics or the feel of dirty laundry, try wearing gloves. Gloves are made from a variety a different materials, such as vinyl, cloth, and latex, so you can find a pair that works for you.


Sound – 

  • Washing machines and clothes dryers can be very loud. If the noise bothers you, try to keep the door closed to the laundry room. If that is not an option or you clean your laundry at a laundromat, try wearing noise-blocking headphones or listen to favorite music to block the sound.

Smell – 

  • Laundry detergent comes in a variety of scents, some much stronger than others.
    • Before buying a certain brand and variety of liquid laundry detergent, open
      the cap and smell it to make sure it’s a smell you like.
    • For powder detergents, smell the outside of the container.
    • Many brands of laundry detergent also come unscented, if you cannot find
      a smell that is mild enough to tolerate.

    If you are doing laundry in a laundromat, the mixture of smells from all of the
    different detergents can be overwhelming. You can try wearing a protective mask
    to cover your nose. You can also take a walk outside while waiting to minimize the
    amount of time you need to be exposed to the smell, or go during times when the
    laundromat is less busy.


Sight –

  • If you do laundry at home, make sure the lighting in the laundry room is something you can tolerate. If you do laundry at a laundromat, you will not have control of the lights, and many laundromats use florescent lights. If the lighting bothers you, try wearing a hat and/or sunglasses to block the light from your eyes.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.