Lets Do Laundry: Which Materials Make the Grade

Did you know that Americans spend an average of 8 hours a week washing a collective 35 billion loads of laundry per year? The damp room that’s usually filled with lingering odor from used towels and athletic gear is in the process of being redefined. The laundry room is now a space where homeowners are demanding a sense of style along with the multi-purpose functions the room requires.

MainStreet Design Build selected Quartzite tiles in Golden Sand for the floor in this laundry/ mudroom area. Photo by Beth Singer Photography.

The laundry room has come a long way from a simple closet with a fold-down ironing board. Changing demographics and busier lifestyles call for more organization and function. This has designers, architects, and cabinetmakers focusing more on the details. In fact, the laundry room is sometimes even an extension of today’s kitchens or baths. As a result, the style level of the laundry room has been amped up. We’re seeing more “extras” such as cabinetry, sinks, drying racks, cubbies, countertops, and even decorative stone and tile.

A workhorse just like the kitchen and the bathroom, the laundry room has a tough job. And just like these spaces, it requires durable materials to stand up to the dampness, dirt, detergent, dust, and grime that accumulate when doing loads and loads of laundry. When it comes to surfaces in the laundry room, water-resistance is the name of the game. I asked a variety of designers for their best advice in selecting materials for the laundry room. Here is a summary of what they had to say:

Countertops are an essential element of today’s well-equipped laundry room. If you have front loaders placed side-by-side, go with a depth of 24-inches to cover the washer and dryer completely and create an ultra convenient workspace. Just remember that water resistance is vital. Go with a countertop surface that is easy to clean.

Natural stone is an elegant and durable countertop option for the laundry room—as long as it is properly cared for. Just as in the kitchen and bath, natural stone that is well maintained will stand up to whatever your dirty laundry can dish out. Plus it adds an element of style to the space and proves that the laundry room is more than just an afterthought. Just remember harsh cleaners can harm the stone, so always take the necessary precautions. Protect these surfaces with a good sealer.

The laundry room is the perfect location for Quartz and other engineered surfaces. It’s non-porous and won’t stain, and most importantly, it won’t harbor bacteria or viruses—a real positive in space that tends to be warm and damp. Plus, unlike natural stone, quartz doesn’t need to be sealed. Quartz is ultra-durable and scratch resistant. If your clients love the look of marble or granite but want something that requires little to no maintenance, quartz is a great choice since many of today’s manufacturers offer quartz slabs that look just like the real thing. Or, if they’re looking for something a little more “out there,” quartz is great since it comes in almost any color of the rainbow.

Though they may not be the first option to spring to mind, wood countertops with a marine finish work well in the laundry room. In a room that’s full of hard, cold materials, wood can add a sense of warmth to the space. You can show your clients the variety of colors and species of wood available for them to choose from and help them select the style that works best for them.

Flooring is another element that must be selected with care. Wall-to-wall carpeting and rugs provide softness underfoot. However, they can also absorb the moisture from wet, dirty laundry rooms creating the perfect place for mold and mildew to thrive. Linoleum is non-absorbent, easy to clean, and comfortable to stand on, but it also doesn’t allow moisture to escape, which can also encourage bacteria growth. Also, if there is a water leak and water lies on linoleum for a length of time, the lower layers (usually melamine resin and fiberboard) will warp. If budget constraints make laminate the only choice, be sure to install a washer drip pan and remind the homeowners to carefully monitor the laundry room for leaks. It’s also a good idea to replace the washer hose regularly and turn off the water valve when it’s not in use.

Ceramic Tile is one of the best choices for laundry room flooring, from a durability standpoint. It’s water and chemical resistant and tiles with more of a “natural” finish will be more resistant to scratching than those with a highly polished finish. For less work cleaning, choose larger tiles with fewer grout lines. And be sure to clean up spills ASAP, as the tiles can become slippery. Ceramic tiles can be noisy if the washing machine isn’t level, so be sure to add noise-abating pads to the washer legs.

Also very easy to lean and maintain, easy to install and budget-friendly is vinyl tile. One huge benefit of vinyl tile is that damaged tiles can be easily replaced without having to remove the entire floor. Plus, it’s highly resistant to chemical stains and water. There are also some pretty unique patterns available and many tiles come in colors and styles that closely resemble natural products like wood and stone. With vinyl tile, you can create a luxury look without a huge budget.

The backsplash isn’t just for the kitchen! Since even vertical spaces can get damp in a laundry room, the backsplash is an area where you can really get creative with design. All of the materials mentioned above will work great for backsplashes too. Natural stone can add warmth, quartz and solid surface can help create a sleek and modern vibe, and ceramic and vinyl tiles can offer a variety of colors and patterns. Glass tiles can also create a colorful water-resistant backsplash while injecting the laundry rom with bright hues and personality.

For walls and other painted surfaces, designers recommend semi-gloss paint since it’s easiest to wipe clean.

Even though the laundry room calls for a material that is durable and waterproof, it doesn’t have to be boring. It is possible to use hardworking materials and still make a strong design statement.