Sun Tzu’s Art of War on Laundry

As the author of The Ultimate Stay-at-Home Dad and a father for fifteen years, I’ve tangled with laundry a great deal.  What I understand now is that you have to have a battle plan if you’re going to win.  And that starts by going to the ancient texts.

Written in 250 B.C., Sun Tzu’s Art of War is not about defeating the rival warlords.  Sun Tzu was simply trying to get some laundry done.  He understood that to defeat your enemy, you must know thy crusty as you know thyself.  And that means learning the history of laundry.

In the beginning, man walked around naked a lot.  It was pretty great until poison ivy was discovered.  One day, an ancestor of humans decided that he should probably put some clothes on.  Ralph (Neanderthal Nakedous) used his superior sewing skills and created clothes. This caught the eye of Carol.  After a year though, Carol began to notice that Ralph was smelling ripe.  “Take that off, Ralph!” she said. “Put it in a pile by the river, and we’ll wash it.”  This was the creation of the first laundry pile.  We know all of this, of course, because of early laundromat cave paintings.

Fast forward several thousand years and the archeological record continues to shed light on the evolution of laundry. At the site labeled Trousers 52, we can see that the first civilizations began to worship laundry and held a festival in its honor. The first day was called “Of course I didn’t leave the towels in the washing machine overnight.”   The second day was “You’re a filthy liar,” and finally the festival ended with “Divorce is our only option.”

Next, laundry showed up in Mesopotamia.  From the dead sea dryer sheets, we can see that laundry and people lived together in harmony for a while.  Ice core samples from that time period show an atmosphere with a high concentration of lemon-scented stain remover.  However, like all civilizations before, the laundry pile grew until it consumed them all.  The going theory is that Alexander the Great was not trying to conquer the world. He was running from doing his laundry. As anyone who has witnessed young men and their bedrooms, this is a very believable theory.

This now brings us back to Sun Tzu, sort of.  Just roll with it.  Sun Tzu knew his laundry history and decided that man deserved better. So, he wrote a book.  And although the world knows this book as Sun Tzu’s Art of War, that is a mistranslation.  The true title of the book is Sun Tzu’s Art of War on laundry.  Using his lessons, we can once again discover our freedom.  Here, the dads have made a battle plan for you to win the war.

If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him.

-Sun Tzu


  • Use wool dryer spheres or dryer balls. They help separate your clothes, which helps them dry faster.  Also, you can sort through the clean clothes and exclaim “I found my balls in this laundry basket!

Danny Mercer


  • Get a mesh bag and put all the kid’s clothes in it.  Throw the entire bag in the washer and dryer.  You’ll never lose another sock again.

Ryan Scarola


  • Use big-ass binder clips to carry a big wad of hangers as to not get them more tangled than the plotlines of a Game of Thrones book.

David Stanley


  • This tri-sorter saved my life.  I have labeled the three bins.  I ruined several of my wife’s clothes that I missed instructions.

Chuck Bennis


  • I used a homemade folding mat scaled for my daughter’s clothes because the adult folding mat is too large.

Brian Frampton


Mark DeSantis


Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

–Sun Tzu


  • I print out and post a care symbol cheat sheet that I found at All Free Sewing.  It’s mostly useful for dry flat, hang dry, or tumble dry decisions.

Michael Quinn


  • When washing cloth diapers, throw in a half cup of baking soda to help kill the mildew smell.

Jeremy Brozek


  • To reduce laundry, don’t have kids.

Lasse H Larsen


  •   Get Smart Dry. If you have an old dryer like me, it lets you know when your clothes are dry and has different settings.

Michael D. Lee


  • Don’t use fabric softener on towels – it makes them less absorbent.

Brian Baseggio


  • Borax is a detergent booster. Those musty old bathroom and kitchen towels never have smelled so fresh.

Jeremy Walton


  • Add a shot of vinegar in the wash when doing jeans so they don’t bleed their dye.

Thom Hofman


  • With two adults and three kids in the house, I wash everybody’s laundry separately.  That way I don’t have to sort clothes at the back end.

Robert Rodriguez


  • Remove dirty diapers hidden in cargo pants leg pockets.  That’s a mistake you only need to make once.

Nathan Winzer


  • Clean out your machines with laundry washer and clean out the gunk once a month.

Christopher Mannino


  • Got a smart home device?  Look for a stain remover skill to help tackle any situation.

Shannon Carpenter


Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.

        –Sun Tzu


  • When you’re swapping out dryer loads, use the dryer sheet from the previous load to clean out the lint trap.  It will save your fingers over time.

Tom Sanderson


  • Let the wife do all the folding.

David Sklarin


  • I aspire to accomplish one load of laundry every day.  It doesn’t matter if it takes me all damn day.

David Sufka


  • Hang up graphic t-shirts instead of running them in the dryer and they will last near forever.

D.Z. Culver


  • Leave the top of the dryer clean and free of clutter and use that surface to fold clothes immediately after removing them.

Shaun Lindsey


  • Steer your clothing choices to easy-care items that could be washed and dried without drama.

Carlos Alden


  • Clearly mark or REMEMBER which laundry machines you’re using  if you are doing laundry in a laundromat. Sometimes I lost a whole load of clothes.

Charles Evans


Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.

–Sun Tzu


  • Teach your kids young how to do their laundry. My youngest is 6 and knows how to do it on her own.

Tim McMichael


  • Let your kids take their own clothes from the dryer and put them away, even if it’s just the socks and underwear.  Start as soon as they can walk.

Gerard Gousman


  • Every kid gets a color-coded basket, so they know exactly what they are responsible for.

Shannon Carpenter


  • Buy large bottle of detergent from Costco but use it to refill a small bottle so the kids can pour it in themselves.  That way they are part of the solution and can take pride that they are helping dad.

Larry Broxterman


  • Kids love putting things in things. If you have toddlers, put them in charge of getting everything out of the dryer and into the basket.  It saves your back over time.

Mike Bowling

Want more tips? Buy Shannon’s book

The Ultimate Stay-at-Home Dad: Your Essential Manual for Being an Awesome Full-Time Father 


















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