Laundry Room Lighting 101

laundry room sunlight

Well, it happened again. The kitchen and bath pros who make up the KB Tribe have inspired me to write a blog post based on one of our very enjoyably twitter chats. Last week’s topic was laundry rooms, and it really got me thinking about laundry room lighting solutions. Laundry rooms are one of the most varied of residential rooms. Some are closets; some are expansive rooms. Some are in basements; some are upstairs. So what do all the different kinds of laundry rooms have in common? You guessed it: A need for quality lighting. In particular, laundry rooms utilize natural light.

Natural Light – That’s Right, I Said It

I’ve curated a collection of laundry room images for you this morning in order to illustrate my observation that a deep appreciation for natural light is a significant motif that runs through remodeled or otherwise exemplary laundry rooms. When you think of detergent commercials, don’t you imagine lots of sunlight? Open air, natural light, these things suggest freshness, while the opposite – darkness and trapped air – would be horrible ways to convince viewers that your detergent will cleanse their lives.

Because that’s what the whole laundry enterprise is all about, right? Fresh starts can’t happen with dirty clothes. Every day is a new beginning, and everyone wants to start the day feeling good, confident, optimistic, right? Laundry day makes that happen. Laundry is a really big deal we wish didn’t have to deal with at all. Since we do have to deal with it, we should at least have well lighted laundry rooms.

Of course, these images I’ve compiled are not laundry detergent commercials. These are, in varying degrees of stagedness, laundry rooms. And all the natural light you see? Not an effort to sell you detergent. Rather, this collection is an illustration of the fact that natural sunlight is the best kind of light for cleaning clothes because in it you can easily assess how dirty or clean something is. Stains and the lack thereof are very easily detectable in natural light.

Laundry room, natural light

Giant windows are great if possible. That’s a big IF, though. Sometimes, natural light isn’t an option, either because the laundry room is subterranean or otherwise windowless. Obviously, in the image below, natural light is not an option. Yet, the color temperature of the ceiling light is neutral enough to make this laundry room bearable while another, poorer lighting choice could have made this tiny laundry room annoying to visit and kind of scary.

laundry room ceiling light

You didn’t think I was going to avoid talking about lighting solutions just because natural light is such a great option for laundry rooms, did you? So, how should you light your laundry room? For any type of laundry room, there are some fundamental guidelines.

I’ve already suggested that you ALWAYS USE NATURAL LIGHT, when and if possible. And for your other light sources? Consider choosing lights with a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of as close to 100 as possible. A light source’s CRI is, in effect, a metric by which to compare the ability of artificial light to render color as well as the sun. 100 is the maximum CRI. Some lamps, like low-pressure sodium lamps, can actually have really low CRIs, while there are now some LED lights with CRIs of 95 – 98. If the sun isn’t shining in your laundry room, there are plenty of excellent options that closely match natural light’s ability to render color and help you keep your clothes clean and fresh as can be.

laundry room natural light

Layer your lighting.

OK, so this is the main theme in pretty much all lighting design guides. Layering your light pretty much means that you should think about general light, accent lighting, and task lighting. In the main section of a house, this might look like mini recessed ceiling lights with square bronze trim, elegant track lighting to spotlight a painting or picture, and a reading light by the chair or some under cabinet lights illuminating the bar counter. In a laundry room it might look like the image below.

layered light

Sometimes, in larger laundry rooms, you can have all three kinds of light. But, generally speaking, laundry areas are on the smaller side and are too focused on pragmatism for decorations that would benefit from accent lighting. Keep in mind that this is a generalization with exceptions galore, but, generally, the two kinds of lighting you’ll find in laundry areas are ambient overhead lighting and task lighting, and this scheme usually takes the form of a ceiling light or two and under cabinet lighting.

Creative Options.

OK, so I’ve revealed the main guidelines for achieving decent light in your laundry room/closet/nook/arena. Utilize and replicate natural light and layer the light, at least between general and task lighting. You can follow these guidelines to a T, and still get creative and original with laundry room lighting. What about a semi flush mount ceiling light or even a bright chandelier for overhead light? What about LED rope used for cove lighting or over-cabinet lighting to provide some interesting general light? As long as your task lighting situation is on point, you can play with the ambient light a little. Remember that you might want all your light to have a color temperature close to that of the sun.

laundry room

For those with laundry rooms deep in the caverns of unfinished basements, I realize that funky might not be what you’re after. The creative problem solvers with basement or otherwise weird laundry rooms might need to think more about safety and convenience. For treacherous or dark laundry rooms, occupancy sensor and vacancy sensor lighting can save the day, everyday. There are some great options out there for high quality motion sensor lights, and any light that can be controlled by a switch, generally speaking, can be controlled by a motion sensor switch. That’s right, for lots of people, just changing the kind of light switch can make a major impact on how you feel about your laundry room.

What am I overlooking when it comes to lighting laundry rooms? Help me out in the comments!

Tom Sowders

After majoring in creative writing at NC State, I worked in the home remodeling industry. Then, I attended graduate school for a really long time and gained experience as a writer and writing instructor. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area with my wife and baby boy, and you can find me around the Triangle anywhere there's good music and/or NC-style BBQ.

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