Preventing Laundry Room Freeze All Winter Long

ByMarc Silberberg


Some folks find laundry day the worst day of the week while others find it a time to relax and listen to some soothing music. It sure would make that day more pleasant if we could somehow control the temperature and humidity in our laundry room.

Some of us on the east coast are thawing out as spring tries to come out of hiding. The anxious gardeners are flying up the block to get first dibs on the lawns, spreading fertilizer and good cheer. This winter has been fairly docile, and we haven’t had as much slippery ice as usual on our driveways and walkways. But, it was cold enough with temperatures falling below freezing for our homes to need lots of heat and warm clothing for our bodies. Our home appliances are affected by the cold weather as well, especially if they are situated in basements and garages.

Washing Machines

Let’s start with your washing machine. Many homeowners have their washer and dryer in their unfinished basements. If your appliance is against an outside wall there is a fair chance that not only has the hot water turned cold but can actually turn to ice! How can this occur? A washing machine has a hose to fill the drum and a drain pump that drains the water after the load is wrung and done. The water intake valve can break down because of iced water causing flooding if the room warms up even a bit. To prevent this from happening it is imperative that the washer’s hoses be properly insulated with pipe insulation and keeping the hose disconnected unless you are actually putting in a load if the room is not heated.

Humidity In The Laundry Room

The laundry room can become the coldest room in the house in the winter and the warmest in the summer. By simply taking your wet clothes out of the washer and putting on the dryer with those clothes inside is a recipe to cause humidity in the laundry room. When a venting system is working right this humid air is blasted outside as the clothes tumble dry. However, if the vent is not working optimally then heat and humidity build up in the laundry room. Even if your dryer venting system is working properly the laundry room will feel a bit warmer just as your kitchen becomes warmer when the over is on. This is normal and not much can be done about it unless you have a window that can be opened in the spring or fall, but it won’t help in the summer.

Clothes Dryers

Clothes dryers can also be affected by the weather outside. Most laundry rooms are situated within at least one outside wall so that the dryer will be able to be vented outside. This is the most advantageous way of installing the dryer vent so that the lint and air go straight outdoors and can be easily cleaned by a dryer vent specialist when necessary. The trouble is that if the vent stays open all year the room becomes cold in the winter and with cold air entering through an open dryer vent the clothes drying system can be compromised.

When there is a sudden rain downpour your windows can get foggy with moisture and this same idea holds true with your dryer. The dryer works by bombarding the clothes with hot air and the extra air is ventilated through the vent. But, when this hot and moist air causes condensation on the cold places every time the dryer is turned on you will see the moisture on the windows of the room. To prevent this from happening, the homeowner must be certain that the vents are clear and able to push the extra air outdoors.

A homeowner can be doing everything right and can still have trouble with their appliances working properly in very cold or hot weather. Places such as New York City and its suburbs have great fluctuations in temperatures throughout the year from the summer where temperatures can climb close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit to the blustery winter months where temperatures can drop way below freezing.


Refrigerators can be affected negatively by extreme temperatures in the home and garage. When I purchased a second refrigerator for my attached garage, I had no idea that my brand-new refrigerator would not work in freezing or hot temperatures. Since I purchased the refrigerator in the fall when the temperature outdoors was neither freezing nor boiling, I could not possibly be prepared for what would happen in the winter to my new refrigerator. Since this new appliance was working just fine in moderate weather, I was in for a shock when I entered my very cold garage to find a unit that was not working properly. Since it was cold anyway in the garage the food did not spoil and unfortunately, I did not call the appliance company while the refrigerator was still under warranty.

 As the weather became warmer our new refrigerator seemed to be working properly again and I blamed its winter failure on my imagination. In the peak of the summer I sensed that the refrigerator was not that cold but I did not use it then since we did not have that much company at that time of year. Unfortunately, by the time I realized there was truly something wrong with the item the warranty had just expired.

After speaking to a knowledgeable customer service representative, I was told that my refrigerator model will not work in extreme temperatures, so I ended up finding a permanent spot in my kitchen for it. This was not at all in my plan to have two refrigerators in the kitchen but by now I have adjusted to this development. It would be wise to check with your appliance distributor to make sure that the refrigerator you buy is not sensitive to fluctuating temperatures.

A homeowner who is stuck with their laundry area in an unheated room, basement or garage has some options on how to warm this area up at least partially. For instance, Sheila R. complained that her laundry room is “absolutely freezing in the winter”. The walls and floors are so cold you need furry slippers and sweatshirts to enter in the cold weather. Her particular home is over one hundred years old and although she loves its character, she cannot enter her laundry room which was originally a porch that was closed off, in frigid weather.

Sheila was advised to blow insulation into her walls since she did not want to go through major reconstruction by removing the walls of her laundry room. There are actually certain energy companies that are offering free insulation blown into drafty walls. Each county has their own insulation options so you have to check on what your area offers. Promotions can be found in local newspaper advertisements but you do have to check if these opportunities work in older homes. Basically the way this process works is a small hole is made in the wall and insulation blown in so you do not have to take down walls.

Two other basic choices are to purchase a dryer vent seal which automatically closes the opening to the vent when the dryer is off. This is referred to as a draft blocker that is affixed to the inside of the dryer vent cap and has a flap that opens when there is air flowing from the dryer through the duct. All other times the flap will remain in a closed position preventing the cool winter draft coming up through the dryer vent. Think of it as a one way only air flow where air can only flow outside the house but not into the house. The draft blocker installation is rather easy and should take about five minutes. Simply remove the dryer vent hose from the inside of the house, affixed the draft blocker, and reattached the hose.

Once on the topic of dryer vent caps it’s important to make sure that it is functioning correctly. Often the flaps could be broken that allows unwanted pests direct access to your home or sometimes it could be caked with lint. Over the course of time all of that junk along with weatherization will cause erosion and the dryer vent cap will need to be replaced.   

Lastly if you want to be certain that your laundry room temperature does not drop beyond too much place a small wall heater with a built-in thermostat that plugs into an available outlet (just be sure that the heater is a safe spot and not near any clothing that can potentially catch fire). This will not only benefit your appliances but will take away the chill to those who need to do the laundry. Having a laundry room in the house is nice but there are still options for all the other folks that find themselves doing laundry in a cool garage or basement.

Final Words

To like or not to like laundry day that is the question. There are many perks to having your laundry appliances in your home rather than running to the laundromat. However, unless you are renovating your home you have to take the laundry room as is. You might not even have a separate laundry room or your washer and dryer are in an unfinished and unheated basement.

There are ways to make these laundry areas more comfortable from automatic baffles and small heating elements to making sure that your dryer venting system is working properly. Different items cause different amounts and types of lint and no matter how often you clean your lint trap there are other places where the lint builds up. This is why it is imperative to call a professional vent cleaning company to make sure that the lint is removed not only from the lint trap but from other parts of the dryer and the hose leading outdoors.

If you find that your laundry room is too cold to enter in the winter there are some options which you should try. Some folks will notice that their laundry room is the coldest room in their house in the winter. One of the reasons is that your clothes dryer is attached to a four inch wide exhaust duct and in the winter the cold air leaks through at the places that the duct connects to the outside of your home. If these parts are not sealed properly then when any warm air gets outside, it is taking away from the warmth in the room. Sealing the dryer ducts properly is something that a professional air duct specialist can do for you. Whatever your laundry challenges are it’s always better to do laundry at home then have to shlep it all to the local laundromat.

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