What's keeping kids from doing well in school? In some cases, it's clean clothes.
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Whirlpool

T.J. Kirk hates the laundromat. What kid doesn't?

“The laundromat wastes my time,” he says. He thinks it’s boring. They have TVs, but they're never playing anything he wants to watch.

T.J. is in the third grade, and when he has homework, the laundromat gets in the way. “I can’t bring it because I can’t focus,” he says.


But even though he hates the laundromat, he prefers it to the alternative.

All photos via Whirlpool.

“At least we’re getting clothes cleaned to wear for school,” T.J. says.

When his family’s dryer broke, T.J.’s mom tried to use the laundromat whenever they could afford it — but often, T.J. found himself going to school in wet clothes or clothes he’d worn before. And when kids spot stains, they can be cruel.

"When the teacher isn't around, they say, 'There's something nasty on your shirt.' And they start laughing," T.J. says.

Laundry can have a much bigger impact on kids’ lives than we realize.

Just watch how it affected T.J.’s life to go without clean clothes and how his life changed when he had access to laundry again.

For many people, laundry is nothing but a chore. For kids without clean clothes, however, it's a constant concern.

“People at school are supposed to wear clean clothes,” T.J. says. When a child knows they’re in dirty clothes, they behave differently — feeling more self-conscious, less focused, and less confident in themselves.

When his family was without a dryer, T.J. was always thinking about making sure his clothes stayed clean. “If we’re going somewhere that has messy food, I put not good clothes on,” he says. “Something that sort of looks good, but not really.” He did his best to avoid messes and stains, to make sure his clothes stayed clean for a second wear.

But for T.J., life just isn’t as fun when he’s not allowed to get messy.

“We play soccer, play on the monkey bars, go to the swings,” he says. He loves sports and art, nature and the environment. He likes looking for snakes and caterpillars and buried treasure in the dirt. And now that there’s a washer and dryer in the school, T.J. can do all the things he loves without worrying about his clothes.

“When I put a clean shirt on,” he says, “It makes me feel happy because I don’t have to go to school with a shirt that I don’t like.”

One of T.J.’s biggest concerns is that other kids get the same access that he has to clean laundry.

After all, getting dirty is no fun without friends to do it with. “Something that I like about soccer,” he says, “is that you have teammates. Because if you don’t have teammates, how can you make a goal?”

That’s why he wants to see more schools get washers and dryers, like his. “We’re helping people who will come to school with dirty clothes,” he says. “So they don’t get picked on by their friends.”

And it's not just kids who benefit from having laundry access in schools — it brings the whole community together too.

"Now that our community knows that we have this, everyone is starting to be involved with our school," says T.J.'s mom, Monica. "Seeing that change is just amazing."

With laundry in schools, kids are more confident, communities are closer, and schools are a better place to be. And, perhaps best of all, fewer kids like T.J. have to wait around boring laundromats.

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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via DanielandDavid2 / Instagram

Editor's Note: We used "black" in lowercase for our headline and the body of this story in accordance with emerging guidelines from the Associated Press and other trusted news outlets who are using uppercase "Black" in reference to American descendants of the diaspora of individuals forcibly brought from Africa as slaves. As part of our ongoing efforts to be transparent and communicate choices with our readership, we've included this note for clarity. The original story begins below.

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