Utility room vs laundry room - how to decide which is right for you

Confused about the difference between a utility room and a laundry room? Our guide will help you pick the best one for your home

utility room with laundry area and butler sink with a green blind and yellow cabinetry
(Image credit: Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery)

Once seen as an uncommon luxury, both utility and laundry rooms are now frequently sought after, as homeowners realise the benefits of having a dedicated space for storage and chores. But the utility room vs laundry room debate can be confusing to say the least. 

The overlap between these two functional spaces means they're often used interchangeably, yet they still warrant separate names which suggests they have their own distinct functions. So what really is the difference between a utility room and a laundry room? And which one is the better pick for your home?

'Choosing between a laundry or utility room early in the design stages is important, as the purpose of the space will naturally dictate the layout, configuration and cost', says Ruth Lavender, Design Expert, Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery. 'While these labels are sometimes used interchangeably, there are actually a number of notable differences.'

Utility room vs laundry room

Before you jump headfirst into utility room design ideas, it's worth considering the difference between utility and laundry rooms so you can decide which one is right for you. 

Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about the utility room vs laundry room debate, so keep reading to have all your questions answered.

Utility room with dark blue walls and wooden countertops

(Image credit: Hillarys)

What is the difference between a utility room and a laundry room?

'Although most people use the terms ‘utility room’ and ‘laundry room’ interchangeably, there is a key difference between the two', says Melissa Klink, Creative Director, Harvey Jones. 'While a utility can include a washing machine, tumble dryer and clothes airer, laundry rooms are exclusively for this purpose and won’t have extras that a utility room might (such as storage for cleaning products, boots and shoes, coats).'

When it comes to utility room vs laundry room, laundry rooms do exactly what it says on the tin; it is a room dedicated purely to the chore of laundry. It is a space to store your laundry supplies, including detergent, fabric conditioner, and clothes that need washing, as well as your washing machine, and tumble dryer or the heated clothes airers.

A utility room on the other hand can serve multiple purposes. Even small utility rooms may be a space for you to do your laundry, while also storing your cleaning equipment, outdoor gear, and pet essentials.

'Utility rooms tend to cater for a mixture of uses, with designs being tailored to individual needs', explains Ruth from Benchmarx. 'This feature can serve as anything and everything – including a cloakroom, pantry, general storage area, boot room or pet washing area.'

Utility room with grey cabinets and white counters with sink

(Image credit: Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery)

Some utility rooms are used to aid the kitchen, especially in open-plan kitchen ideas where it's important to keep the kitchen clutter-free. 

'A utility room is a natural extension to the main kitchen area so you can prep and wash food, even batch cook or easily cater to guests without impact to the kitchen', says Matt Phillips, Head of UK Operations, Rotpunkt. 'Double ovens, sinks with large drainers and an extra cooktop are common features in these types of utility rooms.'

So, with utility room vs laundry room, their names do help you - to a point - work out which is right for you. Utility rooms are versatile, and they can be adapted to serve a variety of functions. A laundry room however, will stick to its sole purpose as a space to do the washing. 

Utility room vs laundry room: how to decide which will suit you better 

Washing machine and tumble dryer in middle of storage cupboards

(Image credit: Brandt Design)

If you're trying to decide between a utility room vs laundry room, the first thing to consider is your key objectives. Do you need additional storage, a boot room and pet accessory area? Or do you need a place to house your washing machine and dryer to maximise space in your kitchen? 

Your priority may be having a dedicated space to wash and dry your clothes, in which case, a laundry room would be more suitable. 'When drying clothes in the winter, it’s more common to dry them inside on an airer or in the tumble dryer', says Jo Winston, Sales and Marketing Director, St. Modwen Homes. 'Having a devoted space where you can keep laundry well-ventilated and out of the way is super handy.'

But when it comes to utility room vs laundry room, if you want a room that will serve more than one practical purpose, then a utility room is the way forward. Remember, you can still keep your washing machine and tumble dryer in a utility room, but alongside a host of other items too. A utility room will suit your home well if you're working with small hallway ideas for example, as you'll be able to store winter coats and wellies out of the way. 

Laundry room with clothes hanging on rail

(Image credit: AluSplash)

Utility room storage ideas are endless, so if you want a room dedicated to keeping the rest of your house - whether that's the hallway, kitchen, or living room - clutter-free, then start thinking about creating a utility room now.

It's important to consider the size of the space you're working with when considering utility room vs laundry room. Utility rooms tend to be bigger than laundry rooms, especially if you're wanting to store larger items like less frequently used cooking appliances or even a second fridge/freezer.

'If you’re dealing with a small space, repurposing it into a laundry room is the obvious option, as less space is required to meet this single function', says Ruth from Benchmarx. 'If it’s a little more spacious, it makes sense to use it for multiple purposes and create a utility room.'

Utility room vs laundry room: which is better?

Washing machine and tumble dryer in laundry room

(Image credit: Daval Furniture)

There is no definitive answer as to which is better in the utility room vs laundry room debate. If you avoid utility room design mistakes then this will offer more in terms of practicality, and can save the rest of your house from becoming cluttered. The laundry room on the other hand can only offer a space to store your washing necessities other than the kitchen. 

But that isn't to say that your home would be better suited to a utility room over a laundry room. 

'A laundry room is ideal for those with limited space in their home but are still wanting a separate area for washing and drying clothes', says Alastair Cooke, Fabric Care Manager, Miele GB.  'Washing machines and tumble dryers can be stacked on top of each other to save space, enabling them to be located in compact spaces or cupboards.'

The two primary factors to consider are the space you have and what you need to use it for. The answers to these will point you clearly down the path of either a utility or a laundry room, and whichever one you go down, your kitchen will thank you for it later. 

What is usually in a utility room?

utility room with laundry area and butler sink with a green blind and yellow cabinetry

(Image credit: Sarah Southwell Design)

'Utility rooms help to keep those messy household jobs contained to one space', says Jo from St Modwen Homes. 'Whether that's scrubbing the mud off wellies, changing the cat litter box, or even washing up paint brushes after a spot of DIY.'

Bulkier items are ideal for storing in the utility room because it's a dedicated space to keep things out of the way. Some examples items that are commonly stored in utility rooms include: 

  • Cleaning products - vacuum, mop and bucket
  • Pet products - cat litter tray, doggie bed, pet food and bowls
  • Outerwear - boots, wellies, coats, umbrellas
  • Kitchen bits - appliances, white goods, spare utensils
  • Laundry essentials

'Some people opt to use their utility room as a secondary kitchen by fitting their large appliances such as washing machines, freezers and dishwashers within the space to reduce clutter and noise in social areas', says Ruth from Benchmarx.

Using the utility room as a secondary kitchen is particularly beneficial for homes with kitchen-diners, as the practicalities can be kept out of the way of people eating dinner.

Is it worth having a utility room?

Utility room with washing machine, sink and window

(Image credit: Daval Furniture)

Creating a utility room could be well worth the effort and cost, and remember that there are plenty of budget utility room ideas out there, too.

'If your hallway is overflowing with coats and shoes, or you’re a pet owner, a utility room is a good idea', says Thomas Goodman, Property Expert, MyJobQuote. 'It will give you space to put extra racks, and an area to clean your pet, store their food and put accessories away.'

A multi-functional room might not always be necessary. Some homes already have a suitable hallway with enough storage, or a large kitchen that keeps everything they need in one place.

You might be wondering does a utility room add value to a house, to which the answer is yes, it does. 'Buyers are more frequently looking for multi-functional spaces that work for the whole family, so adding a utility or laundry room can help to add value to your property', explains Ruth from Benchmarx.

'A utility room may be a more favourable option of buyers as they can use the space for their own needs, especially if there’s plenty of storage.' So if you're wary of creating a utility room because of the initial expense, rest assured you'll likely receive a return on investment in the future.

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.