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Laundry 101: The Laundry Guide for College Students

July 23, 2019

Heading off to college can be exciting—even more so if you’re moving into a dorm. After all, it means that you won’t be under your parents’ roof anymore! Freedom, anyone?

If anything, it’ll help you gain independence. That’s right, you’ll have to put on your grown-up pants and do everything yourself. In doing so, you’ll likely learn some vital life skills, which will come in handy in the long run. It might take some getting used to at the beginning, but it’s definitely worth it. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing that you’re capable of taking care of yourself!

Doing the Laundry in College

laundry in college

Mom and dad might have done the laundry for you at home, but now that you’re at college, you’ll have to do it yourself! Ideally, you want to wash your clothes at least once a week. The last thing that you’d want is to have a pile of dirty, smelly laundry in the corner of your room! Let’s face it—your roommate probably won’t be too thrilled about that.

Not only is it icky, but it’s bad hygiene and causes odors. The longer you let your clothes sit, the greater the chance that the contaminants will spread to other surfaces. You wouldn’t want to live in a room like that, would you?

How to do Your Laundry in College

Why lug your dirty clothes home for the weekend when you can wash them yourself? Trust me, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Not sure how to get started? No worries. We’ll be going over everything you need to know below. Keep reading to learn more!

Preparing Your Dirty Clothes

The first thing that you want to do is to prepare your clothes. Don’t just throw everything into the washing machine blindly! Believe it or not but there are actually steps that you have to do before you wash the items.

sorting the laundry

1. Read the Care Tag Labels

As a general rule, you should always read the care tag label before washing an item—this is especially true if you’re washing something for the first time. Never assume how something should be washed; take the time to read the instructions on the tag instead. If anything, it’s probably one of the best things that you can do to prevent laundry disasters (trust me, they happen)!

2. Sort Out Your Clothes

Washing everything in one go is a no-no. Sure, it might save you time, but you might end up ruining your clothes! For one thing, dyes from one shirt can easily transfer onto another. Not to mention that heavier items can cause damage to lighter garments (e.g. a pair of jeans will always win against a thin t-shirt).

What you want to do instead, is to separate your dirty clothes into different piles. There are multiple ways that you can do this—for instance, it might be worth it to invest in a set of laundry hampers. Stick a label on each of them and you’ll easily be able to sort everything out—just throw the items into the corresponding hamper!

As far as the actual sorting goes, you want to separate everything based on color. Light colors (e.g. white, yellow, light blue, pink, etc) should go with light colors and dark colors (e.g. black, navy, green, purple, etc) should go with dark colors—never mix the two. You wouldn’t want your white shirt to have a stain of red on it, would you?

Note: Towels should always be washed separately. After all, they’re significantly thicker than your clothes.

You also want to pay attention to fabric weight—that is, how heavy an item is. For instance, you wouldn’t want to wash a zippered hoodie with your tanks and tees even if they’re the same color. Why? It can easily cause rips and tears in the other garments. Given that, what you want to do is to separate heavy items from light items—that way, you won’t have to worry about there being any damage!

Pro-tip: Sorting your clothes isn’t too difficult but it can take a while if you have a lot of laundry. Want to make things easier for yourself? If so, consider separating everything when you’re putting them away. In other words, don’t wait until laundry day to sort out that huge pile in your room. Sort your clothes out a little bit at a time and the chore will be much less daunting later!

Washing Your Dirty Clothes

Once you’ve sorted out your clothes, you’re ready to wash them. Put them in a basket (you can bring one load or multiple loads) and take them to the laundry facilities. While it depends on the college, most places will cost you a few dollars to wash a load—so bring some coins!

laundry room

Note: Laundry detergent, softeners, dryer sheets, etc, are not always provided. In other words, you’ll want to bring your own!

First things first, you want to put your clothes in the washing machine. If you want them to last, turn them inside out—that will decrease the likelihood of fading and friction, the latter of which can damage your garments. If you want to be really careful, consider using a laundry bag (you’ll have to bring your own); they will prevent your items from being thrown around inside the machine.

As for putting your clothes in the washing machine, you don’t want to just pack them in. Put the garments in one at a time—you don’t want to overstuff the machine. If you do, it won’t be able to clean your items efficiently. After all, you want to make sure that there’s enough room for everything to move around once it’s filled with water.

The next step is to put in the soap. We recommend using ACTIVE detergent if you’re washing activewear or clothes that are made from synthetic materials. Pour one scoop (or more, if you’re washing a lot of clothes) into the powder compartment and close it shut. Make sure not to add too much otherwise you risk there being detergent residue on your clothes! When in doubt, read the instructions on the box or bottle.

From there, you want to set the wash settings. A good rule of thumb is to use cold water—after all, hot water can shrink certain fabrics. Not to mention that it can cause some garments to warp! The only exception is towels, which you want to wash with a hot water cycle. Depending on the type of clothes that you’re washing, you might also want to select a delicate cycle.

Drying Your Clothes

drying your clothes in college

You want to be careful when you’re using the dryer—not all clothes can tolerate the heat. For instance, you never want to tumble dry bras, underwear or bathing suits.

That’s not to say that you can’t use the dryer, though. You can use it to dry your clothes as long as the items are compatible with heat. The process is straightforward—simply take your clothes from the washing machine and put them in the dryer. Chances are, they’ll be next to each other. If you want, you can use a dryer sheet. Not only will they make your clothes smell fresh, but they will also reduce static cling.

Pro-tip: Have something that you don’t want to get wrinkled? Take it out of the dryer when it’s still a little wet and hang it up to dry.

There’s also the option of letting your clothes air dry. For this, however, you’ll need to invest in some sort of drying rack for your dorm. Don’t hang them up wet in your closet; this will cause them to stink! What you want to do instead is to invest in some sort of drying rack. Don’t have room for something like that? No problem—there are over-the-door hooks that you can get, which will allow you to air dry your clothes.

Alternatively, you can lay them dry. Place a clean towel on your bed and put your wet clothes on top of it. Do note, however, that this method can take a while—it’s best if you have some time to spare.

Removing Stains From Your Clothes

Do you have a stained shirt? Before you sort it with the rest of your clothes, you’ll want to pre-treat it. The first step is to create a soapy mixture. You can do this by mixing a little bit of detergent with warm water in a bowl. Apply it onto the stubborn stain with an old toothbrush and let it saturate through the fabric. Wait at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off.

Note: Dealing with a fresh stain? If so, you’ll want to blot off the excess residue first (you can use a cloth or a paper towel). Never rub or scrub the stain as that’ll only cause it to spread, which is something that you definitely don’t want!

Other Tips For When You’re Doing the Laundry in the Dorms or Elsewhere

Here are a few other things that you want to keep in mind when you’re doing the laundry in college!

laundry tips for college students

1. Do Not Leave Your Detergent in the Laundry Room

Always take your supplies (e.g. detergent, dryer sheets, mesh bags, etc) with you when you’re finished. Never leave them in the laundry room—people will use them. Even worse, they might be gone when you come back!

2. Set Timers

One of the most important things that you want to do is to set a timer—that way, you’ll know exactly when your clothes are finished washing. Given the fact that there are limited machines in the laundry room, people will take your clothes out for you if you don’t take them out in a timely manner. In some cases, they might even throw it onto the ground! If that happens, you’ll have to wash them all over again.

3. Double Check the Machines

Always double-check the washer and dryer when you’re finished doing your laundry. Don’t rush out of the room right away—after all, there’s always a chance that a sock or two might be stuck along the underside of the machine!

4. Invest in a Good Laundry Hamper

Depending on your campus, you might have to lug your clothes a fair distance. Given that, it only makes sense to get something that’s easy to carry. For instance, it might help to get something with a handle.

5. Do Not Put Things on Top of the Machines

Never put your clean clothes on top of the machines—this includes both the washers and dryers. Why? That’s where people put their dirty clothes! You wouldn’t want to re-contaminate your items, would you? Instead of doing that, put your clothes nicely back into your laundry hamper.

6. Pick a Designated Laundry Day

Let’s face it—school is going to be busy. Don’t want to run out of underwear? If so, you might want to make a designated laundry day. Take a look at your class schedule and pick a day that’s less busy where you can wash your clothes. Trust me, getting into a routine helps a lot!

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Picture of Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant brings her extensive knowledge of laundry and clothing care to the masses with her intensive cleaning guides. Her thorough understanding of fabrics, detergents, and washing techniques helps readers master the art of maintaining their wardrobe. Sophia's advice ensures that anyone can achieve professional-level results at home, keeping their garments looking pristine and lasting longer.

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