By: Contributor On: August 31, 2009 In: Living in the US, Student Housing Comments: 4

Whether it’s your small budget or your small dorm closet that’s preventing you from going on another shopping spree, one thing is certain: you’ll eventually have to do your laundry at college.

Doing your laundry on your own is an easy way to assert a little independence and prove to your yourself that you’re doing just fine on your own. But pink socks will prove nothing of the kind!

Follow these 7 steps for cleaner clothes.

1. Buy your laundry supplies.

You will need:

  • detergent
  • dryer sheets
  • a laundry basket or laundry bag

If you’ve waited until the last possible moment to do your laundry and you can’t possibly carry a new bottle of detergent along with your mountain of clothes, a good trick is to pour out some into a water bottle — much lighter.

Before starting college, I bought a sturdy laundry basket divided into two sections. That’s convenient because you can either put your clothes on one side and supplies in the other, or separate your lights and darks before you even step foot in the laundry room. Speaking of which…

2. Separate your laundry.

You can separate your laundry multiple ways, but you can basically get away with four loads: whites/lights, darks, delicates and towels/jeans/bedding.

There is some overlap. For example, you could wash a gray shirt with either the lights or darks, or you could throw your bedding in with a small load of lights or darks (depending on the size and color of your sheets).

And if you buy separate mesh laundry bags for your delicates (try Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond), you can even combine them in the appropriate color load.

Just never ever toss a new dark red or purple shirt in with the whites. I don’t think I need to tell you the results. In fact, you may want to wash it separately once or twice to make sure it won’t bleed.

3. Pick the right time.

Early bird? Night owl? Doing your laundry when other college students are sleeping is often the quickest way to get it done.

The top floor of my college dorm was filled with washers and dryers, and by doing my laundry when others weren’t I could finish two or three loads at the same time instead of waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Choosing the right time may be a requirement rather than a suggestion. Dorms with a limited number of washers and dryers may require students to sign up for certain times. Living off-campus? Not all laundromats are open 24-hours!

Something a lot of colleges are doing now which is extremely helpful is creating a webpage that actually shows you which washers and dryers are currently in use as well as providing a chart that shows what days and times are busiest. See if your school has a similar program – it can make doing laundry a breeze!

4. Collect quarters.

Sorry, doing your laundry isn’t free anymore. Set aside a bag or container to collect your quarters everyday, and stuff it into your laundry basket before you do the wash. If the laundry room has a coin machine, keep a few crisp dollar bills with you just in case you need a little extra.

*Pro tip: It’s becoming more common for schools to allow you to use your ID as a debit card for washing machines, which is convenient in an increasingly cash-less world. However, if your school has older machines, quarters getting stuck in the slot is a likely pitfall. The quickest solution? A bobby pin.

5. Choose the correct laundry settings.

All of those buttons and knobs! If this is your first time doing your laundry in college, the washer and dryer may seem only slightly less complicated than your calculus homework.

Not to worry.

First, check the tags on your clothing for any special cleaning instruction. Some items may need to be hand-washed or dry cleaned. Don’t shrug and toss it in anyway; washing that wool sweater in hot water or throwing it in the dryer will result in shrinkage.

Also, a “full” load really means about two-thirds of the washer or dryer space is taken up. Any more than that, and at best your clothes won’t really be clean/dry, and at worst you’ll have caused a flood in the laundry room.

Next, choose the water temperature:

  • hot for whites, linens and towels
  • cold for anything you don’t want to shrink or fade (including any whites that fall into this category)
  • warm for everything else

Remember, when in doubt: cold water won’t get your clothes as clean as hot water, but it also won’t ruin anything (plus its better for the environment).

Next, choose the size of your load, if that’s an option. If you are unsure if your load is a small or a large, choose the bigger size to make sure the load will get enough water.

After about a half-hour, it’ll be time for the dryer. Choose the setting that best describes your clothing. Not sure? Choose “normal.”

And remember: NEVER put wool or anything you don’t want to shrink in the dryer!

6. Fold your laundry immediately.

Unless you want to look like you rolled out of bed 24/7, put away your clothes as soon as you’re done doing the laundry. Keeping them in a big heap may be convenient, but it’s also the easiest way to make sure each and every piece of clothing you have is wrinkled beyond repair.

7. Invest in an iron and small ironing board.

Did you skip tip #6?

Get out your iron and ironing board.

I know that space is at a premium, but a small tabletop ironing board can easily slip under your bed. Alternately, you can always just put a towel on top of your desk or kitchen counter if you have one. It’ll work just as well as the ironing board, though it may make maneuvering your clothing a bit more difficult.

If space is really that cramped, or you’re afraid of burning your clothing, wrinkle-release spray works pretty well too.

7 1/2. Mind your laundry etiquette.

Everyone needs to share the laundry room and a limited number of machines, so try not to forget your clothing in the washing machine or dryer. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to — otherwise, desperate dormmates may toss your clothes to the side.

Also, make sure to empty the lint trap after drying your clothes. Your neighbors will appreciate it!

No one said doing your laundry in college was fun, but if you can juggle a full-time class schedule, a couple of on-campus extracurricular activities and even a part-time job as a student, you certainly can handle a few loads of laundry.

Have you had any laundry mishaps in college? Do you have even more tips to help out any laundry newbies? Let us know in the comments below!

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7 years ago

Buy a stable structured one instead. Wicker laundry hampers often have their framework in wood. A good idea as this will ensure that your laundry hamper won’t sag with time.

6 years ago

You should try Rockin’ Green Soap! It’ll get stains out and funky smells without having to do anything extra to your load of wash. You don’t need all that much to get the job done, so each bag is a good value. Plus, it smells awesome. Rockin’ Green Soap is perfect for college students!

5 years ago

Folding your laundry immediately is good advice. I know if I don’t fold mine right away then it might never get done.

3 months ago

doing laundry is not fun but still do your laundry