Introduction: How to Do Your Laundry in College

When you start college, your mother won’t be there to do your laundry for you. Therefore, you need to learn how to do your laundry all by yourself. This set of instructions will help any college student learn the basics to getting their own laundry done.  The five steps we have included in this college laundry guide include preparing for a laundry load, sorting clothes, washing clothes, drying clothes, and folding clothes.  A normal load of laundry takes approximately 90 minutes.  By following these five simple steps, you'll have your pungent, pizza-stained clothes all cleaned up in no time!  The faster this laundry gets done, the faster you can get back to procrastination of that homework.  So get those dirty clothes together and let's do this!

Step 1: Prepare for Laundry

Since you've never done laundry before, some proper preparation needs to be done before simply throwing those clothes in the washer.  You need to get the necessary laundry materials collected and locate your laundry room.

Before considering doing your laundry, you need to make sure you have some of the necessary items for the task.

Necessary laundry materials include:
dirty laundry
quarters or a student ID card (we know you are broke, but laundry isn't always free)
laundry detergent
stain stick (for the pizza stains)
dryer sheets
drying rack (or steal a few chairs if you have any delicates)
iron and ironing board (if necessary)

Once you have collected a few of the necessary items (some of these items are displayed in Figure 1 above) you will need to locate the laundry room.

Finding the laundry room
To locate the laundry room, you can ask another person on your dorm or apartment floor or you could just start searching for the nearest dark, musty basement room (as shown in Figure 2 above).  Either way, when you get to the laundry room, make sure that some empty washers are available before you start the next steps.  Another piece of information which you may need to find out is how to pay for your laundry.  Most machines use quarters (up to $1.50 per machine), but modern laundry facilities may use a card scanner that you swipe your student ID card through as money is taken from your student account.  Most likely a sign should be posted with payment procedures.

After figuring out where the laundry room is, it's time to head down with your clothes to make Mom proud and start the sorting step.

Step 2: Sorting Your Clothes

When sorting your clothes as a college student, just stick to the basics. First you might want to give those unknown clothes on the floor the "sniff-test" to ensure they are dirty.  Then simply separate your clothes by lights and darks (as shown in the picture above). This will ensure that the darks will not turn your whites a different color. For example, a red shirt can turn a white shirt pink which is bad unless you need a pink shirt and want to save a couple of dollars. Separate towels and sheets from apparel since they will leave bits of fabric on the clothes. Also, towels and sheets require different water temperatures, usually hot water, to be cleaned properly. While sorting, make sure that all pockets are empty, zippers and buttons are closed, and belts and jewelry are removed.  Once this is completed, you are ready to move onto the washing step.

Step 3: Wash

It’s now time to get your clothes clean! Looking at the washing machine in front of you, you might be a little intimidated.  These big machines may appear to have enough dials and buttons to rival an airplane cockpit, but with just a little practice you will get the hang of the controls.

Filling the Washer
The first part of using a washing machine is to fill it with water. No, don’t go get a bucket for water! The dials on a washing machine are used to fill itself with water of a certain temperature. Hotter water does a better job at dissolving dirt and stains, but may cause fading or color blending in colorful clothes. Colder water helps prevent color blending, but doesn’t fight stains as well.  Try warm warm water as a 'catch all' if your having difficulties picking a water temperature!    Another option on some washers is labeled permanent press.  Clothes labeled as permanent press should be washed in this setting.  Your pile of college T-shirts and jeans are most likely not permanent press though!  After setting a water temperature you can start filling the tub and then add detergent.

Detergent and Fabric Softener
Your laundry detergent cap is the key to using the correct amount of detergent (see Figure 2 above). Pour detergent to the line marked ‘1’, ‘2’, or ‘3’ depending on the size of your load.  Your washer may have a slot to pour the laundry detergent, if not, just pour the detergent into the tub.  Liquid fabric softener can help to make your clothes softer.  Use the same procedure as pouring detergent to pour your fabric softener.

Clean Those Clothes!
Your washer is now ready to take your clothes.  Toss your clothes into the tub, shut the lid, and let the washer do its thing!   Washing usually takes around twenty minutes, and afterwards you are ready to move on to the drying process.

Step 4: Drying Your Clothes

Now that your clothes have been washed, they need to be dried. Make sure you do not leave the wet clothes in the washer for an extended period of time or they will start to smell unpleasant and you may end up having to wash them again, unless your plans involve wearing wet, moldy smelling clothes to class. This is not recommended because you will most likely be snickered at for smelling like a wet sewer rat.  In order to avoid humiliation, you will need to follow these simple drying steps.

From Washer to Dryer
The first step in the drying process is to take the wet clothes out of the dryer and separate the delicates from the non-delicates.  Delicates include items that are too delicate to go through the mechanical drying process at a high heat or long term setting. Although some delicates can go in the dryer, a specific setting is available on most models of dryers for such items.  A small tag on the clothing item will indicate whether or not it is suitable for a dryer.  Make sure to read the small tags on your clothing until you get a feel for what can go in the dryer.  This could save your favorite bra or tee-shirt from being ruined.  As shown in Figure 1 above, non-delicates such as towels are placed in dryer while delicates are separated. You may choose to use a dryer sheet at this time. It is not always necessary, but it will make your clothes softer and make them smell better.  The delicates are to be placed on a drying rack of some sort as shown in Figure 2.

Clean the Lint Rack!
The next step is to find the lint rack in the dryer and make sure it is clean. The location of the lint rack will vary depending on what brand and model of dryer you are using.  It looks like a small piece of screen and is responsible for catching the lint that comes off of your clothes while going through the mechanical drying process. If too much lint is built up on the screen of the lint rack, the dryer will not function properly, so it is imperative that the lint is cleaned off before the dryer is turned on, as shown in Figure 3. 

Begin Drying
Now that you have the proper articles of clothing in the dryer, the lint rack clean, and the dryer sheets included, it is time to set the dial and begin the final drying process. As seen in Figure 4, several settings are available for you to choose.  Each setting is specific to what type of clothing you are drying and the different settings produce different amounts of heat and time cycles. A 60 minute timed dry is the most common setting to select for a normal laundry load. 

Start that dryer and be ready for the folding step.

Step 5: Remove and Fold

After your clothes are done drying, remove them from the dryer. Fold the clothes neatly and iron them if necessary. You can iron essentially all fabrics except for silk. Also, make sure you use the dials on the iron. The dials control the temperature of the iron, which will need to be changed according to the type of fabric that is ironed. 

Now that your laundry is ironed and folded like the clothes shown above, you have completed your laundry load.  Next we will review a few safety items to consider while doing laundry.

Step 6: Laundry Is Done!

Safety
Some safety considerations exist when doing laundry.  Always make sure washer and dryer machines come to a full stop before reaching into the machines to avoid injury.  Also, avoid picking up any piece of clothing that has fallen behind or between the machines.  This is college, nothing is sanitary so play it safe and just buy another pair of socks.  Also, for your own emotional safety, never try to pick up a member of the opposite sex in the laundry room.  Get their name and room number and bring your "A" game somewhere more lively than a dark, musty college laundry room.

Finished!
Congratulations you have completed your first load of laundry!  You will now be able to spend many wasted hours and quarters on this necessary task.  Now that you have the laundry basics down, you can get back to that much needed studying.  Or you could impress that special someone with your nicely folded set of clothes that you did all by yourself and maybe even offer to teach them how it's done because now you are the expert!

Comments

author
ilpug made it!(author)2012-08-06

Here's a tip: If you find that whatever detergent or soap you use doesn't cut the funk, add about two tablespoons of baking soda to the soap. Cuts all the odors. It's also super cheap.

author
juicylucys made it!(author)2011-04-07

We appreciate the feedback!

Thanks for the great advice on keeping clothes fresh!

author
Phil+B made it!(author)2011-03-30

This will also be helpful for anyone who lives alone. That could include never-married, divorced, widowed, and those whose wife is traveling. College was more than 40 years ago for me. My clothing at the time was pretty simple and most things could be washed without much regard for temperature settings, etc. One big error that cost me was when I poured liquid bleach into a machine so that it came into contact with a pair of trousers rather than with the water in the machine. (There was no separate bleach reservoir on that machine.) That mistake left a "burn" mark on those trousers, and I had to discard them.

You could do another Instructable on ironing freshly washed clothes. I got to where I could iron a short-sleeve shirt in less than four minutes.

Your mention of avoiding moldy smelling clothes, etc. is important for several reasons. I know a woman who said she always found a way to sniff her date's shirt early in the date. If it did not smell fresh and clean, she knew he was not a "keeper."

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