laundry tips for college freshman

The Laundry Rules for Rookies

I am the proud mother of two strapping young men! Ben the Older is entering his senior year at university and is by now, a seasoned pro at doing his laundry. Charles the Younger is a rising Freshman and a newbie to the laundry game. 

Charlie (bless him!), has firm opinions about most things, even doing things he is wholly inexperienced at doing himself (like laundry). I see a lot of pink and grey socks in the future. But a little color bleed in the laundry isn’t the worst thing that can happen at uni, right? 

Still, I’m trying to squeeze in a few last-minute Life Skills before he leaves for school. For me, learning how to properly do laundry is right up there with cooking, making your bed, dancing with a partner, and holding your liquor. We all learn these things eventually with varying degrees of success, but it is so much better to perfect them while still young! 

But I digress. The best part about Basic Laundry Rules is that they are universal. The basics are easy to learn but learn them you must unless you want to go around looking like you live in a pub (and smell even worse)!

Rule No. 1: Don’t Make a Laundry Mountain 

Waiting until you’ve completely out of underwear to do your laundry and then hogging all the machines is nasty. And rude. Get a small laundry bag (or three) and do laundry when they’re full. 

Rule No. 2: Empty your Pockets

It's a good idea to get into the habit of checking pockets before you toss anything into the laundry. Some things, like money, you'll want. Others won't survive the rinse cycle. Air Pods and cigarettes spring to mind. Also, when you come home, there may be things you don’t necessarily want your parents to see. You have been warned.

Rule No 3: Sort and Separate 

I know this seems obvious, but the number of weirdly pink or not quite grey T-shirts I see on young people leads me to believe this is not a universally understood truth. Separate colors before washing them into 3 categories: whites, lights, and darks. The best trick is to have three bags (one for each color category). This way, your laundry is already sorted, you can do less laundry at a time, and your clothes are far less likely to end up the same grey color. Once you're done, fold clean laundry back into each bag, and carry it back to your room to re-distribute into your wardrobe like a Laundry-Day Santa Claus. Laundry Genius! 

Rule No. 4: Get Your Own Soap 

Helping yourself to someone else’s Laundry Soap is not OK. Bring your own, and share. Boom! You’re a Laundry Room Hero. 

Rule No. 5: More is Not Better

Are you trying to start a foam party? No, you are not. Overdoing it with soap is bad for the machines (and can ruin your clothes). Use a measuring cup to get the right amount for every load.

Rule No. 6: The Washing Machine and the Dryer Are Different Things 

It’s worth noting that a ticket to the washing machine is not an automatic Plus One invitation for the Dryer. Jackets, silks, lingerie, and wool should all be air-dried. Quick dry synthetics like swimwear and those creepy nylon sports shorts you love should never go in the tumble dryer. Just take it out of the washing machine damp and lay it flat on a clean towel. Easy. 

Rule No. 7: Change the Lint Filter, please!

Always check the lint trap before you try and dry your clothes.  If there's lint there, take it out!  A clogged lint trap slows the whole process down, making it less energy efficient and costly to run. It's also a huge fire hazard, so there's that. Better yet, skip the tumble dryer altogether and air-dry your things. It’s better for your clothing, your wallet, and the environment! Who’s a Clever Clog?! (You are)! 

Rule no. 8: Read the Care Labels

Not all items of clothing are created equal. This is especially important for a new item of clothing you’ve never washed before. When in doubt, hand wash it and hang it to dry. 

Rule No. 9: Temperature is Everything

Of course, you're reading the care labels, right? But a basic rule of thumb is: White and light-colored clothing can usually take warmer water, and dark things should be washed in cold water to avoid fading. Avoid shrinkage by using the cooler dryer temperature. And don't mix clothes in the dryer either. If you just chuck all your wet laundry into the dryer, you may as well throw an uncapped Sharpie in there, too. 

Rule No. 10: Heat Sets a Stain

If an item comes out of the washing machine with the stain still visible, tossing it into the tumble dryer will not improve the situation. Quite the reverse. Why? Because Heat sets a stain, making it much more difficult to remove later.  Show that nasty stain who’s boss and spot treat it with stain remover and leave it to soak overnight.  

Rule No. 11: Take a Scent Cycle

Scent is a big deal. There's nothing that kills a vibe faster than a cute guy with a smelly shirt. Experienced laundry Ninjas take an extra spin in the dryer on low or no heat to infuse their laundry with a delicious scent. Use Dryer Balls or just dab Fragrance Oil onto a clean, orphaned sock. It’s a great way to make new friends. 

Rule No. 12: Check for Strays

Leaving a rogue sock behind in the washer or dryer is a total rookie move. Not to mention how gross it is for the next person who uses the machine to have to deal with your damp undies. Ugh. Always check to make sure both machines are completely empty before moving on.  

Rule No. 13: Fluff and Fold

It’s tempting to just stuff your clean, dry laundry into a bag and call it a day. Don’t. It may seem quick and easy, but everything will end up with more wrinkles than Mother Teresa. Semi-fold laundry while it’s fresh out of the dryer, and everything will come out neater and take up less room.

Rule No. 14: Never Iron Over a Stain

First of all, very impressed that you are attempting to iron (!). Using a spray bottle will make things go faster, but it’s important to remember a lesson we just learned: Heat sets a stain. If you casually glide over a stain with your iron, you might as well set it on fire because you have just lost any chance of getting that stain out, heat sets a stain, remember?

Rule No. 15: Wash New Things 

"New" is not the same as "clean." New clothes and bedding (and all textiles) are treated with a crazy chemical salad that you do NOT want to wear next to naked skin. Always wash new things in a quick cycle before you wear them. Please, please please do this! 

Rule No. 16: Never wad up wet things. Ever.  

Wet things at the bottom of the laundry basket stay wet forever and make everything smell worse than a bus station men's room. No amount of Fragrance will cover that up. If you must put a wet thing into the laundry, please spread it out and hang it over the side of something. 

Rule No. 17: Know When to Call in the Professionals.

This is not an Open Invitation to stuff everything into a bag and drop it off at your mum's. No. But, there will be things that you don't know how to launder properly. When in doubt, take it to the dry-cleaners and ask them to launder it for you. Or call your mother. She knows everything.  

xx, mlk