You are so ready for college. You’ve memorized the campus map, coordinated “who is bringing what” with your roommate, and mastered the art of five course meals in the microwave. You’ve even created the ultimate class schedule: no lectures before noon or on Fridays. But a few weeks into the semester you realize there’s one important lesson you forgot to learn–how to do your laundry.

Relax. There’s no need to call home for step-by-step instructions, and there’s definitely no need to be known around campus as “what’s that smell?” Here at The Institute of Home Science you’ll find everything you need to master the basics of College Laundry 101.


TV? Check. Microwave? Check. Laundry basket? Uh oh. When packing for college, make sure the following must-have laundry essentials aren’t overlooked. They will make your transition to doing laundry on campus virtually wrinkle free.

  • Hamper Basket/Bag: In a cramped dorm, a hamper is your first line of defense against an embarrassing overflow of dirty clothes. And with cramped spaces in mind, the most effective hamper is one that doesn’t just sit there. Laundry baskets and bags are useful for lugging clothes to faraway campus laundry rooms, but pop-and-fold hampers and hampers on wheels do double-duty by providing storage and portability.
  • Laundry Detergent: With dozens of detergents to choose from, picking one is almost as difficult as navigating your new campus. Consider a detergent with color safe bleach, which can be used for both whites and darks, or “pods,” which are pre-packaged packets of detergent, which are convenient for the busy college student.
  • Dryer Sheets: Keep your clothing static-free with dryer sheets. In the dorm room, get creative and keep things fresh by using dryer sheets to line garbage pails and sneakers, too.
  • Iron & Board: Getting dressed for a presentation or interview? An iron and board are “need-to-haves” for days when a t-shirt and pajama bottoms just won’t do. An ironing board is also a great alternative to folding at the laundry room table.
  • Drying Rack: No idea what to do with those clothes that read “line dry only”? Protect your delicates with a drying rack. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be doing your part to save the environment.
  • Stain Remover: Don’t procrastinate getting that pizza sauce stain out of your new shirt. With a stain remover stick on hand, you can treat stains as they happen, instead of waiting for the next trip to the laundry room.
  • Money: Will you need quarters to use your laundry room or will the cost be deducted from your student ID card? Prepare yourself by checking with the campus housing department beforehand.

Laundry: Step-By-Step

Between going to class, getting used to college life and making new friends, laundry is likely to be low on your priority list. With these step-by-step instructions, laundry room visits can easily (and quickly) be crossed off the to-do list.

Step 1: Prepping:

  • Treat stains by blotting, not rubbing, from the back of the fabric (the opposite side of the fabric than the stain).
  • Divide loads into lights and darks.
  • Check that zippers are closed, hooks clasped and pockets emptied.

Step 2 – Washing:

  • Use only enough detergent as specified for your load size (check the bottle). Extra suds hold and re-deposit dirt on your laundry.
  • Use hot water to keep white loads bright.
  • Use warm water when washing colors.
  • Use cold water to prevent darks from fading.

Step 3 – Drying:

  • Select items from the wash load to place in dryer. Delicate items can go on a drying rack.
  • Add a dryer sheet to keep clothes static-free.
  • Empty the lint trap to dry faster and increase energy efficiency.
  • To avoid extra wrinkles, fold immediately after drying.

Going Green: Laundry Tips

  • Wash only full loads. Washing full loads instead of multiple small ones can save up to 3,400 gallons of water a year.
  • Use cold water for rinsing when possible. Warm and hot water require more energy for heating.
  • Sort by fabric types. Drying similar fabrics together reduces drying times and ensures even drying.
  • Dry faster with leftover heat. Pick the dryer that still feels warm to the touch to shorten your drying time.
  • Don’t overfill the dryer. Air circulation is important to ensure proper drying. Overloaded dryers may have to be run more than once–wasting energy, time and money.
  • Clean the lint filter before each dryer cycle to maintain proper air circulation and to speed up the drying process.

Now go conquer college. Get an A+ in Laundry 101!