7 Tips for Managing Laundry at College

College Laundry Boy
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College is a time of exciting and strange revelations. It is also a time when you will look back fondly on Mom and Dad's washer and dryer and the laundry advice (and often service) that was always readily available. A college laundry room, however, is a whole new experience.

Before you even leave home, do a practice laundry run (or several), so you master the basics of sorting and washing. Make sure you have all the supplies you need, such as detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets. Once you're actually in the dorm and facing laundry alone, following certain tips will help you save time and always have clean clothes to wear.

  • 01 of 07

    Pick the Best Spot to Sort Dirty Clothes

    Sort Laundry
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    Take the time to sort your clothing by colors (whites, lights, and darks) before you leave for the laundry room. Believe it or not, you probably have more workspace in your dorm room than you will in the laundry room.

    An even bigger time-saver is to have three laundry bags—colors, whites and towels—in your closet. Sort dirty laundry by color as you use towels or remove dirty clothes. Unless you are headed to do laundry right away, just make sure that everything is completely dry before tossing it in the bags to prevent mildew from growing.

  • 02 of 07

    Check for Hidden Washer and Dryer Surprises

    laundromat sock in washer

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    Before you set something on top of the laundry room washer or dryer, make sure the surface is clean. At best, you'll get sticky detergent residue on your clothes. At worst, you'll find bleach that will permanently ruin your clothes.

    Look inside the appliances, too—you never know what the last person had in the washer or dryer. Someone could leave a tube of lipstick in their pocket and that falls out in the dryer or washer, or you may find leftover clothing like a red sock that will fade onto your white shirts. Just look before you load. If the appliance is stained, be a good Samaritan and clean it up or at least report the problem to the dorm manager.

  • 03 of 07

    Pay Attention to the Time

    Laundry Apps
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    As you start your first load of laundry, check your watch or cell phone and time how long it takes for the washer to complete the load. Do the same thing when you load laundry in the dryer.

    Those numbers will be your guide for the year as you do laundry. Set an alarm to go back to check on your clothes. Not only will this help you get your clothes out of the dryer before they turn into a wrinkled mess, but it is also considerate of others.

    Some college dorms offer laundry room apps to alert you when a cycle has ended. Check them out because many a load of clean, wet clothes has been ruined when a rude classmate tosses it on the floor to get access to a machine.

  • 04 of 07

    Know Your Load Size


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    To help you gauge exactly how much laundry equals one load, fill a washer with dry clothes the first time you do laundry. Don't stuff the washer full; just gently add the dirty clothes in layers. An overstuffed washer will leave you with clothes that aren't clean.

    Now, empty the dry clothes back into an empty basket. That will help you see how much clothing equals one load in the washers you have available. The next time you do laundry, you can look at your pile of dirty clothes and know how many loads you'll need to do.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Prep the Dryer

    laundromat clothes dryer

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    Before you start the dryer, make sure the lint trap is clean. Not only will your clothes dry faster, but you'll potentially prevent a fire.

    As you load the clothes into the dryer, fluff each piece of clothing by giving it a quick shake. The fabric will dry more quickly and with fewer wrinkles. Get everything in the dryer before you start it up, as opening and closing the door loses heat and time.

    While the hottest cycle may get your laundry dried the quickest way, it probably isn't the best choice for your clothes. High heat can actually melt some synthetic fibers. Choose a lower temperature cycle for everything except cotton sheets and towels.

  • 06 of 07

    Fold or Hang Clean Clothes

    How to Fold Laundry
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    Whether you choose to fold or hang clothes is often a matter of space. Either one is perfectly fine for most items (though you should always fold sweaters). Just make sure that you actually do one or the other. Clothes left in a pile get wrinkles and only add more work by requiring ironing.

    Final folding can be done in the laundry room or back in your dorm room. If you have to go outside, keep a couple of heavy trash bags in your hamper to cover your clothes in case of rain.

  • 07 of 07

    Don't Lose Your Clothes

    Clothing label
    Photo illustration by MML

    If you plan to leave anything in the laundry room while your clothes are washing and drying, put your name on it. This means clothes, laundry bags, and detergent bottles. It also helps to add a cell phone number just in case something goes wrong and someone needs to reach you.