7 Must-Haves for College Laundry

Laundry detergent and fabric softener sheets next to laundry basket

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Most students find laundry a necessary evil at best. Here are seven clothes-washing essentials to buy before you get to campus.

  • 01 of 07

    Two Dirty Clothes Hampers

    Two laundry baskets with dirty clothes

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Two hampers are a must for college laundry. By sorting white and colored laundry in your dorm room, you'll save a great deal of time when you get to the laundry room. Then when clothes are clean, they are easier to put away (or dig through) when you get back to your room.

    Since space is always at a premium in a dorm room or apartment, collapsible hampers are a great space saver for those few times you have no laundry to do. Most of these mesh or fabric hampers have a strap for easy carrying.

    If you prefer laundry baskets, look for those that might fit under the bed and have sturdy handles for easy carrying. Plastic baskets are always a good choice because they can be easily cleaned. If you choose a natural fiber basket—like wicker or rattan—be sure it has a fabric lining to prevent snags to clothes.

  • 02 of 07

    Two Mesh Bags

    Mesh bag held with zipper open

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    If you don't like a collapsible hamper and want a dirty clothes bag, be sure to get one made of mesh. Mesh bags allow your dirty laundry to get some air (and not develop mildew) before you get around to doing it.

    No matter what hamper you choose, be sure to get a mesh bag for washing small items. If you put all of your socks in a mesh laundry bag and tie it shut, you can throw the whole thing in the washer and never lose a sock. 

    Mesh bags also work well for delicate bras and underwear that should never go into a dryer. The mesh bag makes them easy to find and remove when you're moving clothes from the washer to the dryer.

  • 03 of 07

    Easy-to-Use Detergent

    Laundry detergent pod and liquid filled in cap

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    When we start out, most of us grab the same detergent our family uses at home. You may even want to continue using it to keep that familiar fresh laundry smell while you're away from home.

    There are other options, though. Investigate laundry products that include stain removers, brightening, and whitening agents and come in single-use units. Single-use products like Ecos Liquidless Laundry Detergent Squares are more costly per load but the convenience and reduction of waste to recycle is unmatchable.

  • 04 of 07

    Stain Removers

    Bleach pen fixing stained clothing

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Stains happen. Keep stain remover pens on hand to treat stains as soon as they happen or at least before you toss something in the hamper. To pretreat stains before you wash clothes, use a solid or gel stain stick—no spilling! For best results, apply the stain remover to the stain and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before you toss in the washer (gives the stuff time to work).

    Don't reach for chlorine bleach unless you are experienced at doing laundry. Rely instead on oxygen-based bleach for removing tough stains and that dye stain from the red sock in your white underwear. It is safe for all washable fabrics, and you won't end up with mysterious spots on your clothing.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Dryer Sheets

    Dryer sheets being pulled from box

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Dryer sheets come in scented and unscented varieties. They help reduce static cling and soften clothes, making wrinkles easier to remove. You can also use scented dryer sheets to freshen stinky shoes and even dust computer monitors!

  • 06 of 07

    Collapsible Drying Rack

    Collapsible dry rack with garments hanging

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    A collapsible drying rack can be used for drying bath towels between uses (there are never enough towel racks in the bathroom), drying rain-soaked coats, and even for freshly washed clothes. Most college dryers are set permanently on high heat and that can ruin sweaters, delicate garments, and workout gear.

    One of the oldest styles, X-frame drying racks, are sturdy and able to hold a number of garments while taking up only a small amount of floor space. While most are made of wood, they are lightweight and sizes and finishes can vary. Even an over-the-door drying rack will help make laundry easier.

  • 07 of 07

    Clothes Steamer

    Clothes steamer taking out wrinkles on plaid shirt

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    If you aren't comfortable with or pleased about using an iron, get a clothes steamer. A travel size steamer is perfect for a dorm room.

    Simply hang up your garment and run the steamer over it. ​It will take out nearly every wrinkle. You may even discover some other surprising ways to use the steamer.