College Laundry 101: Understanding the Basics

College can be full of challenges, but locating a pair of clean jeans in time for your 8 a.m. chemistry class shouldn’t be one of them. All it takes is a few tricks and some planning for any busy co-ed to become a laundry pro in no time.

Add laundry to your routine.  Put laundry on your weekly to-do list and the chore will seem like less of an insurmountable task. Aim to hit the laundry room once a week, and try to go during off-peak hours (Wednesday nights are traditionally the slowest time), when you are less likely to have to jockey for a machine. Also check to see if your school is one of the many colleges that can now send online alerts to your smartphone or computer when washers and dryers are available.

Sort baby, sort. To make sure laundry comes out clean and bright, always separate darks and whites. Spot-treat stains, especially if you’re not able to do laundry for a few days. And remember to stock up on a great smelling liquid laundry detergent.

Create a “wash it” schedule. Socks, underwear, sportswear, T-shirts, and lightweight cotton garments should be washed after each use. Heavy-duty items like jeans, hoodies, sweatshirts, and corduroys can withstand several wears without washing, but don’t go longer than three to four weeks. Worried about fading your favorite dark jeans? If you turn them inside out, wash in cold water, and take them out of the dryer while they’re slightly damp, your denim should come out looking like new.

Get towels and sheets under control. Don’t be fooled by sheets and pillowcases that “look clean”: Linens accumulate dirt, sweat, dust, and more as you snooze, so toss ’em in the washer every two weeks with a liquid laundry detergent (for best results, use the hottest water recommended for the fabric based on the garment care label). To prevent any musty odors, make sure towels dry completely before folding. And always air-dry damp ones on a hook after showering.

And don’t forget. Items like comforters, blankets, and bedspreads—all magnets for dust, dirt, and grime—should be washed at least once a semester. Machine-washable jackets and down puffers need laundering, too (every 12 weeks is fine if the garments aren’t soiled). Wash them in cold water and dry on low heat. To keep that clean-laundry smell around for longer, use an in-wash scent booster.