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College Prep – Laundry 101!

Enthusiastic parents like me who are sending away their child(ren) to college may feel the urge to provide great pearls of wisdom about forthcoming new experiences, study habits and life experiences. There is a good probability those pearls might fall on skeptical ears or seen as being outdated. One key area that might escape that fate is the laundry department.

Sooner or later each college student comes face-to-face with the reality of owning responsibility for having clean sheets, towels, underwear and clothes. So hopefully, they have had a chance to practice doing laundry before going off to the “real” world. I always start with teaching my high school-aged children some basic practices and laundry tips while they’re still living at home to prep them for what’s to come. After walking up 10 flights of stairs as a pack mule to my daughter’s room and talking to several new residents, it was clear that a wide range of laundering experience existed. From none to 4-5 years seemed to describe the level of expertise. So whether you were one of the lucky ones or not, here’s a little resource tool for now or future reference.


A laundry basket or bag: It starts and ends in the basket. This is a seemingly simple item that’s critical to laundry success. A big one will keep clothes off of the dorm room floor until your student finds time in their busy schedule to actually do laundry. (Hopefully that’s more than one time before Thanksgiving break or their first visit back home!) Remember that dorm rooms and apartments can be short on space. Pop-open baskets made of mesh are a great solution (add dividers to help with pre-sorting), or drawstring bags that can be hung in the smallest of closets (be careful not leave the items in there too long or strange odors will start developing).

Detergent: A must-have item! Liquid or powder, just make sure they understand the usage instructions. If the washer does not have a dispenser, add the detergent as the washing machine is filling with water. Let it mix with the water before tossing in any clothes. Check out my tips from earlier posts for more details.

Clorox® Regular Bleach2: College life, whether cafeteria pit stops or on-the-go eating, is a magnet for stains. These make bleach usage essential for students. Shared washing machines in dorms and apartments are always quite germy. Make sure you use liquid bleach in the first white load to prevent dorm mate germs from ending up on your clothes; it’s like mouthwash for the washing machine. Another reason to use liquid bleach is body soil – a topic that I will discuss in an upcoming post.

Clorox2® Bleach for Colors: For those colored items, use Liquid Clorox 2 as a pretreatment to help get stain removal started before washing. It also helps give colors a boost and make them looking brighter.

Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel: First time laundry washers may be very anxious about stains on stripes and prints. The Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel is a great, portable way to help wipe out the tough stains on combination whites and stripes or prints. Before starting, always check to make sure the item is bleachable; there’s a simple pre-test on the back label. Two tips, a scrubber and fine line, cover the range of situations you will encounter and help keep the bleach right where you want it.

Fabric Softener: Remind your student that they can eliminate some of the odors of college life with a nice leave-behind scent on their clothes. Fabric softener comes in either liquid or sheet form. The liquid variety should be poured in the fabric softener dispenser; it will be added in the final rinse. Sheets are easy and portable and can be thrown into the dryer. Fabric softener helps make towels and sheets less harsh and can reduce static electricity during drying. This makes it easier to find those socks.

Quarters: Laundry’s not free like at home! Some form of payment will be required. Most likely quarters for both the washer and dryer are needed to transform that dirty, smelly pile into usable items again. A roll of quarters should get you through to your first visit home. Laundry systems at some universities are now equipped with high tech laundry cards, which work like a debit card to swipe through the machine. Check ahead with the university or apartment complex to see what kind of system they have in place so that you don’t show up with the wrong form of payment.

No matter what kind of advice you give your students about doing laundry, some of them will resort to the college student motto: “If it looks clean, it is.” Encourage them to multitask, double-up laundry time with study time and fold as you go means less wrinkled and easier to find wanted items when you get home. Preparing and encouraging your student to do their own laundry may even save you from “emergency” laundry drops on their weekend trips home.