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How To Do Your Own Laundry

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When you go away to college, you are responsible for many things you used to take for granted. Doing laundry is one of these things. You have a few options when it comes to clean clothes. You can take all of your clothes home and let your mom do your laundry. This method is cost and time effective and produces the results you need. This is only an option if you have a lot of clothes or go home fairly often. Another option is to purchase a large bottle of Febreeze and spray each piece of clothing until it smells clean. This method is cost effective, somewhat time effective, but not very sanitary. Your final option involves actually learning how to do laundry. This option is probably your best bet. Laundry is easy when you know how.

Before beginning your laundry, you need a few supplies. Round up the following:

  • Quarters

Washing and drying your clothes costs money – usually $.75 to $1.75 per load per machine. Many laundromats have change machines. If yours doesn’t, get quarters before going.

  • Detergent

Laundry detergent comes in two forms – liquid or powder. There is really no difference between the two. Consider using the brand that your Mom uses at home – the familiar smell will be a reminder of home.

  • Bleach

If you wash a lot of white clothes, you may want to add bleach to get your clothes as bright as possible. Remember: Bleach should only be used for white items of clothing.

  • Fabric Softener

Fabric softener eliminates static and makes your clothes feel softer and smell fresher. It is available in liquid form (which is added to the wash cycle) and sheet form (which is added during the dry cycle). There is not much difference in the effectiveness of the two.

  • Laundry Basket or Bag

Have something to put your laundry in when you are taking it to and from the laundromat. You can use a pillowcase if you don’t have a laundry basket, bag, or hamper.

Now that you have all of your supplies, it’s time to start. The most fundamental step to laundering clothes is to separate your dirty clothes. Separate them by color. Clothes with color tend to bleed in the wash, and this bleeding will make your whites dingy or dyed. Mixing colors is the biggest mistake made when doing laundry. You are headed for success if you can mange to separate your laundry. Divide your clothes into four piles: whites, lights, darks, and delicates.

  • Whites

Think basic t-shirts, white socks, and underwear. Your linens (sheets and pillowcases) may fit here if they are white. Double check your white pile before laundering – one red sock mixed into your pile can make all of your whites pink.

  • Lights

Include light color solids, stripes, or patterned garments. If an article of clothing is largely white but contains some color, group it with the lights.

  • Darks

Include dark socks, shirts, pants, and jeans. Sometimes, newly purchased dark clothing will be strongly colored. You may want to wash the item a few times before adding it to other dark clothes in the laundry. This will avoid any possible bleeding.

  • Delicates

Some of you will have no delicates. Included are sweaters, luxurious fabrics, and embellished clothing. While most washing machines have a delicate cycle, these items are best washed by hand. To hand-wash clothing, fill a sink with water, add detergent, soak the garment in the soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and hang or lay flat to dry.

Separating your clothes will protect the color and durability of your clothes. When in doubt, check the care labels inside your clothing for care warnings. While sorting your clothes, make sure they’re not inside-out and that the pockets are empty.

The actual act of doing laundry is easy if you know what you are doing. Pay attention to the following guidelines:

  • Pre-treat any visible stains before washing. You can use detergent or stain remover. Apply either to the affected area and rub into the stain.
  • Add your dirty clothes and detergent to the washing machine. Don’t overload the washer – your clothes won’t get clean if they can’t move around in the washer.
  • Washing machines vary. You will have to specify water temperature or wash cycle on some of them. Check your garment care labels for specific information. Some general guidelines are:
    • Whites require hot water and a vigorous agitation cycle.
    • Lights and darks require a warm or permanent press cycle. This provides for a more mild agitation cycle and adds a cool water rinse to protect colors.
    • Delicates (if not hand-washed) require the delicate cycle. The agitation cycle is short and gentle. The water is cold.

A washing cycle takes between 25 – 40 minutes, so bring something to do while you are waiting. This is a great time to get some studying done. I highly advise against leaving your laundry unattended. It is not uncommon to have laundry stolen. It can be very expensive to replace all of your clothing.

An implied Laundromat etiquette does exist. Leaving your clothes in the machine after you’re done washing is rude and inconsiderate. Be present when your clothes are done washing and remove them promptly. This applies to the dryers as well.

Your clothes are now clean, but wet. If you have the space, patience, and environmental concern, you can hang your clothes up to dry. This will save you money, but your clothes will be stiff and rough compared to clothes dried in the dryer. Here are a few things to know before drying your clothes in the dryer:

  • Clean the lint filter before drying each load. Take the screen out, remove all of the fuzz from it, and put the screen back.
  • When you are transferring your clothes from the washer to the dryer, shake them out a bit to release excess water and wrinkles.
  • Inspect any stains you attempted to remove before washing. Heat will set the stain further, so skip drying and treat the stain again.
  • Don’t overload the dryer. Your clothes don’t move around in the dryer if they are stuffed in. Drying will require more money and time if you fill the machine beyond capacity.
  • Most dryer cycles require 30 – 40 minutes for complete drying. Heavier articles take longer to dry.
  • Dry delicates by laying them flat. Heat from the dryer can damage some delicate garments.

Your laundry is clean and dry, but not put away. Some clothes will be hung on hangers. The rest you will need to fold. Follow these tips for folding and putting your laundry away:

  • Begin folding immediately. Your clothes will be less wrinkled.
  • Don’t hang sweaters or form-fitting clothing. The garment may stretch and take the shape of the hanger. Fold these items.
  • Jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts can all be folded and stored away in drawers.
  • Always hang button-down shirts. This will prevent wrinkling.

You can’t mention laundry without including something about ironing. You probably won’t do much of it. There are commercial wrinkle releasing sprays for use on casual clothing. If you need to dress up, make sure your clothes are not wrinkled. Look at the care tags of your clothing for ironing information. It may well be worth the $1 – $1.50 to have a dry cleaner press your shirt.


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