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How to Do Laundry Dorm Style

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For those you of you fine individuals who never learned to do your laundry, the time has come. You don’t have your mama or the maid….I say it again, the time has come.

If you are living in an apartment, I’m going to assume you’ve been at college long enough to figure out how to wash your clothes. Therefore, I’m directing my attention to college newbies in dorms—the run of the mill, dirty, confined, and overpopulated type of dorms. Be prepared for a mini laundromat that consists of limited space, small washers, not-so-hot dryers, and theft.

Here’s a lesson in laundering:

You’ll need supplies.

1. Change or a laundry card, etc.
2. Detergent, bleach and/or additives (fabric softener, oxyclean)
3. Laundry Basket
4. Room key (You don’t want to get locked out of your room with loads of laundry.)

I should note that letting laundry pile up is easy, but given your surroundings and the quality and condition of your on-site appliances, it is highly recommended that you do your laundry often (once a week) to make smaller loads. You don’t want to lug around heaps of dirty clothing and stand guard for hours at the laundromat—theft, remember?

Sorting is a Science

If you care at all about your clothing, sorting will be very important. If dull whites, faded colors, and shrunken sleeves mean nothing to you, then, by all means, throw it all in the wash with no discrimination.

Whether to or how to sort laundry is based on personal preference. As a suggestion, here are a couple models of extreme sorting down to a science.

Model A

1. Reds + Dark Pinks + Purples + Oranges

(These colors tend to bleed and fade so it is best to keep them together.

2. Blues + Grays + Denims

3. Browns + Greens + Golds

4. Blacks + Navys

5. Pastels or light colors + Khakis + Non-bleachable whites

6. Bleachable whites

7. Delicates (require special detergent/read clothing label)

Model B

1. Dark colors (blacks, browns, navys, purples and denim)

2. Bright colors (turquoise, reds, bright blues)

3. Light colors (pastels, khakis, non-bleachable whites)

4. Whites (bleachable)

5. Delicates

How to Read a Washing Machine

If you have never used a washing machine, the dials can look like the cockpit of an airplane. If you look beyond the complexity of it, the dials are quite straight forward and easy to figure out; however, here are some pointers:

1. “Load Size” (small, medium, or large) is the amount of water that will fill the washing basin. The more water, the more time the cycle will take.

2. “Water Temperature” (Hot/Cold, Warm/Warm, Cold/Cold) represents the temperature of the water during the wash/rinse cycles. For instance if you chose HOT/COLD for your cycle temp, the basin would fill with hot water for the washing portion and would end with a cold rinse. Make sense?

Figuring out what temperature appropriate for a specific load, I have found, is important to get right.

Cold – colors that will bleed, run, or fade, items pre-treated with stain removal

Warm – light colors with non-bleached whites, stained clothing without pre-treatment

(for science on stains, here’s a link:) stain removal

Hot/Cold – bleached whites or clothing that needs to be disinfected.

Once your settings are made, turn the cycle dial to normal, heavy, or delicate, whatever is suitable and pull the dial.

The Cycle Begins

Before you put the clothing in, pour in the soap. Throwing soap on top of the clothing consistently can damage items in your load over time.

Next, dump your load into the wash loosely. Do not overstuff the basin or fill to the brim. Too heavy of a load can off center the wash machine during the spin cycle which can turn out disastrous.

How to Read a Dryer

Now that you have successfully completed the washing segment of your laundry, here are some tips on how to use a dryer.


Low – if you are not using top of the line, well-working machines, chances are having your laundry on low heat in the dryer won’t do any good. Low heat should be reserved for delicate items.

Hi – Be careful with high heat as it can be more like coal burning heat especially in shoddy machines. I have had many items melt or shrink on high heat from dryers in laundromats.

Med – Stick with the happy medium


Check the lint trap and clean out any lint. Throw your load into the dryer with or without a fabric softener, which is a personal preference. (I personally hate fabric softener because the scent clashes with my perfume.) Set the temperature and turn the dial to Permanent Press which is the setting fitted for 90% of your loads.

Congratulations! You’ve done your own laundry, but its not over—folding, putting away. A little hint to avoid wrinkly clothes is to fold them or put them on hangers warm as you take them out of the dryer. If you let your clothes sit in a heap and cool, you’ll have to learn how to iron.

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