Graduation season is upon us, followed by back-to-school season, so we've compiled some tips for doing laundry in shared spaces for the college-bound! Whether you're doing your own laundry for the first time or you're comfortable with the process but have never used a communal laundry space before, we hope you find these tips useful.
Here are 10 things to know about doing laundry on a college campus:
Commercial washers and dryers are not the same as household appliances. On one hand, they're bigger, so you can fit more into each load. On the other hand, the "normal" wash cycle might be more vigorous than what you're used to and the dryers might run a little hotter. Choose your settings wisely! ☝🏾
Sorting is key to longevity. Having commercial laundry machines at your disposal doesn't mean you should throw everything into one load—that will lead to color transfer, shrinkage and fabric tears. Sort and wash loads by color (darks and lights), by material (cotton, denim, synthetics, etc.) and by care label (cold or warm wash, tumble or line dry, etc.) to keep your clothes in great shape.
Don't overdose your detergent. Using extra detergent will not make things cleaner. 🙅🏾♂️ Excess detergent actually leads to product buildup, which traps odor-causing bacteria in fabric. Overdosing can also be tough on washers. If they're routinely out of commission for maintenance, you'll be forced to lug your laundry to a room that's further away.
Keep your eyes peeled for stray objects. Small clothing items, wads of tissue, gum, pens, lip balm and even safety pins get left behind in washers and dryers. Take a good look inside the drum before putting anything in. 👀 Remove those sneaky items that might ruin your stuff.
Sniff out your options. This might sound silly, but we suggest sticking your nose inside the drum and giving it a good sniff before putting your laundry in, too! If it smells overly fragrant, smells of chlorine bleach or smells just plain gross, choose a different machine. Better safe than sorry!
White vinegar is your friend, especially if you play college sports, work out regularly or are on a budget. It flushes out odors and softens laundry, plus a little bit goes a long way. You'll have no need for fabric softener, which contains synthetic fragrances made from harmful ingredients. Distilled white vinegar, reusable dryer balls and essential oil are much better alternatives. 💯
Beware of high-touch surfaces. In shared laundry facilities, door handles, buttons, knobs, carts, tables and other surfaces are constantly being touched by people going in and out of the room. Wash your hands often or sanitize if you can't wash them.
Be courteous to your neighbors. Set a timer so that you can remove loads immediately. Inspect drums after unloading and clean out dryer lint traps when you're done. Try not to hog the machines and folding tables during peak laundry hours. And don't forget to clean up after yourself! Even if there's janitorial staff, you should always do your part to keep shared spaces tidy.
Be a good roommate. Keep your dirty laundry under control—that means not letting it pile up and stink up your dorm room! Sort and fold while your roommate is in class so that you're not taking up too much shared space, and give a heads-up before setting up a drying rack in a cramped room. You can even offer to wash shared items like washable doormats or fabric decorations.
Laundry requires time and effort, but you have to pencil it in regularly! Think of it like a class or a work shift that you have to be at. If you want, you can listen to a podcast or watch an episode of a show while washing or folding. During finals week, you can revisit class notes while doing laundry. Just remember that if you don't do your laundry, nobody else will!
Now that you know what to expect, here are some things you can bring to keep your laundry life in check on campus:
✅ Bring clothes that are easy to care for
Ideally, these pieces can be machine washed and dried without much hassle. You can bring delicate items too, but know that they'll be more challenging to hand wash and air dry in shared spaces.
✅ Bring a laundry bag
Hampers look nice, but laundry bags can be thrown into the washer with your load, which is more hygienic. Bags make it easy to transport things to the laundry room (wear the strap or throw the bag over your shoulder like Santa) and can be stashed away in a closet or hung on the back of a door.
✅ Bring laundry powder
Laundry powder is more economical for students on a budget, and dosing powder is straightforward and easy with a scoop. Plus, you'll never find liquid goop leaking in your closet!
✅ Bring dryer balls
Dryer balls cut down drying time, soften loads and reduce static cling. Not to mention, they're reusable and will last you all throughout college!
✅ Bring hangers
You might get dresser drawers if you're lucky, but more often than not, dorms provide the bare minimum when it comes to storage space. Keep your clean clothes organized with hangers. You can hang 2-3 items on one hanger if necessary, and even build entire outfits on strong hangers!
✅ Bring something to keep your laundry supplies organized
You already have a shower caddy to carry bath supplies to and from the bathroom. Why not have a designated bag or container for laundry supplies so that you can easily grab and go?
✅ Bring a collapsible drying rack
It might be wise to first check that you have enough space in your dorm room to set up a drying rack. If you do, choose a collapsible one so that you can store it under your bed when not in use.
✅ Bring a steamer
This last item is entirely optional, but a steamer will come in handy if you want to quickly get wrinkles out of your clothes before doing a presentation or heading to an internship in an office setting.
Best of luck to all the freshmen, their parents and guardians who are preparing for (laundry) life after high school!
By the way, almost all the tips listed above can be applied to any shared laundry space, be it a laundromat or an apartment building's shared facilities. Happy washing! 👕💦
Text by Mutia Adisoma
Product photos by Gerald Riedler and Chiori Takamatsu-Schettini
All other photos by Francesca Rao