For many young adults, the first semester of their freshman year of college is the first time they attempt laundry on their own. At first, the chore can seem intimidating; countless freshmen opt to live in dirty clothes until Thanksgiving rather than conquer the task. Don't let your new student live in filth! Send them this guide to reference the ins and outs of taking care of their clothes, starting with a laundry supplies list.

College Student's Laundry Supplies:

  1. Check with the school's laundry payment policy.There are three likely payment possibilities: free use (unlikely), coin-operated and/or payment via a student account. If your student is among the lucky few whose school washing machines are free to use, you're set and can move onto the next step! If the machines accept coin payment, start saving quarters now. Quarters will become their best friend. Before your student leaves for school, have them swipe the quarters from the cup-holders in the family car or the trusty 'junk drawer'. Stow away quarters in a mason jar anytime you receive change and by the time your college student heads to school, they'll be prepared. Already heading to school? Best to get some rolls of quarters at the bank to stock up.

    If payment is done through the student account, make sure there are laundry funds on your student's account before they get to campus. Paying for laundry is as simple as swiping their student ID card at the reader on the machine.
  2. Laundry hamper. Buy a laundry bag or a collapsible hamper so when it's time to move out, your student can fit it easily in their car or storage unit, leaving more space for bulkier items. Hampers with three compartments make sorting easy as you separate dark, white and colorful clothes as you wear them. Hampers with handles or shoulder straps may make hauling loads between the laundry room and dorm room easier on your student.
  3. Laundry detergent. There is no such thing as clean clothes without soap! Send your student to school with a care package of Tide products. Tide Ultra Stain Release Liquid Laundry Detergentis a must for college students as this detergent is supercharged with specially formulated ingredients to help remove up to 99% of everyday stains, including greasy food stains. Many college towns don't have big box stores near campus, making it a chore for your freshman to restock on their detergent supply, especially if they do not have a car on campus, so perhaps send them with a case of two.
  4. Drying rack. If you hang-dry your clothes, don't forget to pack a drying rack. Teach your student that hang-drying is easier on fabric than the dryer, making clothes and other items last longer. It also saves money -- the money you'd spend on another load in the dryer!
  5. Delicates bag. By putting undergarments or other delicates in a dedicated delicates bag, you can extend the longevity of all your clothes. This prevents undergarments and elastic waistbands, for example, from getting stretched out, stuck in machine crevices and prevents undergarment hooks from snagging on other items. Send your student off with two or even three bags -- they tend to go missing, much like 'the other sock'.

    *Delicates Tip: Sort bras with hooks into a separate delicates bag -- sometimes the hooks snag delicate undergarments or the straps can twist and stretch other items they get tangled with.

Now, for the fun part. Here are the basic steps to machine washing and drying:

The Washer

  • Water Temperature - Set the water temperature using the general rule of thumb: warm for whites, cold for darks and colors.
  • Cycle Setting - After selecting the appropriate water temperature, set the machine for the proper cycle. Most campus machines are older and could only have one or two settings for cycle type. Your student should use their best judgement based on the load items and size. Setting and water set? Push 'start' to start filling the tub with water.
  • Detergent - Read the instructions on the back of the detergent bottle or cup-lid for directions on how much detergent to use. The amount may differ for high-efficiency versus regular or older machines, so make sure to check for a label or energy-efficient symbol on the washer. Pour the detergent into the detergent slot in the machine, if there is one. If not, pour the detergent directly into the tub as it fills with water to allow for a soapy mix.
  • Sorting - While the tub is filling up, separate clothes into whites/lights, colors and darks (or just lights-darks). Place delicates in the bag or bags.
  • Load - Place clothes into the washing machine. Some opt to add the delicates bag last.
  • Start - Once the washer is full, if it is already running per step one, just securely close the lid or door - the laundry is set to run as soon as it is done filling with water. If it is not already running, secure the door or lid and press start.
  • Timer - Set a timer on a cell phone for the washer. 40 minutes is generally a safe guess, at least for the first couple loads until your student is familiar with the machines.

The Dryer

Using a dryer helps save time and space that hang-drying items may take up in a cramped dorm room. Students, if you want to put all your clothes in the dryer, go for it. Skip to the last step in this section on how to set and start the dryer. Otherwise, refer to the below guidelines to help with the decision-making.

  • Rule number one, ALWAYS empty the lint tray between loads. Every dryer has a little wire tray designed to catch lint and other debris on clothes. Locate the tray or slot, pull off and throw away the lint. First-time launderers: always check the tray even if it is your first load of the day -- someone else may not have cleaned it out after the last use. Not doing so can lead to dryer fires. Plus, a blocked or semi blocked lint tray won't properly pull away lint from items in the load.
  • Machine or hang-dry?What goes into the dryer versus what is air or hang-dried is up to personal preference. Machine drying can stretch and/or shrink clothing, reduce its coloring and affect the quality (like a sweater that pills) . When in doubt, hang-dry or, even better, lay flat to dry any special or expensive items, as well as any items that hold sentimental value.
  • Cotton - Generally, as a rule of thumb, anything made of 100% cotton is usually dryer-safe, just check the tag to see what it's made of.
  • Delicates - Bras and anything lacy is prone to stretching and snagging, so always stick to hang-drying.
  • Operating a dryer is pretty straightforward:Clear the lint tray, insert clothes, close the door and select the appropriate time or dry cycle. Again, like washers, college machines may have minimal setting options. Press start. Nothing to fear here!

Tips and Tricks:

  • Set an alarm - Once you start the machine, set a timer on your phone so you can retrieve or switch your clothes once they're finished. Other students are often waiting to use the machines, so it is a courtesy to those waiting in line. Plus, if you fail to retrieve your clothes immediately, there's always a chance other students might take them out and haphazardly throw your clean clothes on top of the washer or onto the floor. Getting back to the laundry room on time is the best way to avoid this.
  • Use a dry-erase marker and eraser - Having a dry-erase marker and erase on hand when you do laundry allows you to initial the lid or door of the machine, leave the last time you were there or your phone number, if you feel comfortable. Those waiting in line might give you a courtesy call before or refrain altogether from touching your laundry if you're not back by the time the load finishes.
  • Laundry Day - If possible, never do laundry on Sunday... or on Monday evening. Sunday is always the busiest day to do laundry because all students are trying to get clean clothes before the school week begins. Mondays are often busy as well. If you want to avoid a chaotic laundry room and long wait times for the machines, try doing laundry on a weekday, perhaps on a morning when you don't have class.
  • Bedding - Clothes aren't the only items that get dirty. Wash your towels at least every other week and your sheets at least once a month. Sheets and towels get gross and dirty so do yourself a favor and remember to wash them.
  • Folding clothes doesn't have to be boring!Blast your favorite music and have a dance party while you fold your clothes. Get it done, have some fun and it serves as a great de-stressing technique (and break from homework!).

Finally, the last step is to forward this article to your student for easy reference. Here's to your student's bright future (and bright clothes!)