Laundry tips for college students help them take a load off

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With all the studying and, ahem, extracurriculars that are part of campus life, doing laundry is the last thing college students want to do. Still, unless you're going to pay to get it done or wait until an upcoming break to wash your clothes at home (who has that many pairs of underwear?), it's a necessity. But if you don't do it right, all kinds of problem can ensue.

A senior at Binghamton University, I've made my share of laundry mistakes. One time freshman year, I crammed everything--bedding, towels, clothes--into one machine, whose door I barely got closed. When the wash cycle was over, half the load was dry; the rest, sopping wet. I had to rewash everything. So much for saving time.

You can avoid goofs like mine by following these tips from Pat Slaven, a program leader in the Technical Division at Consumer Reports who's also the in-house laundry expert. While this advice can't reduce your course load, at least it can help make your laundry loads less of a burden.

Find a good time and stick to it. You're more likely to do laundry when it's part of a routine (Thursday schedule: Breakfast. Lit. Bio. Lunch. Workout. Chem. Study. Dinner. Laundry. Call home. Netflix.). Early in the school year check out the laundry facilities at different times to see when more machines are typically available, and if your college has one, sign up for the notification system to get a text or e-mail when machines are available.

Treat stains immediately. Messes happen, be they from late-night munchies, frat party fun, or spilled coffee during midterm cramming. Use a stain remover or rub liquid detergent into the affected area, which should help it get clean.

Separate darks and lights. I tried cutting corners once and ended up turning a bunch of white socks blue. Also, the first time you wash new clothing, use a separate machine for it.

Do larger loads.You'll save time and money. But don't exceed the indicated maximum capacity of the washer and dryer. Remember, if you have to force the door shut, you've overloaded the machine.

Become a 'pod person.' Ditch those big bottles of liquid detergent and the potential spill messes they can create. Instead, use a pod detergent, premeasured packets of cleaner that are convenient and easy to carry. Tide Pods are a good choice. If you're pinching pennies, try Up & Up Ultra Concentrated (Target) or Kirkland Signature (Costco) liquid detergents. Measure carefully so you don't overdose and negate all of that savings. The first time you use a liquid or powder detergent, read the label for quantity information. And when you pour, look for the measuring lines in the cap or cup--you'll probably be surprised at how little you actually need to use.

Find the best laundry detergent in our Ratings.

Use cold water. It's better for your clothes, and most detergents work fine in any temperature. Plus, your eco-friendly classmates will give you props for this green move.

Check the dryer's lint trap. Your laundry will dry faster and come out cleaner. I forgot to clean the lint trap once and found my clothes covered in fuzz. (Note to self: Check Google for possible uses for lint.)

Use dryer sheets. They reduce static cling and add some softness to your clothes. Avoid liquid fabric softener, which reduces the absorbency of towels and over time can make clothing and bedding more flammable.

Empty the dryer ASAP. There are a couple of reasons to do this. First, your laundry (including udergarments) won't end up sitting on top of the machine for the rest of the school to see. Second, you'll prevent wrinkles by folding and putting away your clothes when it's still warm.

Be smart about dry cleaning. You can hand wash some sweaters and shirts even if the tag says "dry clean only," but don't put delicates in the dryer.

—Daniel Weintraub


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