The self-reliant independence of college life comes with its own dirty little secret – literally. Even if you've been doing your own laundry for years, you'll face unfamiliar equipment that may require rethinking the detergents and washing methods you use, not to mention remembering to pay for the privilege of loading up.
Fabric Care Tags
Dark and bright dyes can run, especially the first few times you wash them, accounting for the classic pink-tinged white socks and bluish underwear, courtesy of a red T-shirt or new pair of jeans. Sorting your laundry by color makes it easy to keep whites white. Before you rinse, treat, launder or dry a garment, read its fabric care tag. Fiber content and fabric dyes determine how you wash an item. Some materials, including silk, wool, cashmere and linen, shrink down to doll size if you put them in the washer. Others, including satin, feature surfaces that stain when they make contact with liquid. If the care tag says "Dry clean only," believe it. In fact, reading care tags before you buy clothes can help you figure out the true lifetime cost of owning a garment.
The longer a stain sets, the harder it becomes to remove, especially in natural fabrics such as cottons. If you put a stained garment in your hamper, you'll forget about the need for pretreatment and load the item in with the rest of your wash. Some stains rinse or soak out. Others require chemical assistance with your favorite stick, spray or liquid. When you rinse, work from the back side of the garment so the water moves the stain out of the garment instead of deeper into its fibers. If you aren't sure how a pretreater affects fabric color, test it in an area that won't be visible when you wear the garment, just in case it removes some dye. Some campuses offer online laundry advice to help you deal with stubborn stains.
Check the washers in the dorm, campus laundry room or laundromat before you buy detergent. If the facility features high-efficiency machines, you'll need a different formulation to accommodate the way these appliances work. Unlike top-loading washers with agitator mechanisms, HE washers don't fill up a tub of water and slosh your clothes back and forth in dissolved detergent. The suds that help older washers get your garments clean actually interfere with the operation of HE appliances, which spray water through a load to wash and rinse it. If you're sensitive to the smells and dyes in many laundry products, look for unscented products with no colorants. You'll find comparative reviews of detergents in many consumer magazines.
From coin-operated laundry equipment to on-campus machines that accept a college charge card, check the setup before you start using it. If you drag in all your dirty clothes and sheets only to find that you need quarters for the machines, you're wasting your time. Pick up a roll of change at your bank for coin-operated machines, and keep the laundry money hidden in a safe place to avoid "poaching" by your roommates.
When you do get ready to load up the washers, check the machines' operating directions. Because agitator machines must fill the tub first, pour in your detergent while the water flows and add your clothes after the laundry product mixes in. In HE washers, place the detergent in the loading drawer or other insertion mechanism, not directly in the tub. To avoid overloading the machine and reducing both its efficiency and its ability to clean, pay close attention to the "load to here" line marked inside the washer.
Photo Credits: Kyle Goldie/Demand Media
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