Mike, a college student, has a rather unique (and unhygienic) system of doing his laundry:

  • In front of his pint-sized closet, filled with every piece of sporting equipment ever introduced to the Western World, lays an ever-expanding pile of dirty clothes.

  • When Mike can no longer open his closet, he knows that it's time to stuff what he can into a brown paper shopping bag (his makeshift laundry basket) and head to the laundromat.

  • In his "basket" are a mishmash of boxers, unmatched socks, t-shirts, jeans, khakis, and a sweater marked "dry clean only."

  • Shoving all of the clothes into a washing machine, Mike sprinkles on as much detergent as he can.

  • He then stuffs all of the "washed" clothes into a dryer, turns the dial to "high."

  • An hour later, he squishes his wrinkled steaming clothes into his "basket," takes it home, and leaves the clothes in the bag, only taking the clothes out when it's time to wear them.

Now take out the name "Mike" and replace it with the name "You." If this scenario sounds familiar, you desperately need to read this SYW (not only because you're ruining your clothes, but because you probably stink).

Let's make something crystal clear: an average, semi-active, single person should wash his/her clothes about every two weeks. However, college students often try to hold out for months until they finish midterms and can take their clothes home to Momma. Sure, you could pay an arm and a leg for a laundry service, but then we'd call you a wuss. Don't make us call you names; please read on. (Note: This is the definitive guide to properly doing laundry. If you'd prefer a Cliff Notes version, check out eHow's quick and easy, step-by-step instructions on doing laundry.)


Before you head all the way to the neighborhood laundromat (or, for the fortunate few, to the washer and dryer downstairs), you should make sure you have the following:

  • Quarters: Yes, washing and drying costs money; usually $0.75 - $1.75 per load for each machine. Laundromats often have change machines; those that don't, however, leave you to fend for yourself.

  • Detergent: News flash: laundry detergent does not automatically spray out of the inner workings of the machine. That said, go to your local supermarket or convenience store and pick up a bottle (liquid form) or box (powder form) of detergent. There really is no difference between liquid and powder detergent. You may find that liquid is less messy, however, but also slightly more expensive. You'll probably be happiest with the brand that you're mom or dad used (you're used to the smell), but you should especially look out for detergents that may give you an allergic reaction.

  • Bleach: If you're doing a load of whites, you may want to add bleach to get your clothes as bright as possible. A note of caution: bleach should only be added to whites (as you may have guessed, it tends to, uh, bleach). Luckily, because scientists work so hard, detergents are now available that have "color-safe bleaching action" (meaning that you can mix your whites and non-whites). Which bleach should you use? A recent survey by Consumer Reports found Tide liquid detergent with bleach alternative to be the most effective detergent on the market. Cheer came in a close second, followed by Arm & Hammer. Just thought you'd like to know.

  • Fabric softener: To help eliminate static cling and make your clothes feel softer and smell fresher, you should add fabric softener. Fabric softener is available in both liquid form (which is added during the wash cycle) and sheet form (which is added during the dry cycle). Similar to the powdered detergent-vs.-liquid-detergent debate, there is no real difference in effectiveness between liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets; some consider fabric softener sheets a worthless indulgence while others find it a necessity. You be the judge. Some examples are Downey, Snuggles (with that cute little bear), and Bounce.

  • Laundry basket: We don't want to see your dirty underwear hanging over your arm. To keep us from getting sick, we insist that you purchase a heavy-duty laundry basket or a drawstring laundry bag. If you're cheap, you can go with a pillowcase.