Rip out this page for your kid(s) when they’re off to college—or, let’s be real, just text a pic. Despite the laundry tutorial you gave, we’re willing to bet you’ll soon get at least one call along the lines of, “Mom, what do these dials on the machine mean again?”

The Basics

To avoid paper debris and cherry balm baked into your clothes, check all pockets (even the ones you’re sure are empty) before tossing anything into the wash. 

Measure out the correct amount of detergent—meaning, yes, really follow what the label says. Too much can damage clothes, while too little will leave them still smelly, says Vikki Martin of Cotton Incorporated. If you can’t be bothered, detergent packs are pretty foolproof. (Try Arm & Hammer Sensitive Scent 3-in-1 Power Paks, $9.50 for 50.) 

Those dials? When in doubt, go for cold water and the shortest possible cycle. This combo is energy efficient and gentle, plus it keeps colors from bleeding.

Check for:  the “permanent press” setting on the dryer. This will almost always be your go-to, because it is gentle and prevents wrinkles. 

Stain Buster

To get rid of late-night nacho cheese or any other unidentifiable schmutz: Gently blot the spot with any soap you can find and a few drops of cold water, Martin says. (It’s fine to use soap from the communal kitchen.) Give the stain a gentle scratch with your fingernail for 20 to 30 seconds or until it disappears. If it doesn’t disappear, right before washing, rub detergent directly on the stain and pre-soak in cold water. If the stain isn’t completely out, don’t put that favorite Rolling Stones tee in the dryer; otherwise the stain will set permanently.

If stains aren’t exactly an infrequent event, there’s no shame in stashing a high-power product like the almighty OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover Spray ($4) in your dorm room as a first option. 

FYI, Mom

Since lots of colleges don’t allow first-years to have cars on campus, provides all the bulk-size laundry essentials a college kid could want, delivered right to the dorm. Order otherwise-expensive detergent pods in big packs to store; they’ll last all semester long.

“I wish I could spend more time doing laundry,” said no college student ever. With Tide University Laundry (and the My Laundry app), you can drop off bags of dirty clothes at residence hall pickup points. Or track the mobile truck on the app, check on the status of your load and get notified when your stuff is clean and folded. Not on your campus yet? Tell Tide you want it: From $249 a semester for 10 pounds of laundry per week.

Hackin’ It

Half a cup of distilled white vinegar added to a load will kill germs, whiten whites, get rid of odors and maintain the softness of that brand-new crew neck from the bookstore.

So your Friday night crop top seems to have shrunk to doll size. Worry not: Martin suggests soaking the shirt in warm water with 3 tablespoons of hair conditioner for five minutes. Gently stretch the wet shirt out on a flat surface to the desired size and keep it in place with something heavy, then leave it to air-dry. 

Wet laundry is no excuse for being late to class. After a lightning-speed sink wash (you needed to wear that black top again), throw the soaked shirt in the dryer with some clean, dry bath towels to absorb excess moisture, and you’ll be ready to rock way quicker. 

Game Changer

Big news: If you wash with cold water (as recommended at left, remember?), there’s much less need to separate lights from darks, even though your mom might keel over from this utter sacrilege. Instead, focus on separating clothes by material: spandex/polyester leggings and sports bras in one pile; hoodies, tees and towels (cotton, baby) in another. You can still parse out the navy blues from the pinks, but—in a crunch—don’t sweat their separation. 


There are hampers from PBteen that double as drag-’em-down-the-hallway laundry bags, so when they inevitably get overfilled, it’s not a total pain to haul them away.