How to Do Your Laundry in a Dorm

Three Parts:Getting PreparedWashing Your LaundryDrying Your Laundry

You're living in a school dormitory, which also means you will need to do your own laundry. This may be the first time you've had to do this yourself. Even if you did laundry at home, there are a few differences: you did not have to contend with pay washers, the possibility of getting locked out of your room, or your pants getting stolen. Don't worry--this article will help you master this life skill!

Part 1
Getting Prepared

  1. 1
    Have your items ready. Most dorms have the laundry away from main living quarters, so you need to have everything together. Be sure to check that you've taken all your soiled clothes from your workout or sports bag as well as towels, sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers if necessary. This includes:
    • Dirty laundry bag or basket
    • Laundry detergent--do not use other soaps, such as dish soap, hand soap or body wash. These can cause severe over-sudsing, do not work well, and can cause severe skin irritation).
    • Stain remover (optional) [1]
    • Softener or softening dryer sheets (store-bought or homemade) [2]).
Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 1
  1. 1
    • Cash or swipe card, as appropriate.
    • Security card or key - even if your roommate says he or she will be around.
  2. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 2
    Ask the RA or a roommate where the laundry room is, how much the laundry costs and how the payments work. Have quarters or small bills (if there is a change machine) or a pre-paid student card if needed. It usually costs about $2-$2.50 to wash and dry each load. It will typically take one load per week of dirty clothes but this will vary widely depending on your own needs.[3]
  3. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 4
    Pre-treat laundry stains, if needed. If you haven't done so already, do it now. If you don't have a stain remover, use a few drops of laundry soap on the stain and rub it in using the fabric around the stain.[4] Only use a bleach pen on white clothing!
  4. 4
    Empty all of your pockets in your clothes. A pen or lipstick tube can easily ruin all of your clothes. You also don't want your cell phone to go through the wash.
    • Before leaving for the laundry room do NOT forget your room key.

Part 2
Washing Your Laundry

  1. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 6
    Find an empty washer. These can usually be identified by having the top or lid being raised, showing an empty washer. You can check machines that are not running. Do not remove another person's clothes unless there is really no other machines available. Remember to leave the lid raised for others after you are done.
  2. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 7
    Remember to check the washer's soap and bleach dispensers. If someone else put bleach in the machine and didn't wash anything, your clothes could be ruined. If someone left soap in the dispenser--bonus!--unless you are sensitive to certain detergents. If there is bleach or soap remaining relocate to another washer.
  3. 3
    Separate your laundry. Sort your laundry into piles:[5]
    • "Lights" usually refers to white cottons or cotton blends, light colors like yellows and bright greens or anything that can be washed without damage in hot water. This will also include your towels and sheets (unless sheets are dark colored).
    • "Darks" usually include dark colors that will fade after repeated washings or fabrics that should not (or do not have to) be washed in hot water. If in doubt, (like a red and white striped shirt) always choose a colder temperature. Blue jeans should be washed with the darks.
    • Red and purple fabrics in particular have a nasty habit of releasing dye into the wash and turning white items pink. Put the reds, pinks, oranges, etc. in a separate load, or, if you only have reds, wash them in with the dark clothing. Some people report the same issues with lime or yellow-green clothing.
    • "Delicates" include things that need special, delicate washing. This includes wool sweaters, bras, tights or nylons, silk shirts, swimsuits, and knits. The care label will usually indicate these items if you are unsure. Sometimes these can be combined with darks in a cool wash if the washer is not too loaded.
  4. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 9
    Turn t-shirts and tops inside out if they have any printed designs or text on them. The agitation in the washer will cause them to fade and/or become damaged over time. Also secure the drawstrings on items like hoodies, track pants and gym shorts so that they do not get pulled out during washing and drying.
  5. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 10
    Choose your settings on your washer depending on the contents: hot, warm or cold water and the size of load.[6] The permanent press setting (if available on the machine) is a good choice if you are unsure about any garments and they do not have specific care instructions on them. It is a warm soak and gentle agitation followed by a cold water rinse.
  6. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 11
    Put your laundry in the machine and start as directed (with either coins or a card). Put a capful of detergent in the machine for a large load, or as directed by the detergent instructions and then close the lid to begin washing.
    • Try to fill the machine about 3/4 of the way to the top. Allow room for clothes to agitate during the wash cycle.
    • Distribute laundry weight evenly (if a top loading washer). A heavy blanket or coat may unbalance the washing drum. You may have to balance the load by with other items on the other side. Be careful of small, heavy items that may cause this problem.
  7. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 13
    Wait. You will have between 35-45 minutes to just hang out and make sure no one takes your laundry out of the machine. Don't leave your laundry defenseless--thieves steal from laundry rooms routinely. Do your homework.

Part 3
Drying Your Laundry

  1. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 14
    Find dryers when your clothes are completely done that will fit all of your laundry. Two laundry loads will usually equal one dryer load. Do not overfill as this will cause the drying to take much longer. It is better to use two dryers for 30-40 minutes than one for 90 minutes.
    • Whites such as cotton T-shirts, sheets and towels will usually take a normal/high setting,
    • Darks will usually be on a medium setting. You can use a higher setting if you're washing lots of dark cottons.
    • Fine washables should be either air-dried, line-dried, or dried on the lowest setting available. If in doubt, dry at a lower setting or air-dry if possible as shrinking of clothes usually happens in the dryer.
  2. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 15
    Check the lint trap if your dryer has one (many commercial ones do not). Wipe off any lint present (it should come off easily) and throw it into the recycling bin. Return the lint trap back to its place.
  3. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 16
    Add a dryer sheet to the dryer before starting (optional). These give a fresher smell to your clothes and prevent static electricity between garments.
  4. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 17
    Put your laundry in the machine and start as directed (with either coins or a card). Choose your settings for the dryer (heavy, normal, light)
  5. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 18
    Wait. Get comfortable as you may have between 30-60 minutes to chill and wait for your clothes. Do more homework.
  6. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 19
    Deal with wrinkle-prone articles immediately after the dryer is complete so they don't get wrinkled[7]. This may mean either putting them on hangers or folding appropriately. Folding pants and shorts right away will reduce the bulk you will have to carry back up. If you fold jeans and slacks the way you would want them pressed (flat front or with a crease down the middle of the front) directly out of the dryer then they will likely not need to be ironed later (depending on the fabric composition).
  7. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 20
    Double-check the dryer. Make sure you didn't forget any socks, loose change, or other small items in the machine.
  8. Image titled Do Your Laundry in a Dorm Step 21
    Carry your items back up to your dorm. Put them away and then bask in the glory of fresh clean laundry.


  • Pick a laundry detergent with a scent you like. There are also odor-free detergents for those who dislike or have issues with scents.
  • If you have a few damp items from different loads you can combine them into one dryer (or the dryer with the most time left) to finish drying.
  • To test colored items that might bleed during a wash- dip a small corner of the fabric into a glass of water mixed with a tablespoon of detergent at the approximate washing temperature; if the water becomes colored after the item is removed, it needs to be washed separately or with similar colors.
  • Do laundry during an off-time (generally, not on Sunday). Try to do it while people are in class or at an event. A weekday morning is a good time.
  • A full load of clothes takes less time to dry than a few items. The few items will clump together and not dry as fast whereas a full load will continually redistribute the water vapor.
  • When you pull your clothes out of the dryer they may feel hot but may not be dry. Give everything a minute to cool down so you can tell if it's actually dry before you haul warm, damp clothes back up to your room.
  • Feel the inside of pants pockets to make sure they have dried.
  • Keep a laundry basket on top of your machine so someone waiting can toss your laundry into a basket rather than in a pile on the floor. Being considerate of other people makes it more likely that you will not find your clothes dumped on the laundry room floor, missing or destroyed. (But remember that theft occurs regularly in's best never to leave your clothes unattended!)
  • Follow the directions on the detergent box. There are several different formulas and some require less detergent than others. It also depends on the size off the washer you use.
  • Monitor your clothes while they spin in the dryer. If you hear loud thumping noises coming from your dryer, you may want to open the door and redistribute the clothes.
  • If you know you're washing clothes this weekend, check and make sure you have enough detergent.
  • If you choose to leave your laundry while it's running, set an alarm to remind you to move your laundry over or take it out of the machine. Other people need to use the machines.
  • Towels can take the longest to dry because they will absorb the moisture from most of your other clothes in the dryer. If you can find a dryer that doesn't smell scorched you can dry your towels separately on high heat for a little while to get them extra dry.
  • Make sure you are washing with a laundry detergent. Don't use dish washing detergent or other cleansers. They can ruin your clothes or the machine. Additionally, laundry additives should not be confused with detergent. Clorox 2 is an additive as is OxiClean, bleach and fabric softeners. These are optional items that are meant to be used in addition to detergent if desired.
  • Make sure you take out ALL your clothes from the washer and the dryer.
  • Check the temperature setting by opening the dryer during the cycle. The cylinder will slowly stop spinning after the door is opened so you can make sure the temperature is not too cool or too hot. Closing the door and hitting the Start button again will restart the cycle.
  • If the armpit part of your shirt still smells, don't wear it. It means you didn't wash it right.


  • Do not leave your laundry unattended. It is better to be safe than sorry with your clothing.
  • Always double check all the clothes' pockets before washing. Cell phones, iPods, digital cameras, memory cards and thumb drives will not stand up to being washed and dried.
  • Don't do drugs, stay in school, use protection.
  • Never use dish washing soap in a washing machine; you will end up with a room full of suds. Even if you use a small amount it may not wash out from your clothes as easily and it doesn't clean as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Detergent
  • Dryer sheets (optional)
  • Stain Remover/Bleach Pen (if necessary)
  • Roll of quarters or college ID card
  • 2-3 washing/drying machines.
  • Homework to keep yourself occupied and catch up on coursework (optional).
  • A book or smartphone

Article Info

Categories: Campus Life