One of the new things college freshmen have to learn in the first few weeks is how to do their laundry properly.  It’s amazing to see that some of your floormates who are smart enough to build a computer or win a debate tournament haven’t the faintest idea how to sort their laundry or what machine settings to use.

First, you need a kickass laundry basket.  I got mine from IKEA, and I almost always get compliments on it in the elevator or in the laundry room because it’s just that flippin’ awesome.  The most important two aspects of a laundry basket, though, is that it fits in your closet and has comfortable handles.

My laundry basket can beat up your laundry basket.

My laundry basket can beat up your laundry basket.

Your other basic laundry supplies should be: a net for delicate clothes, a detergent for front-loading washers, fabric softener sheets, and a quality stain remover.  I’ve tried many stain removers over the years, and Zout is the best.  It comes in a spray, foam, and liquid; I prefer the liquid.  It uses enzymes to get out all kinds of stains without damaging the fabric.  In most cases, it doesn’t even matter how old or set in the stains are.  Seriously, Zout is your new laundry best friend/miracle worker/life saver.

Canonization of Zout forthcoming?

Canonization of Zout forthcoming?

When it comes time to sort your laundry, you should sort whites/light colors in one load, and bold/dark colors in another load.  If you go to Berkeley, you’ll probably have a third pile for blue clothes that consists entirely of jeans and Cal gear.  Remember to pre-treat clothes with stains.

The classic sorting rule about washing new clothes is that if you’re washing something for the first time and it is not pure white, you should really wash it by itself.  If you’re feeling particularly lazy and/or poor (in other words, if you’re a college student and not Martha Stewart), you can risk washing the item with everything else and you’ll probably be fine if you use cold water.

In fact, the most foolproof setting for all loads of laundry is cold water, because it prevents colors from bleeding and is far more environmentally friendly.  We’re big on that in Berkeley.  The only reason to use warm or hot water is if you have a load full of white bedsheets; white obviously doesn’t bleed or fade, and hot water kills germs.  Permanent press is fine unless the load contains delicates, in which case your setting of choice should be obvious.

The Wasup machine is a water-saving combination washing machine and toilet for urban dwellers.  Awkward.

The Wasup machine is a water-saving combination washing machine and toilet for urban dwellers. Awkward.

When you transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer, remember to remove delicates for air-drying.  Also, check to see if your stain remover has worked; if it hasn’t, and you throw that shirt in the dryer, all bets on future removal are off and you could be a very sad camper.  Remember to clean the lint screen, and if you have anything particularly linty to dry, like a towel, consider setting it aside rather than throw it in with all of your black shirts.  Don’t forget the fabric softener sheet, and use the delicate heat setting.  Any higher, and the industrial power of coin-operated machines will shrink your clothes.

Remember to set a timer for your washer and dryer so that your clothes don’t get unceremoniously dumped on a neighboring machine by an impatient fellow laundry-doer.  There’s nothing worse in laundry land than having all of your underwear piled out in the open for all the world to see.  Don’t forget to fold your clothes right after you take them out of the dryer to save yourself a lot of work with an iron later.

Overwhelmed?  Chin up, you can’t be worse than Rachel in this classic Friends episode: