No clean underwear? Low-effort laundry tips

By Ali
Category: Practical | Date: Fri 03 Oct, 2008

This is about the time of term when you first face a task of potentially Herculean proportions: doing your laundry. Here’s how to make laundry day go smoothly, from start to finish…

(Before) Sort your darks and lights

If you’ve ever dyed your white boxers pink by washing them with a red sock, you’ll know the perils of mixing dark and light clothes together. But spending fifteen minutes sorting through the heap of laundry on your floor / under your bed / in the bottom of your wardrobe is a pain.

It took me a few laundry days to cotton onto this idea, but it really saves hassle. Have two big boxes or bags for laundry (black bin bags work well), and when you get undressed, put lights straight into one and darks into the other. It takes all of three seconds longer, and everything will be ready-sorted on laundry day.

(Before) Horde your twenty pence coins

Check what sort of currency your laundrette requires (coins or tokens), and make sure you have plenty on hand. Public laundrettes mostly take 20ps; some of the ones with more modern machines can cope with 50ps and £1 coins – £2 coins are still too new-fangled for them.

The laundrette in the Union is right up on the 6th floor. We have washing machines and tumble driers all available for use at a reasonable rate and you can sit and look at a stunning view across Bristol while you wait for your washing!

You can buy tokens for these machines in the UBU Shop on the ground floor.
– from University of Bristol Student’s Union

If you’re using a uni laundrette, it may take coins, or it may need special tokens. If the latter, make sure you figure out where to get tokens from and buy some before laundry day.

(The big day itself) Get an early start

The laundrette is likely to be quietest between when it opens (usually around 7am – yes, such an hour exists, unholy though it may be). If you can face it, start on your laundry as soon as you’re up: you can leave everything whirling round the washing machine while you grab some breakfast.

Try not to leave laundry till the busiest time of day – which usually runs from lunch till early evening. You don’t want to end up hanging around in a full, damp, hot, smelly laundrette waiting for a dryer to become available.

(During) Know how to work the machines

Like photocopiers, all washing machines and tumble dryers are subtly yet irksomely different. Instructions are often pasted on the wall or on the machine itself: read these the first time you do your laundry. Knowing where to put your soap powder and whether to select a programme or put your coins in first is a good start.

Of course, no amount of instruction-reading can make up for human error. I once came across a fellow undergrad standing staring at a washing machine in mild bemusement. Water was churning around but there appeared to be nothing else inside. He explained “I forgot to put my clothes in …”

(During) Don’t abandon your clothes

You might have had the cunning idea of sticking stuff in the washer or dryer, then heading off for a morning of lectures. Time efficient, yes – but not so great when you return to find that someone’s dragged your clothes out of the washer/dryer and dumped them in a wet/crumpled heap on top of it.

Most washing machines and tumble dryers will tell you how much time is left to run: check this when you put your clothes in, and make sure you’re back for when they’ll finish. If your laundrette is particularly ancient, lurk nearby the first time you do laundry, and time how long the washer and dryer take.

(After) Fold clothes straight from the dryer

Another reason to hover around as your laundry finishes is so you can fold everything straight out of the dryer. I came across this tip in the rather excellent book The Cheeky Guide to Student Life before I started as an undergraduate, and it has served me well for the past five years.

If you fold everything while it’s still warm, you don’t need to bother ironing it. (I suppose you might have to make an exception if you live in neatly pressed trousers and crisply ironed shirts, but for the t-shirt and jeans-clad masses, you can use this tip to avoid having to put up an ironing board all term.)

Over to you

Reading about laundry won’t get it done any faster – so sort your socks before checking out these handy articles …

Further reading:

Have you ever had a laundrette disaster? Do you buy extra underpants so you can get through term without having to wash any clothes at all? Do you have a top tip for making laundry less of a pain?

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