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    The College Student Guide to Doing Laundry

    Don't go near that laundry room—until you've read these tips.

    Josh Johnson

    Step 1: Stuff dirty clothes into very large cardboard box.

    Step 2: Toss in the strongest deodorizer you can find.

    Step 3: Enclose following note: "Dear Mom, I'm down to a prom dress, swimsuit and polka-dot pajamas. Please wash and return ASAP. Everything else is great. Thanks in advance, Your Favorite Freshman."

    Step 4: Seal tightly with packaging tape.

    Step 5: Write "DANGER! TOXIC MATERIAL ENCLOSED!" on the outside of the box.

    Step 6: Send home to Mom.

    Step 7: Go buy a new wardrobe because mom left the box on the corner for the garbage truck.

    OK, so your mom's not the pushover you thought she was. So what's the alternative? Brace yourself, here come my most important words of wisdom:

    Learn to do laundry.

    There, I said it. When you come out of shock and start breathing again, I'll do my best to help walk you through this traumatic experience.

    Step One: Recognize the Signs

    The main indicator Laundry Day was fast approaching on my campus: The girls started wearing grubby clothes and the guys began dressing up.

    "Wow, Frank, nice suit," a typical conversation with my roommate would begin. "Laundry to do, huh?"

    Conversely, whenever a female student dressed as if she was preparing for a fun-filled evening of weeding (read: normal-college-guy garb), all signs indicated a trip to the laundry room was imminent.

    In other words, whenever a student runs dangerously low on regular apparel, it's time for laundry. I heard rumors of a few students who washed their clothes on a set schedule, as if they had a date with the washers and dryers every Thursday at 7 p.m. This is a far more responsible method—and one that keeps your dirty clothes mound from becoming Mt. Fuji.

    Step Two: Meet the Quarter Guzzler

    When using college dormitory laundry rooms or the local Laundromat, you'll need to realize there is one major difference between the machines you'll use and your amateur, little-league washer and dryer back home. These are professional machines, complete with contracts and agents and washer-and-dryer unions, which is to say they won't even look at your clothes until you cough up the big bucks. Their currency of choice: quarters. Lots of them. For you, this means no more gumballs. Save those precious coins for the quarter guzzler.

    Step Three: Meet Your "Cleaning Products"

    On your trips to the laundry room, don't forget to bring detergent (liquid or powder, no real difference), bleach (the toothpaste for your whites) and fabric softener/dryer sheets (one or the other). You noticed I said "bring." Don't buy from those laundry room vending machines. Save money by picking up these products from the local supermarket. While you're there, go ahead and splurge. Buy a gumball. From what you've saved by making the trip to the grocery store, you can afford it.

    As for those nasty stains from the most recent food fight or dorm football game, you'll need to work on them before you toss your clothes in the washer. So keep a stain stick or other stain remover handy. Don't forget that these products come with specific instructions. Yes, read the fine print.

    Don't know what a stain stick is? Can't make your mind up between solid, gel or spray in that never-ending aisle of spot-removal products? Seek expert help. You got it: Ask Mom.

    Oh, one more Very Important Thing you'll need for wash day: a laundry basket. And you wondered why Aunt Minnie gave you one for a graduation gift!

    Step Four: Sort or Dye

    The next step in the laundry process could mean the difference between sparkling white and splotchy gray. Placing a brand new, brightly colored shirt into a steaming load of whites is a guaranteed step toward de-whitening. You might as well take the load and dye it along with your Easter eggs.

    Separating your clothes into these four distinct piles can save you from such tragedy:

    Whites: any plain white clothing or sheets.

    Lights: everything from patterned white garments to items in lighter shades, like pastels, khaki and pale gray.

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