It’s easy to give young adults grief for not knowing how to do something. That being said, what may be an simple, everyday action for one person may be totally bewildering to another. Laundry is a great example of this. Some kids have been helping with cleaning clothes since they were little, others had that one of those moms, and don’t touch a washing machine until five weeks into their first semester at college, only after every single piece of clothing they own becomes soiled with the stench of regret.

Either one is okay, of course! You can’t control how things are as a kid, and some of us just get lucky. But hey, we’re all adults now, right? Turns out a big chunk of being an adult is wearing clean clothes and not smelling offensively bad. Try sitting by a guy on a plane with old egg salad on his shirt without forming some rather unkind opinions about him. It is what it is.

So don’t be the egg salad guy! Instead, hang out with us for a bit, and we’ll help teach you the basics of keeping your outfits looking good. While this is meant for young adults who have little to no experience with laundry, it will also serve as a good refresher for the rest of us.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Dirty clothes
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dryer sheets
  • A can-do attitude

Let’s start with a cardinal rule: don’t mix colors together! You know how in every single sitcom the dopey dad drops a pair of red boxers in the dryer with the white laundry, then pulls out a bunch of pink clothes later while the wife crosses her arms and rolls her eyes? Dye can (and probably will) leak from dark clothes, and your beautiful gym socks are gonna pay the price.

So you’ve got your clothes separated by color and the dorm floor laundry room finally freed up (what were you doing in there, Kevin?). Let’s do this thing. You throw in your first load in the washing machine, evenly spreading your clothes, now it’s time to add some laundry detergent. There’s all kinds of options for this, from traditional powder to the please-don’t-eat-them detergent pods. Find what you like, or what your parents use, and go for it. We get that you’re ballin’ on a budget, but try to avoid overly cheap detergents—they have a history of prematurely fading clothing.

Now you get to pick the temperature of the water! Generally speaking, warm water is fine for most clothes, BUT there are some exceptions you should know about. For darker clothes prone to bleeding colors or more delicate fabrics, you can use cold water. You won’t need to wash many things in hot water, unless you’re looking to shrink a piece of clothing that’s too big.

Most washers run between 30-40 minutes to get your clothes clean, which is just enough time to run to the dining hall, or the perfect window to get caught up on cat videos on YouTube. Once you move your clothes over to the dryer, there’s a very important step to take. Important enough to warrant its own paragraph.

Open the dryer door before you move your clothes into it. Look around the edge and inside of the door for what looks like a tray pushed into a slot. This is the lint filter. Pull it out and take a look—is it covered in lint right now from the last user? If so, you can just scrape that stuff off. It’s important that you do, too, because not only will that dramatically affect your dryer’s performance, it’s also a big fire risk. Always check before you start drying, and make sure to clear it out before the next person uses it. It’s a nice thing to do.

So, filter’s all cleaned out and you moved your wet clothes into the dryer. You’re doing stellar so far! But before you start the machine, don’t forget to throw in some dryer sheets! Otherwise, your clothes will be filled with static electricity, and everyone you touch will think you’re a miniature Thor. The sheets will keep you clear of zap-town.

Many dryers have a sensor system to tell you how long to dry your clothes, and we recommend that you take advantage of it. If you’re using an older dryer with few features, try drying your clothes for 30-40 minutes, then check in on them to see how dry they are. Chances are they may still be a bit wet, so run the dryer more until they are. It’s better to do things this way—if you run the dryer for too long, your clothes can shrink. Also, if your dryer has a “Turbo Dry” mode, ignore it. It can be unkind to your clothes.

And you’re done! You did it, champ! The only thing left is to put away your clothes right away to avoid wrinkles, but hey, you already did a big thing today. A few wrinkles won’t hurt anyone.

Thanks for learning with us today! Being able to do your own laundry is empowering and shows independence. But remember, check those labels on your clothes! Some pieces are mortal enemies with your washer and dryer—that’s why Williams Cleaners is here.