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College Freshman's Guide to Laundry

One course your future college-student offspring shouldn't miss.

College Freshman's Guide to Laundry

I’ve mentioned several times that we are sending our firstborn off to college in the fall. Oh, the places she'll go, the freedom she'll have, the independence she'll need as she rises for 8 a.m. classes, gets along with a roommate, studies, reads, plans, and does her own laundry.


We still have to teach her to do laundry. It seems she was so busy building a resume (because no one should leave high school without a long list of accomplishments) that we forgot to show her how to separate the white clothes from the dark.

If I remember correctly, I knew how to do laundry by the time I was in junior high. I didn't get to dance down Woodward Avenue in America's Thanksgiving Day Parade, travel to out-of-state dance competitions in an airplane, or sashay in front an audience of hundreds for The Nutcracker — like our daughter has. That kept her busy.

So busy, in fact, that we failed to explain why she shouldn't put her dry-clean only sweaters in the washing machine.

If I threw my dry cleaning in the wash when I was a teenager, my mother might have shamed me like -- forcing me to slave over the laundry without a bathroom break until I mastered the entire process.

It wasn't so with our kids. Somehow, we bought into the whole keep-'em-busy, keep-'em-out-of-trouble mentality to the point where we probably overlooked a few tiny things that are essential to getting along on your own. And that laundry thing is looming pretty large right now.

Apparently, we're not the only parents who neglected to instill the ability to wash, dry and fold a bunch of clothes. Google any permutation of "laundry" and "college freshman" and you'll get a ton of links that clearly explain to incoming freshman how to do just that.

Thanks to Coed Magazine's College Freshman Guide to Laundry, students are provided an excellent first step:

"Clothes won’t get clean with just water, so you need detergent."

Well, that is thought-provoking. Because, really, how does one get anything clean without soap? Or a housekeeper?

I really appreciated this explicit advice from the same article:

"Follow the directions on the detergent jug for how much to use."

Good thing they mentioned that. We wouldn’t want the kids to get directions from their friends. I mean, what if one of her roommates tells her something like, “You know, if you wash your boyfriend’s clothes with yours right away, you can’t get pregnant?”  That would scare the fabric softener out of me.

The University of Michigan posted a link to 10 Essential Laundry Tips for College Freshman on its website. If the students make it to step 7, they will learn to separate colors before tossing their clothes in the washing machine, or “dark colored clothing will bleed and ruin light colored clothing."

I’m surprised they don’t have a required course that’s part of the core curriculum:

SOC142 “Survey of Contemporary Laundry”:  Theory and practice of modern laundering techniques, including choosing among laundry soaps, bleaches, fabric softeners and other cleaning supplies.  This course will study various brands of commercially available laundry machinery, and will cover the history of laundry from the native peoples of North America to the present day.  Course also covers brief overview of African, Asian and European laundering practices.  3 credit hours, plus lab.  Prerequisite, SOC 122, “Identification, Sorting and Folding of Articles of Clothing.”

Over on Today.com, clinical psychologist Dr. Ruth Peters advises parents to "be sure that your child has done at least a load or two of laundry, including moving the wet stuff to the dryer part of the process" before the “big day.”

What a revelation! The wet stuff goes in the dryer! Thank-you! Thank-you!

It’s reassuring to know there’s so much back-up information out there. And that we aren’t the only parents who neglected teaching this essential skill. But we still have five months. I’d like to think we can transform our daughter into a laundering champ before she leaves. But if we don’t, she can always Google the instructions. Or hire a laundry service. I hear they have that, too.

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