The University of Southampton
Life at Southampton

A student laundry survival guide

I know moving away to university is the first time that many students will wash their own clothes, and this alone can be quite daunting. Even though it wasn’t for me, it was the first time I couldn’t give my silk shirt to my mum or other more “delicate” clothes. Hence, I had only myself to blame if anything didn’t come out of the washing machine in the same condition as it was put in.

That’s why I have decided to share my guide on how to survive doing laundry and getting the washing done properly! I should probably mention, I do not take any responsibility for any ruined clothes – you should always follow the washing instructions attached to the clothing item.

Hopefully you already know that you need to separate whites from colours and delicate fabrics from cotton. This is important; I know some people (Ganesh, this is to you) like to wash whites and colours together, but don’t take that risk – it’s very annoying when your white socks go pink!

Whether or not you have done some washing before, it’s always a good idea to get to know the machine you are using. The ones we had at Mayflower Halls last year were pretty simple to use, but didn’t have too many washing options, so make sure you choose the right temperature.

Choosing detergent

I thought there was a jungle of different detergents to choose from back home in Norway, but it wasn’t until I stood alone in front of the washing till at Asda last year that I really understood how many different detergents you can get! Take note that not all washing machines have a tray on the top where you can put the softener and you must never put the softener directly in the machine as you will end up with soap stains everywhere. My advice is to buy four different detergents; one with a softener, one without a softener (for the clothes who shouldn’t have softener added), one for whites and one for woollens/silk. If this sounds expensive or too much you can propose that you share with your housemates and split the cost.

Cotton and synthetics

Use a 30 – 40 degrees normal wash setting. Remember to turn your clothes inside out so the colour doesn’t fade away and use washing bags for underwear or clothes made of thin fabrics, so zippers don’t ruin any ‘fragile’ clothes. I have always heard as a golden rule that you shouldn’t wash your jeans on more than 30 degrees.

Silk and woollens

This is the tricky one and I am still always slightly scared when I wash silk and woollens. If I have a stain on any of my items made of silk or wool, I always hand wash it first and then put it directly in the washing machine. I usually always put everything in separate washing bags, but this is probably not necessary. Remember to put it on the special care setting for woollens and do remember to use special detergent and softener for silk/woollens.

Bedding and towels

Wash these separately from the other items. With bedding and towels, when it often can pass a week or two before you wash them, I like to wash them on 60 degrees and I always use plenty of softener.
Training clothes – Although training clothes can be washed together with regular cotton and synthetics, you should be aware that trainings clothes shouldn’t be washed with softener as it ruins the fabrics. I know some washing brands have started to make softeners specially made for training clothes, so consider buying this, or simply wash training clothes together with other items that shouldn’t be washed with softeners.


I found the washing machines in halls to be more than good enough to get my clothes properly clean, but the drying machine and I were not best friends. When using the dryers it is best not to overfill it and if you have the option when washing to give the clothes an extra spin, do it. If you are in Halls this means you choose the Superwash or Superwash Plus program on the machines. If I remember correctly, the Superwash Plus program is slightly more expensive than a normal wash, but it might save you from turning your room into a drying rack.

Worst case scenario, there’s no shame in calling home and asking for help!


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