Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Staying on top of the essential dos and don’ts of laundry care can feel like enough to make your head spin. If you’re like me and use a communal laundry space to tackle your clothes pile every week, you may also find yourself facing the added unspoken rules of the laundromat.
Is there too much, or maybe too little soap in the tray? Maybe you’ve wondered about the mystery items that were sent through the wash before your own clothes? Or, one of the worst of all: you may have been spooked by a funky smell upon opening a machine.
Whatever your shared or public laundry experience may be, that pile of clothes in your apartment or dorm room doesn’t have to be a daunting chore. You can help guarantee that your fabrics come out fresh with each wash, even if the laundry space around you doesn’t feel as clean as you’d like it to be.
Check out these tips to revamp your next trip to the laundromat.
Tip 1: Take the extra time to spot-treat and fully separate your clothes
Many of us have made the last-minute call to quickly throw a load of laundry on, just to knock it off our to-do list. We skip the few extra minutes (and dollars) by leaving out a stain remover or not separating our colors.
Patric Richardson, host of The Laundry Guy on Discovery+ and author of Laundry Love, would prefer if you didn’t skip separating your colors.
“It can be really, really hard on your clothes,” he explains. “You might think you’re saving $4 that day on the washing machine, but you’re ruining your clothes, and those are worth more than $4.”
It may be worth your wallet, in the long run, to separate colors at home and then give everything a close spot-treatment once you’ve found an open washing machine.
A treatment that Richardson encourages for oil-based stains can be made entirely at home. He suggests getting a small spray bottle of 50% white vinegar and 50% water, spraying that on those oily stains, and tossing them directly into the wash.
Tip 2: Invest in a useful laundry kit
Heavy soaps or detergents can make traveling to the laundromat a challenge; you’re left juggling large equipment and heaps of dirty clothes. Experts recommend spending a bit more on quality, concentrated detergents or dry soaps to ease the trip and get more bang for your buck.
Richardson says, “It’s like buying shampoo from a salon. It may cost a bit more, but it’s so concentrated it can last for months. Whereas, if you buy a cheaper shampoo, it may be cheaper, but there’s so much water in it, you use it faster. And it’s heavier because you’re lugging around water. You don’t need to bring water to the washing machine, it’s already got some.”
Along with your concentrated soap, make space for a small bottle of spot remover in your laundry tool kit. Consider spending a few dollars on a steamer as well. More often than not, you may find that the clothes sitting on that corner chair in your room don’t need to be washed again; they just need to be de-wrinkled and carefully put away.
Tip 3: Consider a vinegar rinse
One universal truth of doing laundry in any shared space is that we cannot control the soaps, products, or clothes that go into the wash before our own items. To help keep things fresh and clean, Richardson suggests trying a vinegar rinse.
“What a vinegar rinse is going to do is make sure that any detergent you have or any detergent that was left in the machine will wash fully out of your clothes.”
In the tray where fabric softener would normally be placed, pour in straight vinegar. Richardson says any inexpensive white vinegar will do the trick. Fill the tray to the top, use less soap than you may typically feel inclined to use, and start the wash.
As a note — Richardson does say that if you’re using a washer at home and you know everything that’s going into the drum, the vinegar rinse or fabric softener may not be necessary. Instead, only use a small amount of quality soap or detergent—the water and wash cycle will be enough to thoroughly clean and rinse out your clothes.
Tip 4: Use vodka to extend the life of your clothes between washes
It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-washing your clothes, towels, and linens. Richardson has a trick to help prolong the fresh smell of your clothes, and it may knock your socks off.
He suggests keeping a small spray bottle of vodka handy in your laundry kit. The liquid helps naturally eliminate odors in fabrics and dries color-and-odor-free. Richardson says you can mist any fabric and it immediately helps reverse bad smells (whether it’s from sweat, smoke, or other stink-causing sources).
Tip 5: Be kind and courteous
This tip may sound like an overplayed record, but it always bears repeating. It helps ease the overall laundry experience when everyone in the space is on the same page.
Swap your clothes from the washer to the dryer on time and remove them quickly when you’re finished. Treat others with kindness where you can, clean up after yourself, and help keep the laundry cycle moving efficiently by setting timers to pick up your clean clothes.
Tip 6: Find the love in doing laundry
Laundry can seem daunting, overwhelming, or even boring to many people. Richardson encourages anyone who dreads this weekly chore to reframe their thinking, even just slightly.
“I like to say to folks, you don’t have to do laundry. You get to do laundry. It’s a privilege,” he says. “And going to the laundromat can be fun. It doesn’t have to be this laborious thing. If the laundry is in your building, bring a book and a glass of wine. If you’re going to the laundromat, schedule a laundry date with a friend.”
Richardson says that laundry is a great way to show care for others and even for yourself. By recognizing that it’s an act of love and practicing that care, you may end up finding a bit of joy yourself the next time you head to your local laundromat.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.