Why doing your laundry makes your clothes (and you) dirtier: Analysis of a dorm laundry room

I live in Jewett, and I’d be willing to bet a pack of mini Tide pods that my clothes are infested with more grungy filth when they exit the fingerprint-smudged laundry room door than when they enter it. I understand why the laundry room increasingly resembles your local dumping ground—our lives are darn hectic. We’re too busy contemplating a new hideaway at the Deece for misanthropes (Why’d they tear down the quiet/study room doors?!) to ensure that all of the dryer screen lint makes its way into the trash bin, and that all of our unwashed socks make their respective ways into the washer, as opposed to right smack dab in the center of the floor. The following are a sampling of times that I (who has undoubtedly contributed to some of the grime) have emerged from the laundry room carrying a basket of freshly washed clothes that wouldn’t pass inspection by the fraternity brothers from Animal House.

1. The top of the machines is coated in a sticky blue detergent glaze, to which strands of hair cling. This Fuzzy Wuzzy (was a bear) coating is littered with a hodgepodge of abandoned, sad-looking objects. As of last Friday, these included a drenched paper towel ball; a moist rag; an inside out, graying sock; a lint-infested sock (not the match of the former) and a dirt-encrusted, lidless plastic container filled one-third of the way with murky green water. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be a problem—after all, clothes go inside of the machine, and not on top. But consider the following: My hamper and I enter the laundry room to retrieve my (hopefully) clean clothes, and I’m greeted by a colorful, soggy mound piled clumsily atop the machines. Initially, I sigh for the poor chump whose freshly bathed clothes are swimming in a sticky blue sea of strangers’ hairs. But then I realize that those green and purple-striped socks look all too familiar, and, because I’m an hour late to pick up my laundry, some self-centered nuisance savagely yanked out my clothes to stick in their own (which is probably karma, since said nuisance is often my impatient self.)

2. I once misplaced a just-washed sweater. After triple-checking my hamper, I hopped atop the washer and peered behind the row of machines. And that’s when I discovered it. The Jewett Laundry Room Cemetery. It’s a dark, dismal place of mourning. Beneath a convoluted maze of dusty pipes lie decaying clothing carcasses, all caked in a thick layer of dust and grime. I performed a brief eulogy (“Oh Reebok sock, I’m sure that you once expertly wicked moisture from a sweaty foot”), rescued my sweater using the tips of my pinkie and thumb, and inaugurated my laundry pile for the following week.

3. Oftentimes, I walk into the laundry room and encounter a student staring in horror at an open machine. Before I can inquire as to whether a garment ghost has at last arisen from the cemetery, the launderer advises me, “I wouldn’t use A2. It seems like there’s been some kind of an… umm…” Inevitably, they are staring at a puddle of cloudy liquid at the base of the machine. It’s kind of like a bucketful of mop-wrung water, and it’s best if you are warned about it and/or notice it prior to absentmindedly tossing your clothes into the murky mess like I once did.

4. If the puddle doesn’t drown my laundry, then its pint-sized, detergent container counterpart is liable to bespatter me. Opening the container necessitates a forceful yank, since it’s practically glued shut with soap residue. So I tug it open, and a cloudy liquid splatters everywhere.

5. Then there’s the powdery floor (run your fingertips across it—you’ll see what I mean), which is home to dried out Clorox wipes, squashed gum wrappers, toppled hampers, tissue balls, lint balls and hairballs. As I pull my newly laundered sheets out of the washing machine, they inevitably sag onto the dusty hairiness. Desperate to escape from the sauna (How is the laundry room 80-something degrees when it’s 20-something outside with a foot of snow on the ground?!), I pretend like it never happened, shove them back into my laundry basket (where they effectively contaminate my still-soaked towels, bathrobe and the like), and cuddle up in them every night.

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