Mastering How To Do Your Laundry At A Laundromat
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Mastering How To Do Your Laundry At A Laundromat

Dec 25, 2023

Unlocking the secrets to a successful laundromat experience requires more than just a strong detergent and a few quarters — it demands a strategic approach. Whether you're a seasoned laundromat aficionado or a first-time visitor as a college freshman, this guide is your compass to navigating the bustling world of communal laundry. From mastering the art of machine selection to adhering to unwritten rules of etiquette, we've compiled a treasure trove of tips to ensure that your laundry day becomes a seamless, efficient, and even — dare we say — enjoyable endeavor.

There is a method to the madness within these walls of spinning machines and buzzing dryers, and we are here to teach it to you. Yet, remember, while we've been using laundromats for years, your local spot may have its own specific rules and guidelines. On your first visit, it's important to familiarize yourself with them and follow any posted instructions to get the most out of your experience.

Nothing is worse than having to wait in line to do laundry when it already takes so long to do in the first place. When deciding when to visit the laundromat, you should choose times when everyone else isn't going to be there. You can avoid the crowds and have easier access to machines. The weekends are going to be the busiest, as more people are off work and have the time to make the trek. If you have a day off during the week, the laundromat is likely to be less busy at that time.

But, if you only have the weekends free, don't worry. Just like at home, no one is really that eager to do their laundry first thing in the morning. Showing up as soon as the laundromat opens gives you priority access to all the machines. It also means that you'll be finished with an annoying chore before too much of the day gets away from you. While the number of machines accessible at laundromats usually means you don't have to wait too long, timing your visit right is still important.

Before unloading your laundry in front of everyone, check to make sure that the machines you want to use are empty and functioning properly. Sometimes laundry centers have an app or website that you can check to see if a machine is free. If it's in use, the tool will tell you how much longer until it's available again. This is also a good way to keep track of your own loads if you don't stay on-site while they wash.

The tool might also let you know if any machines or services are currently unavailable. If you are bringing the dog bed in for the sole use of the jumbo dryer, it's better to know if it's working before lugging it all the way there. Unfortunately, most laundromats don't have attendants working round the clock. There typically isn't a front desk — it's all self-serve. So, if there isn't a website or app, you will just have to chance it. The good news is that, in our experience, it typically all works out.

When doing your laundry at the laundromat, you should always bring a laundry basket with you. Large plastic ones work best so you can fit all of your items in one basket and don't have to make multiple trips. If you typically store your dirty laundry in a soft-sided hamper, it can be hard to fit it all back in correctly once it is folded and clean. However, if it's all you have, it should still work. You can always just be extra careful when stacking your clothes.

If you don't bring a laundry basket, you will be struggling with armfuls of loose clothes on the way home. How embarrassing to lose a pair of underwear out in the parking lot! Laundry baskets are also helpful because they can keep your clothes from getting wrinkled in transit. Laundromats often have tables to fold your laundry straight out of the dryer, so it does not get wrinkled as you transport it home. If you don't have a basket and shove your unfolded clothes into a bag or just carry them, they will be extremely disheveled by the time you get where you're going.

No one likes wasting time, so before you go to the laundromat, you should sort your laundry beforehand. At home, be sure to separate your clothes into different loads based on their color, fabric type, and washing instructions. On the way to the laundromat, you can keep the different loads separate by placing them in bags, or even just on opposite ends of the laundry basket,

That way, when you get to the laundromat, you can pop your clothing straight into the machines in a little assembly line. This tip is especially helpful if you are concerned that the laundromat might get busy, or you are working with limited time and need to get things done ASAP. It also saves you from the potential embarrassment of having to pull out all your potentially smelly dirty clothes in front of strangers. Instead, they will go straight from the bag and into the washing machine.

Lots of laundromats are still kind of old school and require you to pay with coins. While many locations tend to have a change machine that will take $1, $5, and $10 bills, this means that you need to carry cash. Some places might have updated machines that take credit and debit cards, but this is not the norm. If you are trying a new location and are not sure, pop in before you bring all your laundry along with you to make sure you have the correct payment method.

In addition, most laundromats will also have laundry essentials like detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets available for purchase onsite. But, like everything you buy in small quantities, it's more expensive. Instead, bring your own supplies from home. This way, you can save money and also have control over things like the scent of your laundry, the quality of detergent, etc. You also won't run the risk of the supply dispensary being empty either.

If you prefer hanging clothes, bring your own hangers, too. This way, you can immediately transfer your freshly washed and dried clothes onto them. You won't have to search for available hangers or wait for the laundromat to provide them to you (sometimes at a fee). Plus, hanging up clothes right out of the dryer also helps maintain their shape and structure.

You have to pay per load when doing laundry with communal machines. While it might be tempting to just stuff everything you can fit inside the washing machine to avoid paying for a second load, this strategy can easily backfire on you. Just like at home, a poorly-loaded or overly-filled washing machine is very likely to go on tilt. You have to pay to restart the machine, and if you don't take things out and reorganize them, you run the risk of paying for two cycles that didn't even finish.

Instead, to avoid overpaying, maximize your machine usage by only filling them to the recommended capacity. There is usually a fill line to look out for in top-loading machines. In front loaders, aim to fill the barrel about halfway full. This gives the clothes room to tumble, so they will actually get clean. While it might be frustrating paying for so many loads, it's better to make a budget and do so upfront, rather than paying twice as much for unfinished loads later on.

To protect delicate garments like lingerie, silk pajamas, or hosiery, place them inside mesh laundry bags before washing them at the laundromat. This prevents you from accidentally damaging them by getting them tangled up with other clothes in the load. This is especially important if you don't have a full load of delicates and are instead trying to mix them with heavier fabrics to avoid paying for two partial loads.

Even if you have a full load of delicates, you should still plan to divide the items into multiple mesh bags for washing. This is because laundromat washing machines are sometimes not in the best condition due to their high use. Sometimes there are broken or rough spots within the barrels of the machines. You might tear or snag your delicates by not protecting them, which would be a shame. The delicate laundry bags can easily be ordered online from places like Amazon, or purchased at most big box stores, like Target or Walmart.

Keep track of the time it takes for each cycle (wash, rinse, spin) to ensure you don't forget about your laundry or hog a machine unnecessarily. If you decide to sit and wait for your laundry in the house, this is less essential because you'll be able to see when the cycle is ready. However, some machines lock until they are finished. In this case, you might be able to leave and run some other errands in the meantime.

Yet, staying away too long is a recipe for finding your sopping wet clothes in a pile on top of the machine. This is laundromat etiquette. If you need a machine and one has been off for more than five minutes or so, and there are no signs of the person returning, you can remove the clothes. If you don't want this to happen to you, be ready to unload the machines you are using on time, every time.

When using the dryer at the laundromat, be sure to clean the lint trap before starting your load. You never know how long it has been since it was cleaned. A clean lint trap enhances drying efficiency and reduces the risk of fire hazards. At home, this is a good way from preventing a house fire. At the laundromat, you just don't want to spend $5 to find out your clothes are still wet as the vent was clogged up.

Once you have cleaned the lint trap, only dry your clothes for the recommended duration to prevent excessive wear and shrinkage. Sometimes laundromat dryers are industrial beasts that will all but fry your delicate clothes, as they are much larger and more powerful than our dryers at home. Because of this, you typically don't need to use the entire cycle for each load of washing, but can sometimes sneak two loads into one dryer cycle, splitting them halfway. You can also double up, since the dryers are larger, by placing the clothes from two washing cycles into one dryer at the same time.

The great thing about laundromats is that you can do all your washing in one go. Instead of being constrained by one machine at home, you can use six washing machines and see a chore that used to take you all day shrink down to just a couple hours. However, even waiting in one place for the length of just one laundry cycle can be pretty boring.

"The average person spends two hours here," Tom Benson, a laundromat owner in Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune. "If you make that time somewhat useful to them, if they enjoy the time, if the atmosphere is good — and I think it's very friendly inside here — they're not going to feel bad about coming. You change something that's pure drudgery — doing laundry — into something that's enjoyable." So, while some laundromats like Tom's might have something to look at, like old magazines and newspapers, or even a claw machine to play with, it is best to bring your own entertainment. Some folks just choose to stare off into space instead. This can be some nice quiet time, too — should you choose that.

Sometimes laundromats offer other services like dry cleaning or garment repairs for a small fee. If you have items that require special care, inquire about these services to save time and effort over doing them yourself at home. It's also easier to make your local laundromat a "one stop shop" instead of running all over town to different vendors on your limited time off from work.

If you find yourself stuck at work, or are at home with the kids and don't have time to sit at the laundromat while you wash your clothes, there is a great solution available. Most also offer a version of a complete laundry service. Sometimes, they will pick it up from your home, while others you must drop it off and pick it up yourself. Either way, it's a godsend for busy folks who need their laundry done in a pinch. It's often not too much more expensive than using the machines to do it yourself, either.

Laundromats are a communal public space. The overall vibe is typically somewhere between the feeling of being at the library and the DMV. The public nature of the laundromat is something to respect and get used to. The Coin Laundry Association told the Chicago Tribune there are an estimated 29,000 laundromats in the United States, bringing in a total of $5 billion in profit each year. The association also asserts that laundromats are powerful social assets.

While not everyone may be able to sit in a coffee shop with their friends for hours, everyone needs to do laundry. This makes the laundromat a valued asset to the community, where members often come to socialize while they work. However, be sure to respect the space and time of others using the laundromat. Don't hog the folding tables, use headphones if watching a movie, and yes, be willing to share your laundry soap every once in a while. It's what good neighbors do.