I recently used a laundromat. I know. Stop the presses. Your world has been forever altered. The truth is, we used to do all of our laundry at the laundromat. Then we got cool enough to rent an apartment with its own laundry room. And we got a little spoiled. It was mere STEPS to wash and dry our clothes. We could (and did) do our laundry at one in the morning. Our new apartment also has a laundry room. It is, perhaps, less luxurious and more limited than our last. After waiting almost three hours to get through one load of laundry in the shared space (that closes at 8 pm), I threw my hands up in surrender and drove to a little place I like to call the Clintonville Coin Laundry. That’s right. They’re so cool, they even have a website. Also, an extra spin cycle, free wifi, and a requisite bespectacled hipster manning the counter. It may have been a few years since I’ve used a laundromat but I have to say, I think they’ve gotten cooler. Maybe you’re a laundromat veteran. But, just in case you’re not, I thought you might appreciate Elizabeth’s Totally Obvious Guide to Public Laundry Facilities.
1. Scope out the joint. Can you see a group of empty washers near each other? If you’re doing more than one load, this will be helpful.
2. Consider the time of day and week. Nights and weekends are going to be the busiest times because, just like you and me (or maybe just me), everyone waits until they’re down to the last pair of underoos before making the pilgrimage to the coin laundry.
3. Practice courtesy. If it’s busy, maybe you really shouldn’t take up six washers at once (like, cough, me). And whether you have one load or ten, be prompt about moving wet clothes to the dryer and dry clothes to your basket. No one likes a Maytag hog.
4. Laundromats require change but luckily, most of them have one of these:
If this change machine is out of service, it is probably because a) you are in a hurry, b) all the banks are now closed, or c) you only have a $20 bill. My advice is to carry small bills and be nice to everyone. You never know when you might have to ask a stranger for quarters.
5. Pay attention to the inside of empty washers and dryers. In a public laundry, you have basically no way of knowing if the person before you used bleach in their cycle and left chemical residue in the machine. If they did, your bath towels might end up discolored or stained like my last three sets. Also, check dryers for things like gum, hair, tissues, crayons, chap stick, tar, or pen ink before loading your wet clothes. If only, if only someone had been around to tell me that an Oxford button-up ago.
6. Follow directions for detergent carefully. Commercial machines can be different than the ones we’re used to at home and you risk over-sudsing clothes or causing other issues.
7. Ask the attendant for help. Every washer model has a different set of terms to define cycle choices. Some machines have little tricks to getting them started. Sometimes dryers make horrible, scary noises. Not sure what’s going on? Ask.
8. If you notice you’re having trouble getting certain heavier items (like denim) to fully dry, try putting one of your bath towels in the mix. The fluffy terry cloth will help absorb some of that moisture and things will dry out a little faster.
9. Fold at the laundromat. Use the handy-dandy folding tables that basically none of us have at home. This keeps wrinkles from setting in (If you sort your loads into clothing type – tops, bottoms, underwear, towels, this will be easier.) It also saves you from the grossness three days later when you realize you never actually ended up folding that basket of clean laundry, can’t remember if you washed that cardigan or not, and end up rewashing everything. Much to my mother’s horror, I speak from personal experience.
10. Stay safe. I’ve never felt too skeeved out in a laundromat but if you’re ever feeling weird or uncertain about someone in the parking lot or someone in the building, do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Keep your cell phone handy. If you’re doing laundry at night, park in a well-lit area visible from the inside. If you don’t feel safe walking to your car, ask the attendant if they would mind walking you. It might feel like an overreaction but feeling safe is that important.
11. Don’t get bored. Bring a book, people-watch, write a letter, live-tweet the entire process, make friends with your fellow laundry-doers.
Alright, your turn. Have a public laundry tip to pass on? Have a weird laundromat story?
Be sure to check out Elizabeth’s Totally Obvious Guide to Using Public Restrooms.