Laundromat Etiquette For Newbies

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One thing I know, from my experience as a former laundry attendant, is no matter what your walk in life; how much money you make or which neighborhood you reside in, nearly everyone needs access to a laundromat at some point in their life.

If you have a big family or you are a small organization without large machinery on your premises, it’s far more practical to take your clothes and linens to the laundromat than it is to attempt to do 6 or more loads of laundry, in a traditional set of machines, in a timely manner.

Sometimes time gets away from us due to our busy schedules or an untimely illness and laundry gets behind. Perhaps your bedspreads won’t fit properly in your home’s washer or dryer. Maybe you don’t even have private access to a washing machine or dryer. There are a hundred reasons why you may not be able to do your laundry at home.

Another thing I know, from my experience as a former laundry attendant, is that some people act like they don’t have any home-training when they end up at the laundromat, so this post will hopefully give you some pointers and some hacks on laundromat etiquette to make your visit more pleasant and offer you some tips to keep it pleasant for other Laundry Day patrons.

Side-note: These etiquette tips are suitable for both small private laundromats (apartment complexes, college dorms) as well as larger public laundromats.

Also note: Laundromats do have insurance, in case things go wrong, but they will not take responsibility for lost or damaged items, especially if you leave the facility, thus leaving your laundry unattended. Many laundromats have staff in attendance, but they are there for the needs of the facility; they aren’t the Laundry Police.

  • Pre-treat your clothes at home.

Pre-treating at home will save you time when you arrive at your destination. Some days are busier than others, so to make your experience seem less chaotic, spot treating before you get there is a must. You will be less likely to miss something when you take your time; you may feel rushed when you get to the laundromat.

  • Sort it all out before you arrive.

Similar to pre-treating, sorting your laundry at home will save you time, but it will also save you money. You will be better able to gauge just which machines are most cost-effective based on the amount of clothes, for each water temperature, you will need access to. A typical laundry basket holds up to 2 (two) loads of laundry, which should fit nicely in a regular (double-load) washer (front or top-loading). An average hamper will hold up to 4 (four) loads, suitable for a 40 lbs washer (an average load weighs about 8-10 lbs, so you can tell the number of loads based on the size of the washer in 10 lbs increments: i.e. a 50 lbs washer holds 5 loads, a 75 lbs washer will hold just under 8 loads).

  • The Early Bird gets dibs.

If you can get to the laundromat, the first thing in the morning, you can beat the rush and get all of the machines you need with little to no competition from other patrons. No lines, no waiting means that you should be in and out of the laundromat in a jiffy.

  • Manually and visually check the interior of machines.

This rule is good for before and after you use any washer or dryer. You want to check to be sure the last customer didn’t leave anything behind that could damage your clothes. You are also checking for any mechanical anomalies that the last customer may have neglected to mention to staff members, such as excess water in the machine that may indicate an issue with the spin cycle and or drainage problems that could spell possible agitation and a time-drain for you if you use it. If you see something, please say something to staff so they can fix the problem or direct you to another working machine.

  • Don’t fill too high or too full.

A good rule of thumb is 1) laundry should be loose enough for you to move your hand around freely between your items and 2) you should still be able to see a few inches of “available” washer space. If you clothes are packed too tightly, they may not agitate properly, thus, they won’t get clean and you may have to try again in a bigger washer, taking up your valuable time and money.

Side note: In the same vein, be aware of having too little items in a big machine. This may cause unbalance issues that could stop the washer, entirely, or cause the wash not to spin properly. In case of clean but unspun laundry, seek out a laundromat staff member for assistance. Most modern machines are equipped with a key or a code that will allow a professional to reset the spin cycle for you, even if this means you moving your items to another machine to do so. This should be a free service.

It is NOT recommended that you place unspun items in the dryer. They will take HOURS rather than minutes to dry, even on the highest temperature. If you are in an unattended facility, move your laundry to another machine and rewash them (without detergent) to allow for a proper spin cycle (reusing the same machine may give you the exact same results). Make a note, if you are able and as a courtesy, for future patrons to avoid the machine until the maintenance crew has a chance to fix it.

  • Do NOT use MORE than recommended doses of detergents and other cleaning products!

I’ve discussed this issue on this blog on more than one occasion, but it bears repeating, do not use more than the recommended amounts of detergents, boosters, or softeners as prescribed by manufacturers or by the laundry facility you are using.

Less is truly more due to the following reasons: 1) Sometimes all the soap/boosters hasn’t washed through from the last patron (depending on the machine, you may not be able to check for this, but do so, if you can and act, accordingly), 2) Too many detergents and boosters will cause the machine to malfunction, including overflowing with suds and/or water, costing you more time and money having to re-do your items in another machine, and 3) It will save you money because your detergents will last longer.

  • Mark your territory, respectfully.

Whether you stay in the laundromat facility while your clothes are in the wash or not, it’s always a good idea to put your laundry bins or bags on top of the washing machines you are using 1) to remind you which machines are in use and 2) to keep these bulky items out of the way of other patrons, including those pushing on-site rolling baskets or wandering children who may not be attentive to their surroundings.

  • Keep an eye out.

Depending on the size of the facility you go to, hanging out with your laundry may be impractical. But, if you can, it is highly recommended that you stay in the laundromat if you can. This is a good idea for a number of reasons, including: 1) you will notice problems with the machine, immediately which may be resolved in the moment, saving you time. If the problem can’t be resolved immediately, at least, you will have a plan in place when the machine stops, rather than coming back to a surprise: the machine didn’t start, the machine has been sitting in unbalanced mode without progress, some other mechanical failure) or 2) you will be available to remove your clothes immediately before another patron mistakenly takes them or before they throw their clothes on top of yours and restart the machine (now your clothes are, not only mixed up with a strangers, now you have to wait another wash cycle).

If you can’t be there for your laundry, set a timer on your watch or smartphone. Most washers and dryers should tell you, approximately, how much time the machine is set to run for. If available, be sure to inform staff that you are leaving the facility so that if they notice problems arising with your machines, they know who to talk to when you return.

  • Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.

Immediately after your wash cycle ends, remove your clothes. Do this as a courtesy for other patrons who may be waiting anxiously for an available washer.

Occasionally, when customers take too long to retrieve their clothes, because they have left the facility, antsy patrons or busy staff members may be required to remove their laundry from the machine. Depending on who touches your clothes, they may or may not treat your clothing with the same care that you would treat them with yourself. So it’s a good idea to stay nearby or to make sure you respond promptly when your smartphone sends you a reminder.

  • Don’t forget to check with your own eyes and hands.

Remember, before tossing your freshly cleaned clothes in a public dryer, check to be sure there was nothing, and I mean, NOTHING, left behind by the previous user. Watch out for objects that may have been left behind, besides lone socks. But, you will also want to watch for mysterious stains, such as grease or ink. If still fresh, these stains could easily transfer to your clothes and turn into a costly and time-consuming mess for both you and the facility. Choose another dryer and inform staff members that they have a machine that may have issues that need to be resolved.

  • Be aware that temps may be hotter than expected… Or not.

Laundromat washers and dryers tend to run a bit hotter than your in-home set, so beware when you choose the “High” setting on the dryers. I know from personal experience some types of fabrics will burn or singe in a dryer that is too hot. One solution to this problem is to check the dryer regularly and remove items as they become as dry as you prefer.

Alternatively, sometimes when a dryer has been running for quite some time, the fail-safe system may kick in, preventing the dryer from getting hot at all or only staying hot for a brief amount of time. This is why it’s important to stay with your laundry so that you can act quickly in the event of a problem like this and remove your clothes to a machine that is working properly.

  • Almost done…

If you are like me, you prefer to fold your laundry while you are still in the laundromat. Be conscientious of the facilities and the number of amenities available to every customer. Limit the number of baskets you use at one time and limit yourself to one work-space, if possible.

If using more than two dryers, stagger when you start them. This will enable you to fold a load or two, at a time, without being overwhelmed by the other 3-4 loads that may still await you. As a bonus, if you find some items you are folding could still use more drying time, you can toss them in the dryers that are still in use.

Before you load your finished laundry into your vehicle to head back home, don’t forget to leave your work space tidy. Make sure trash and excess dryer sheets are thrown in garbage bins and if necessary, clean out any lint in visible lint traps (most public facilities have locked traps; staff is responsible for those). Double-check that you didn’t leave any personal items in or around the washers and dryers. Exit the facility when done.

Laundry Day Accomplished!

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Have a Great Laundry Day!

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