Your laundry has overstayed its welcome.
October 20, 2006 8:34 PM   Subscribe

How long is "too long" to leave your laundry in a washer or dryer in a laundromat/apartment laundry room setting? What do you do when you need to do laundry and find that someone has left stuff in a dryer?

Our laundry room is right downstairs from us, and quite frequently we see laundry left in the dryers for hours after the load has finished. I've seen seen stuff left in the dryers overnight. The laundry room has signs saying "Do not leave laundry unattended."
Do you guys just dump it on the table? Have any of you ever gotten bored and just folded it before putting it aside? Or do you just patiently wait?

If it's been more than 30-45 minutes, we usually dump it onto the folding table.
posted by drstein to Home & Garden (51 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Put it on the table.
posted by danb at 8:36 PM on October 20, 2006

If stuff is in the dryer I'll occasionally get bored and fold it, otherwise I'll put it on the table. When I'm doing laundry -- or when I did back before I had laundry in the house -- I'd leave my basket on top of the machine so at least someone could put my wet laundry in my semi-clean basket and not on the possibly-ganky table.
posted by jessamyn at 8:38 PM on October 20, 2006

If it's the washer and there is a shortage of washers, I put the clothes on top of the closest dryer. Depending on how urgently I need my clothes, I will wait 5 minutes or more -- rarely less, since I know commercial breaks can be further apart than expected.

If it's the dryer, I will either put the clothes on the table or I'll fold them. However, I only fold clothes if they do not include intimate apparel.

Communal laundry rooms have no means of punishing those who take more than their paid time. So I don't think it's especially evil to remove the clothes. If I end up waiting 10 minutes or two hours, it backs up the entire system, since anyone coming after me will have to wait for me to finish.
posted by acoutu at 8:42 PM on October 20, 2006

As far as I'm concerned, it can come out as soon as the dryer stops running. People should leave their baskets, and if they don't, then it goes on the table.

The only exception is if it's still wet, then I would leave and give them an hour to check on it and extend the time.
posted by saffry at 8:43 PM on October 20, 2006

Back in my apartment days years ago it was standard to give them 15-20 minutes to get their stuff out, otherwise it was fair game to put it neatly on any clean, lint-free place.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:47 PM on October 20, 2006

I put it on the table and fold anything that isn't dainty (least you can do). Of course this isn't a problem at the laudromat I've been visiting for the past few years, they have a large supply of laundry baskets so you just dump their stuff in the baskets, no waiting necessary.
posted by furtive at 9:07 PM on October 20, 2006

Half an hour.

Put it wherever it is clean. In the case of wet washing or unfinished drying I'd put it back in the machine it originated in when I was done with said machine (back when I had to deal with this... God bless home ownership).

Folding it might seem like some sort of passive-aggressive unspoken comment or spite, at the least it's a little weird and intrusive, don't do it. I always figured the unspoken deal was, I didn't make a fuss about their lax laundry habits, they don't get on my case about working around their laundry.

For an alternate perspective see "The Death of Zussy Roche"
posted by nanojath at 9:16 PM on October 20, 2006

Give them a minute or two, then take it out.

Whenever there is ladies' clothing inside, I always hesitate, afraid that she's going to show up just as I have an armload of her bras and panties and think I'm a gigantic pervert or something.
posted by Brian James at 9:18 PM on October 20, 2006

I put it on the table and fold anything that isn't dainty (least you can do).

And that interpretation versus mine is the difference between Canadians and Americans (short version: Canadians are nicer).

Also - "dainty" - tee hee - furtive is talking about underwear!
posted by nanojath at 9:20 PM on October 20, 2006

What's the point of waiting? Take the stuff out and put it in the basket if there's one or on the table if there's not.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:22 PM on October 20, 2006

If it's in the washer, I just take it out and set it on top in such a way that it's not going to fall off or behind or between the dryers. If it's in the dryer, I take it out and fold it.

I don't always adhere to the Golden Rule, but I find it works well with regard to laundry. I value my clothes, and I wouldn't want them to get dirty or excessively wrinkled or lost because of someone elseā€”so I apply the same courtesy to others' clothing.
posted by limeonaire at 9:22 PM on October 20, 2006

I tend to react to the state in which I find the laundry:
1. warm but still damp - leave in dryer, wait 15-20 min
2. damp and cold - dump somewhere clean (as it's already too late to do any more damage)
3. warm and dry - fold (otherwise they'll wrinkle, and if the clothes are still hot they can't have been left long)
4. cold and dry - dump, same as above
posted by miagaille at 9:49 PM on October 20, 2006

I leave laundry in the washer or dryer as long as it takes the owner to move it themselves, but that's because I hate hate hate it when people dump my clothes. I always end up missing clothing when this happens, or my wet clothes end up in a pile of dirt because someone was too wrapped up in their own convenience to wait the five minutes it would take for me to move my own laundry.
posted by lekvar at 10:05 PM on October 20, 2006

Wow - I almost asked this question last night. (I gave the tardy owner of the clothes in the two dryers an extra 30 minutes, then put his now-cold loads on top of the dryers and continued my laundry.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:08 PM on October 20, 2006

If their stuff is done and in the drier and I need it, it goes right out to the table. I don't have an interest in waiting, as it could be 5 minutes or 3 hours before they remember to come get it.

I don't like doing laundry in the first place, so I would never conceive of actually folding someone else's laundry for them. In fact I would be pretty freaked out if I was the tardy launderer and came into the room to find my clothes neatly folded on the table.

I guess I'll get my good karma elsewhere.
posted by wubbie at 10:38 PM on October 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

In my communal laundry days, I'd just move it to a clean, dry place.

A few times I was the offender, and the one time somebody folded my clothes I was really pleased. I don't even manage to fold my own clothes half the time, so it was great to avoid the dreaded chore.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:12 PM on October 20, 2006

If they're not there to remove their laundry from the machine, and there are no other machines available, I will remove it immediately, usually depositing it on top of the machine. This has never created a problem for me, ever. If you do this and somebody has a problem, they can go fuck themselves. You need to do your laundry, so why should you sit around for half an hour to see if they'll show up?
posted by number9dream at 12:04 AM on October 21, 2006

I find it really rude that people do this, especially when they are repeat offenders. I have the 30 minute rule from the time I find it (whether it was warm or cold.) Mainly because I do feel awkward removing the laundry.

I make it a point to never fold their laundry for several reasons. 1) I give them the time allowance. 2) It isn't my responsibility 3)I suck at folding. 4) I rarely find the ambition to fold my own.

I was "caught" removing a lady's clothes from the washer once. She gave me a dirty look and I returned the favor. She's lucky I didn't throw her shit on the floor. She should've apologized for not demonstrating any common courtesy.
posted by buzbomb at 1:36 AM on October 21, 2006

I would never fold anyone else's clothes. Why reward them for being late?

If it's really busy in our laundry room, I would take them out immediately.

I once had someone open up my dryer and take my clothes out that were still damp - when there was probably a good 15 minutes left on the clock! And then she left a note scolding me for being rude. Feh.
posted by cajo at 2:04 AM on October 21, 2006

If the clothes in the dryer are still warm, I think it's rude to go pulling their clothes right out. Wait 15-30 minutes. If they still don't show up, fair game to dump it in a basket then.

It always pissed me off when I showed up on time to get my laundry and someone had already pulled it out (because either they stopped the dryer out of impatience, or the dryer timer just wasn't accurate). That strikes me as incredibly rude. I'm surprised to see so many people here defending it.
posted by litlnemo at 3:02 AM on October 21, 2006

I will usually give them a half hour or so. Hopefully they have left their laundry basket there and I put their clothes in it. If not they go on top of the closest dryer. I would never fold anyone's clothes and would not want anyone folding mine. I'd be kind of grossed out if anyone did that to mine. I'd feel like I wanted to wash them again. I think it's much more polite to have as little contact with the other person's stuff as possible.

If you don't want other people removing your clothes, it's best to stay with them or come down a few minutes early. I am in a 3 unit building and I leave the laundry there while I am upstairs, but when I have lived in places where there's many units and several washer/dryers I will usually bring a book or some paperwork and stay with my laundry. I've had friends who have had clothes missing and later seen them on people who live in their building.
posted by Melsky at 4:49 AM on October 21, 2006

I've been lucky enough not to have to deal with having the laundry room be out of washers since college.

If I desperately needed one, I'd find the one with the smallest load that was done and seemed like it had been sitting there the longest, and I'd dump it on the washer it was in.

Dryers, same deal. If the clothes are cold, you're an ass for letting them sit that long. I don't fold clothes (I did when I lived in a two-family house, and then again, yeah, only outerwear), but I will occasionally make sure a large item is covering all the others (like a towel, or a big t-shirt) so that no one has to look at your frilly lime green panties.

The sign in our laundry room says 10 minutes is all we have to wait. Since our machines have timers on them, I put my clothes in, go back up to my apartment, and then, gasp, put the oven timer on. This logical step seems to have evaded everyone else in the complex.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:23 AM on October 21, 2006

"Time Is of the Essence in Shared Laundry Rooms" a Washington Post article by Sara Gebhart.
posted by plokent at 6:07 AM on October 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

It amazes me that some people don't leave their baskets or bags in the laundry room with their laundry. If they don't, then those of us who need to do laundry will have to do our best in finding a clean surface to put it on, which is usually sub-ideal, but so is other people using limited laundry space.

As cobaltnine points out, if the offender returns within a reasonable time, their clothes won't get wrinkled, so I don't think that is a valid complaint, unless they really expect the clothes to stay in the drier for hours when others are waiting (in which case it will still probably get wrinkled).

There is one laundry room here with three washers and two driers that serves about 150 people. If I am tardy in picking up my laundry I fully expect it to end up in the basket I have left for that purpose, unfolded or whatever.

OTOH, I caught someone stopping my drier run early once. When I asked if I could help her, she cowered and wouldn't even look at me.
posted by grouse at 6:25 AM on October 21, 2006

In my dorm we wait about 5 minutes and then either move their clothes to the dryer, or on top of a dryer if none of them are free, or to the table if they are coming from the dryer. I've had my own clothes moved to the dryer when I came down about 10 minutes after the washing machine cycle ended. But then we only have 3 washers and 3 dryers for ~120 people with similar schedules.
posted by puffin at 6:37 AM on October 21, 2006

Our apartment complex only has four washers and four dryers, so they can be quite the commodity. I think it's pretty rude to not be there to take your own clothes out when they are done. If I need a washer or dryer and there are clothes just sitting in it, they're coming out. I just put them in a pile on the table. Like others have said there's no point in waiting, cause I don't know how long they've been there and I have seen clothes left for hours at a time, and even overnight. I can't imagine anyone being upset about my doing this, and I certainly don't mind if someone takes my clothes out if I'm late going to get them. Also, I'm not folding someone else's clothes, and I would be a little weirded out if someone folded mine.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:38 AM on October 21, 2006

It is never rude to put the dry laundry on a clean table, even five minutes or less after it has finished (of course, waiting until it has finished). You shouldn't have to wait around 15-30 minutes because they aren't there. Everyone knows how long the dryer program is, and it is their job to be back shortly before it finishes. If they have an irrational phobia about someone else with clean hands moving their clothes to a clean place, then they should sit down there with it. If necessary, you should wash your hands and/or wipe the table where you need to put it (if it's not clean already).

I say this as someone who grew up in an apartment building with a common laundry room, who lived 28 years before having access to machines in my own house. And even now, I would expect that my roommate would empty my clothes out if she needed either machine.
posted by jb at 6:41 AM on October 21, 2006

As to the exact time you should wait: seriously, you shouldn't have to wait at all. They are the rude ones for not being there when the dryer is scheduled to finish. If you are not in a rush and feel like being nice, wait five minutes (or however long you like) - it's up to you. But if you have things to do (like most of the planet), then move the clothes and use the machine. You are NOT the rude one, they are.
posted by jb at 6:45 AM on October 21, 2006

When I lived in situations where this applied - I would usually fold the clothes from the dryer. If there were wet clothes in a washer I would usually check to see what the general makeup of the load was with a quick glance - if it was something like towels or underwear - I'd usually throw it in a dryer. If it was a load of delicates or a mixed load - I'd generally give the owner 30 minutes before placing the load on top of a clean surface.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:53 AM on October 21, 2006

Depends on how much of a hurry I'm in with my own stuff, but I would never simply dump somebody else's laundry on the table if I had time to fold it neatly. Everybody likes to see their possessions respected; good chakra or something. (And I nearly got a date out of it once.)
posted by pax digita at 7:33 AM on October 21, 2006

What litlnemo said.

In my experience, it's not unusual for coin-op dryers in apartment buildings to do a poor job of actually drying the clothes. Worst-case scenario: your clothes finish their first drying cycle, they're still damp, someone waits a minute for you to return, piles your still-damp clothes on the table, and fills all the dryers with their own clothes. Now, your laundry has been totally interrupted because of someone else's rudeness.

(Note that this experience was with apartment building machines that had the primitive quarters-in-slot pay device. Commercial standalone laundromats are more likely to have dryers that let you buy as much time as you think you need, which helps avoid this situation.)

Given the above situation (crappy apartment building dryers) I vote thirty minutes--minimum.
posted by gimonca at 7:45 AM on October 21, 2006

If the washing machine has stopped and clothes are still in there, the clothes get put into the laundry basket or on top of the dryer (we have no table to use in our laundry room).

If the dryer is stopped and the clothes are dry, the clothes go in a basket or on top of the dryer. If the clothes are damp, they stay in the dryer for 30 minutes at least.

The biggest problem I have with communal laundry rooms is the bleach users who don't know how to pour without splashing or spilling (or being considerate enough to wipe it up).
posted by schnee at 8:04 AM on October 21, 2006

Dude, all these people saying to wait are crazy. Insane. Lunatics. Frankly, if you aren't there to do your laundry, you're lucky I don't put it in the wettest, dirtiest spot I can find. Or dump it outside. And sure, people might say, but what about when it happens to you. And I answer: it never has, because I don't fucking leave my laundry in the machines. And if there was a chance it wouldn't dry right, I'd be there watching it like a hawk. If it was important the load come out and wrinkleable items be taken care of toute suite, I WOULD BE THERE.

If you find watching your laundy all the time a burden (which actually I do), then pay the extra three bucks and fucking drop it off. I'm like the queen of entitlement and I cannot believe how many people think you should do laundry on their schedules.
posted by dame at 8:08 AM on October 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I set a little personal timer, so I know when the cycle's completed. If you don't do the same, I think you're rude, and have no patience (nor do I wait, especially not 15-20 minutes!) before emptying the machine, because I know the inconsiderate may not return until tomorrow.

And I would never fold somebody elses clothes -- dainty or not, I don't want you touching my laundry, so I minimize my contact with yours.

This was discussed here several months ago but I don't have the time now to dig up the link.

posted by Rash at 8:12 AM on October 21, 2006

I don't expect anybody to wait for me and I am not prepared to wait for others. If it is in the washer it goes in an empty drier, if it is in the drier it goes to the nearest dry, cleanish place, unless there is a basket. If people can't be bothered to get their stuff out when it is done they've got to live with the consequences...
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:33 AM on October 21, 2006

5 minutes maximum. Then it's dumped on the table or the dryer. I always make sure that I am right there when the washer/dryer finishes - how hard is it to time these things? Not hard. If I'm late and someone dumps my clothes on table/in dryer, fair's square.
posted by meerkatty at 1:43 PM on October 21, 2006

"how hard is it to time these things? Not hard."

I found that different dryers in the complex always had different drying rates, and the timers never seemed to be accurate. So even with the best intentions and using an egg timer or something, you could still end up showing up after the darn thing stopped. So the only way to ensure that you didn't was to stay there the whole time, which seems unreasonable to me.

I don't know, I just think of it as a Golden Rule thing. I give people the same consideration I would like them to give me. Which means I try (or tried, when I had to use public laundromats -- I don't have to use them any more) to get my stuff out right on time, but if I can't I understand that people can't always do that, and give them at least a bit of time to show up. Of course it's frustrating, I don't deny that -- but I don't want random people taking my laundry out and losing or stealing stuff, so I assume others would rather avoid that too.

Maybe there are new-fangled timers in laundromats these days that always get the time right to the second, but the ones I usually had to use were sort of a crapshoot -- the ones where you just put in a dollar or whatever and you got the amount of time the dryer saw fit to give you, without any visible timer. Which may or may not have some relation to the amount of time actually needed to get a load dry.
posted by litlnemo at 2:34 PM on October 21, 2006

I just think of it as a Golden Rule thing. I give people the same consideration I would like them to give me.

Funny, I also think of it as a Golden Rule thing. And by that I give people the consideration of not having to either wait for me or take my clothes out, by showing up on time to do it myself. If I fail in this regard, then the next user is perfectly entitled to put my clothes in the provided basket—I expect nothing more.
posted by grouse at 2:49 PM on October 21, 2006

Maybe there are new-fangled timers in laundromats these days that always get the time right to the second

Actually, there are -- not to the second, but definitely to the minute (with a digital countdown). But in my case (smaller apartment building) there's only one washer / dryer pair, so precise timing can be measured (and failure to show up promptly affects others quite directly).

This was the previous discussion. And I just can't believe anybody would fold some other (unknown) tenant's laundry -- my reaction would be, who are you, my mother?
posted by Rash at 3:17 PM on October 21, 2006

When I was in college and lived in a dorm full of people I knew and had to see daily, I went overboard with the niceties: Fold dry laundry, except for intimates. Put wet laundry in a dryer and -- this is key -- start the dryer. My dorm mates always ended up leaving me a couple of quarters after the fact, or if they found out that I had folded their laundry, they would thank me.

The anonymity and generally cold nature of my current building does not inspire such behavior. I will move wet laundry from a washer into an empty dryer, if there is one. I will move dry laundry after waiting five minutes or so into a basket or onto a table (but only if the table is clean). I do my best to lay everything out flat so the dryer-hog's clothes don't get wrinkled.

I think it all depends on your attitude toward the people you share a space with. Are they nice to you? How would they treat your laundry? And, most importantly, can you accept the fact that sometimes people forget all about how long their clothes have been sitting in the washer or dryer?
posted by brina at 4:33 PM on October 21, 2006

No grace period, and I put wet laundry into a dryer (with the door open), which is apparently unlike everyone else.
posted by trevyn at 4:36 PM on October 21, 2006

While starting a dryer load of someone else's clothes might seem to be a nice gesture, it can be a problem -- sometimes there are clothes in a washer load that aren't supposed to go into the dryer because of potential shrinkage, etc. Of course when the person shows up they can stop the load and pull out the clothes that aren't supposed to be there, but if that doesn't happen the results can be bad.

So I think it's probably safer just to put that load in a dryer but don't start the dryer.
posted by litlnemo at 5:23 PM on October 21, 2006

Or put the wet clothes in a basket if you need the dryer space. (But once again, I would give them a few minutes grace time.)
posted by litlnemo at 5:24 PM on October 21, 2006

I just think of it as a Golden Rule thing.

In that case, I don't mind if someone pulls my load out of the washer or dryer if I'm not there in time to do it myself. If nothing else, it saves me the time to pull it myself (these are the dirtiest two sentences I've ever written).

On the other hand, I'd find it creepy if someone folded my laundry, so I wouldn't fold someone else's.

Our machines seem to be pretty accurate (and we have more than enough that this hasn't been an issue at my current place), but even so, you could show up five minutes early with a book. If the machines are that inaccurate, I'd start complaining to management.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:17 PM on October 21, 2006

Usually I wait fifteen minutes before taking their clothes out, because I'm usually a bit late taking my own clothes out. I'll have to start doing that egg timer thing, I never thought of that. Then I can feel justified in taking out others' clothes right away.

What do people figure is the ideal washer-to-tenant ratio? In my building it's about 1:20, and it doesn't seem to be enough.

Once I forgot my clothes in the washer for a while, and somebody stole them. Not all my clothes, mind you; just the underwear. My shirts and pants they left alone. There were even spare washers available at the time. Creepy and inconvenient.
posted by blue grama at 8:57 PM on October 21, 2006

"This was discussed here several months ago" - I saw the "laundry notification" thing but didn't really think it was related enough.

Thanks, y'all. This has been quite an amusing thread. All of them are good answers. :-)

As for the washer:tenant ratio? I don't know. I think they do it as a washer:apartment ratio. We have quite a lot of folks with extended family & kids living in the same household. When you have you, wife, mom, dad, 2 inlaws, and 2 kids, your loads of laundry are huge. But "how many washers & dryers should I take up with all my laundry" is another thread entirely. ;-)
posted by drstein at 9:12 PM on October 21, 2006

Five minutes max. I'm conscientious and don't leave my stuff laying around and neither should you. And you know what? Timers don't cost much. Invest in one and you never again have to worry about getting your laundry dumped.
posted by deborah at 9:23 PM on October 21, 2006

At the last apartment I had, for the first 2 years we had dryers with no digital readout on the timer. You put in your buck fiddy, and came back in an hour to see if it was done. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes your shit was dry, sometimes it wasn't. The washers were the same. Some took half an hour, some took 45 minutes, some took 25 minutes. And often, the SAME MACHINE would take DIFFERENT TIMES to run its cycle. I think the issue was with water pressure, where it would take differing amounts of time to fill up the basin. It was a huge pain in the ass, and made it damn near impossible to properly time. So I simply left my laundry basket on top of the machine I was using (I'd bring down a bag or something if I was using multiple machines, so people would have a place to put my stuff). If I came down, and a machine had obviously recently finished (clothes still warm in the dryer, or finished while I was there), I'd give 5 minutes to see if the person was coming, and if not, I'd take it out and put my own stuff in. Several times I had people come in while I was taking their shit out, and nobody ever hassled me about it because everybody knew the system. If I was using one of the shitty dryers, I'd make sure to get there 15 minutes (estimated) early, and sit on the machine and read my book while waiting for it to finish. Then I'd put more money in because I knew the clothes wouldn't be dry. Often times, I'd take clothes out of a washer, do a load, DRY the load, and when the load was dry those wet clothes would STILL be sitting there. Some people are just forgetful. It doesn't make them monsters. Some of you folks in here that get so offended by people forgetting about a load of laundry? You need to unclench a bit.
posted by antifuse at 2:40 AM on October 23, 2006

I think people what people are offended by is when other people forget about their laundry but still insist that it be left in the dryer, making it useless for everyone else.
posted by grouse at 3:20 AM on October 23, 2006

Yeah, someone forgetting their laundry is no big deal. They just shouldn't complain if it is moved. That's the rudeness.
posted by jb at 6:47 AM on October 23, 2006

twice in my life, i have been threatened by the boyfriend/husband of a laundry machine slowpoke when i moved their laundry. the second one was the worst: a stay at home mom who was doing laundry at 9:00 pm--never mind the fact that there are several families of single parents in the building. she also overloaded the washer and dryer, so they took extra long. i stopped using the laundry room in the building after that night, when the landlord's rep on the premesis locked my laundry in the room overnight because she didn't want to deal with the complaining.

to make matters worse there, i had observed another user close the door and restart a dryer that was empty ... apparently just to keep others from using it.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 10:28 AM on October 23, 2006

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