I haz no quarters :(
November 16, 2007 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Two part laundromat question - transportation and getting ripped off.

1. Urban apartment dwellers without on-site laundry - how do you transport your clothing to/from the laundromat? I currently use a big duffel which has wheels and a pull-out handle. But when the winter comes, this is not going to work. I use this bag for actually traveling, too, so I'd like to find something new and use the bag for its intended purposes. Also, the wheels don't do snow well (as I've learned the hard way). What should I buy to transport my laundry? The nearest laundromat is 3 blocks away.

2. The coin laundry by my house is screwing me over. Even on the "high heat" setting, your clothes take at least an hour to dry. When the cycle ends you can reach in and feel that it's about as warm as a hair dryer set on the lowest heat, if that. The only thing that is ever dry is lightweight polyblend-type articles. Tonight I was in a rush so I tried a new tactic - spreading my clothes across multiple dryers. One dryer had one small bath towel and about 6 socks in it and after 14 minutes everything was still damp.

The guy who runs it obviously either doesn't take care of the machines, or somehow has changed the temperature settings so people have to use more quarters. This is a local neighborhood store, so calling the BBB or something would be next to useless. I can't imagine laundromats are regulated. Then again...this is Canada, so you never know. Is there anything that can be done, or am I doomed to lugging my laundry further away?
posted by SassHat to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're doomed to lugging your laundry further away.
posted by winston at 8:07 PM on November 16, 2007

Even in the dead of winter, I find one of those metal shopping carts (bundle buggy cart with two wheels, not the full size grocery shopping cart) can make it along the sidewalk, whether it's loaded with groceries or laundry. Get a large cart with sturdy wheels. I got mine at Dominion for about $30-35, but they should be available all over the place.

Put a large garbage bag into the cart to hold your loads, although you might pre-sort whites, darks, etc. into separate bags before you leave, or just layer them and sort as you go. Fold a bath towel over the top and tucked down the sides to keep everything in. You may still need some smaller athletic bag for any leftovers, but see if you can balance it on top of the buggy. Bungee cords are good.

I used a bundle buggy for years when I lived in an apartment on Lake Shore Blvd. I feel your pain.
posted by maudlin at 8:14 PM on November 16, 2007

When living without laundry facilities I eventually became angry about crappy dryers and just ended up stringing a line through my apartment to hang everything on. The downside: lugging wet clothes home. The upside: fewer quarters used on inferior drying and less time spent waiting in laundryland.
posted by zem at 8:19 PM on November 16, 2007

What about just a cheap backpack?

I had a nylon laundry bag and just carried it over my shoulder. You have to swap and change your hand a bit, but just wash more often if carrying it is an issue.

I also strongly advocate the 'take it and leave it' laundry technique. Yes, it costs a bit more, but $15 for a weeks washing added to NOT having to sit in a damn launderette for a few hours is a winner for me...
posted by Brockles at 8:20 PM on November 16, 2007

In the event that your building does not have a concierge or a front desk (and if it was that fancy and big, wouldn't it also maybe have , mullacc?) If you can find a laundry service (priced by the pound), it might be worth using, if it's not too far away. In my neighborhood, some of the dry-cleaners also will do regular laundry for around 95 cents a pound.
posted by Airhen at 8:21 PM on November 16, 2007

Back in my undergrad days I lived in several slummy apartments a distance from slummy laundromats (Albany is truly a beautiful city. I just never lived in those parts). I would take two loads over and do homework while they went.

Ya, this meant I had to do laundry more frequently, but it also meant I didn't have to carry something as large and heavy as a corpse on my shoulder for eight blocks.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:27 PM on November 16, 2007

There's always the option of taking it home still damp and hanging it up.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2007

How often are you going to the laundromat? When I used to do my laundry that way, I was always amazed by the people who would bring in just phenomenally huge piles of clothes -- weeks and weeks worth of laundry. I can carry (no need for wheels, which makes the snow a lot easier) a week's worth of clothes, but not two weeks. I don't know how often you change your clothes, how many towels you use, etc, but if you keep your amount of laundry to what you can carry, the winter weather will be less difficult.

The slow dryers sound pretty normal to me, honestly -- I think lots of laundromats have crummy dryers, but some are crummier than others. It is worth walking an extra block to avoid the worst of the machines.

Honestly, the place I lived where I arranged for a laundry pick-up and drop-off service was really pleasant, and actually more convenient than having my own machines. The laundry came back not only clean but folded, and the cost wasn't bad at all, particularly when you add in the cost of putting $2 into a dryer which turns out to not have heat, spending hours in a smelly laundromat, etc. If that option exists where you live, it might be worth it.
posted by Forktine at 8:31 PM on November 16, 2007

Why not invest in a Wonderwash and some drying racks? Sit a fan at one end of the rack to help speed up drying.

This way, you'll only go to the laundromat for large bulky items like pillows, blankets and comforters.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 8:40 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you have a roommate or good friend, consider renting an IGO or Zipcar once a month and finding a clean, large laundromat. You should be able to wash and dry and return the car in 2.5 hours and the cost might be affordable if shared. You could use a drop-off/pick-up service at the laundromat but you'd still have to find transportation.
posted by who squared at 8:46 PM on November 16, 2007

"When the cycle ends you can reach in and feel that it's about as warm as a hair dryer set on the lowest heat, if that."

There may be a problem with the dryer but you can't tell from this test. Practically all dryers have a few minutes at the end of the cycle where no heat is supplied. This is done in order to not scorch more delicate fabrics if they aren't removed immediately when the cycle ends.

If there is a problem it is likely a lack of venting rather than the owner having turned the dryers down. The heat controls are usually binary devices with no adjustment. Have you tried talking to the owners? However unlikely it may seem they may not be aware their is a problem.

Tonight I was in a rush so I tried a new tactic - spreading my clothes across multiple dryers. One dryer had one small bath towel and about 6 socks in it and after 14 minutes everything was still damp.

Many excessive dry time complaints are actually problems with the washing machines not spinning fast enough or being overloaded. A good spin will lower the water content of the clothes such that you can't wring significant moisture out of the clothes at the end of the cycle. The last you can check yourself simply by ensuring you load the machine such that dry clothes loosely fill the tub. A classic mistake in this regard is starting the machine before loading your clothes because wet clothes take up less space resulting in too much material in the machine.
posted by Mitheral at 9:26 PM on November 16, 2007

For transportation, I would recommend getting a sturdy two-wheeled dolly with big, fat tires. Add a good sized duffel bag, and strap it to the dolly with bungee cords. In my experience, having a dolly on hand is very useful in general (moving furniture, kegs, &c.), and having two good-sizes wheels will make it much more navigable than the awkwardly-sized, tiny-wheeled metal cart option. I've used my dolly in all kinds of inclement weather (I'm in Boston) and it's always done the job.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 9:33 PM on November 16, 2007

Bicycle, obviously :)   Between a huge backpack and an old Knobb Hill Farms basket on the luggage rack, I can load up a surprising amount.
posted by Chuckles at 10:21 PM on November 16, 2007

Well actually, I lied.. Nowadays I do it at home using a machine like this (much older though, picked up cheap at auction) and a drying rack. Overnight is almost always enough drying time, even on very damp summer days. The washing part sucks pretty bad on mine, because the agitator is terrible, but you take what you can get.
posted by Chuckles at 10:26 PM on November 16, 2007

We have a large cart (like these) purchased from the hardware store for groceries and laundry.

We use a dryer, but just in case, a drying rack or two, as mentioned, is a good investment.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:27 PM on November 16, 2007

Make sure the filter is clean before you start the dryer, and even check the filter and clean it halfway through. A clogged filter will reduce the airflow and add to the drying time.

In my last year of college I had no washer dryer, but I had accumulated enough clothes for about a month, so naturally I did laundry once a month. At first I used the regular sized machines which look about 4 washing loads and several drying cycles on multiple dryers. Towards the end, I started using the front-load washers (2 loads) and the large commercial dryer (only one machine for one cycle). The front load washers generally spin faster, so your clothes are dryer when they come out, and the large dryers seemed to be designed for better air flow. I think I saved roughly 40% and a about an hour by using the big machines. I used the saved money to take a taxi with my 65+ pound duffel bag instead of walking a mile and a half.

The moral of the story is that you will probably be better off finding a better laundromat.
posted by Yorrick at 10:41 PM on November 16, 2007

For a quicker drying time; place a clean dry fluffy bath towel in with your wet clothes.

It does two things here; wicks moisture and makes sure your wet clothes tumble while drying...especially useful when drying jean material clothing. As far as your drying load, a medium size wash load dries the best.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:58 AM on November 17, 2007

A friend of mine has great dryers in her apartment but still hangs almost all of her clothes up to dry so nothing shrinks. She has one drying rack for things that should dry flat, and then just loads everything else onto hangers on her shower bar, towel rack, doorknobs, and everywhere else in her apartment. It looks odd for a day or two, but it works for her.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:47 AM on November 17, 2007

The laundromat near my house had an arrangement whereby washing was maybe a bit more expensive, but drying was free. Is there anything like that near your house? It's guaranteed that they'll keep those driers in tip-top shape if they're not making money off of longer drying times.
posted by FortyT-wo at 6:15 AM on November 17, 2007

Much as I love drying laundry outdoors, we've had a lot of cold/wet weather recently and with the prospect of a lot more to come I bought an electric clothes dryer/airer a couple of weeks ago and love it. It's economical (less than a lightbulb), very light, easy to fold and store and dries laundry well. A pair of thick moleskin trousers took about 3 hours to dry enough to iron and put away.

If you have a spare room or corner where you can dry your laundry overnight for a couple of nights a week, it's definitely worth investigating.

Bonus point: a pair of socks fresh from the airer on a cold winter's morning is an absolute joy!
posted by ceri richard at 6:45 AM on November 17, 2007

When I was living in an apartment years ago, I found it was worth my while to drive to a larger and better-maintained laundromat. The best one ("Suds") had a snack-bar and a liquor license. The second-best one ("Norge Village") was in a shopping-center with other businesses. I recall reading about one in Florida that had strippers -- it's a competitive business. :-)

I don't know if you have a car, but maybe it would be worth it to save up a few weeks' worth of laundry, then take a cab to a better laundromat.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:49 AM on November 17, 2007

I'm in love with my portable washing machine from Haier. It's a little more heavy duty than the appliances mentioned above, and saving yourself the hassle of going to the laundromat is worth the sub-$200 price tag.
posted by lizzicide at 7:29 AM on November 17, 2007

As someone else described above, a moving dolly with a big bag strapped to it works pretty well. It's still a bitch if you have stairs, but you can just throw or shove the bag down the stairs on the way out, anyway. And then when you want to move you have your own dolly already.
posted by dilettante at 8:04 AM on November 17, 2007

There was a 2-year period back in my past where I lugged laundry on public transportation to a laundromat. A regular, boring plastic clothes hamper with lid was all I used. This worked sort of okay because both my apartment and the laundromat were right next to bus stops, and the line was fairly uncrowded on evenings and weekends.

Disadvantage was that large items rarely, if ever, got washed. Everything had to be folded back into the hamper, so keeping things wrinkle-free right out of the dryer wasn't possible. And there was this one night when a sudden snowstorm came up, the buses mysteriously disappeared, and I ended up trudging home a mile in new snowdrifts with the laundry hamper.

Three blocks sounds like a cakewalk to me--I'd just get a plastic garbage pail with wheels and motor along.

That Haier machine looks sweet to me, and might have paid for itself in a year or two. Although, if water is included in your rent, there's a small chance your landlord might give you the stinkeye if they notice.
posted by gimonca at 10:09 AM on November 17, 2007

I have a used a four wheel bundle buggie (also recommended above) in the past - the advantage it has over the 2-wheel dolly is that you can also use it to do your grocery shopping.
posted by jb at 12:47 PM on November 17, 2007

Second the Haier washing machine; it's less than $200, it hooks up to the sink and drains in the sink or bathtub. I've put a few additional tension shower curtain rods in my shower and hang up the clothes to dry on them; the machine wrings the clothes out really really well so they usually dry in half a day. I've been using mine several times a week for four years and it's still going strong; I haven't been to the laundromat since and it's saved me hundreds of dollars.
posted by agent99 at 4:09 PM on November 17, 2007

I'm surprised at the number of things people call 'Duffel Bags' - The one I used to do laundry with was like this, which I had no problem walking/bussing to the laundromat in snow, crammed full of a month's worth of laundry. There's a trick to carrying them full, though: Load it and sit it on the table, open the straps and strap it on, then lift. You can wrench your back out trying to sling 50-60lb around like a half-loaded school bag. Sit on the bus with your knees out in the aisle, and don't take it off until you get where you're going. Reverse the strap-in procedure to take it off.
posted by Orb2069 at 11:32 AM on November 18, 2007

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