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A long-time dependent on wash-and-fold services, I recently set out to save money by doing my own laundry at the laundromat. Reader, I did not save a cent and, in fact, just wasted a bunch of my valuable time sitting under fluorescent lights in a dirty room with no wifi, guarding my clothes from greedy neighbors who might seek to yank them out of the machine if I were to go somewhere else to do something more productive while they dried. Laundromats are expensive—but I vowed not to give up. Here are some tips for saving money at the laundromat that I learned and we can all adopt.
Only wash full loads—but not too-full loads
If you’re paying a flat fee per load, it should go without saying that you should wait until you have a full load to do a wash. This can be tricky, though, if you have some items that need to be cleaned right away and you don’t have time to wait to accumulate more dirty stuff. In that case, try hand-washing what you need at home instead of hauling it to the ‘mat. Washing your stuff in a sink or basin is actually easier than you might think. I did it on vacation a few months ago and the process was seamless, but only because I followed our guide on hand-washing fabrics to a T.
Be careful, however, that if you do bring a full load to the laundromat, you don’t bring too much, as you may need to run it through the dryer twice if you have too many wet items. You know what’s worse than paying for a full dry cycle for a half a load of clothes? Paying for two dry cycles on a full one. Find a schedule that works for you, like bringing one average-sized load to the laundromat once per week at a designated time, so you always have a just-right load size and never find yourself with too much or too little to wash, as both instances will waste your money.
Don’t buy your soap or softener there
On my first trip to the laundromat, I was full of hope, lured by the promise of DIY productivity and wise financial decisions. When I asked the woman behind the counter for some soap and was told that would cost me about $10, however, I was brought back down to reality. Under no circumstances should you buy the soap or detergent at your laundromat, as they will upcharge the hell out of you in the name of convenience.
If you can’t stomach the idea of hauling a giant tub of Tide with you every time you bring an already-heavy bag of clothes, consider buying your detergent in bulk, storing that big boy at home, and then dispensing just a little into a to-go vessel. You can use old sports drink bottles, old shampoo containers, or travel containers to carry detergent and softener. Don’t forget to pack a few dryer sheets, because those cost more than they should once you’re there, too, and if you leave to go to the drug store, someone is surely going to rip your stuff out of the dryer. (The laundromat is a war zone. Never forget that.)
Don’t use so much soap
Check the machine you’re using to see if it’s branded “high efficiency.” If so, you really only need a little bit of detergent to get your clothes clean, so you can save money there in the long run. Even if it’s not high efficiency, you can probably still cut the amount of soap you’re using. You don’t need to fill the little pocket halfway up; a quarter is sufficient. If you use too much soap, not only are you wasting it, but it can result in detergent residue build-up on your clothes. Also, if cold-washing is an option, choose that whenever you can, provided your laundromat charges less for it.
Dry your clothes at home
It’s understandable to want to get all your laundry done in one trip to the laundromat, but you can save money by doing half the work at home. Once your items are finished with the spin cycle in the wash, consider bringing them home and air-drying them. This tip is popular on Reddit, but a little subjective. If you have a long journey between the business and your residence, it might not be ideal to have your clothes bunched up all wet in the bag, but if you can make it home quickly, this will save you some serious money. Some, like Frugal Budgeter, recommend stopping the dryer early if you have to use it, but that doesn’t always work. My laundromat, for instance, just charges a flat fee. Whether my clothes are in there the whole time or not is irrelevant; I have already paid for the time. Read the instructional sticker on your washer and dryer to determine what, exactly, you pay for, then decide if you’re going to use the dryer the full time, half the time, or not at all.
Prices at laundromats vary widely from location to location, but that’s not the only reason you might want to shop around. Consider the value of your time, too. My nearest laundromat is one block away, which is convenient, but it doesn’t have wifi or work spaces, so an hour and a half of my life are basically wasted on one single task every week—or at least, they were. If I drag my heavy bag a mere two more blocks, however, I can go to an establishment with tables and wifi, then do work while I’m there, maximizing my time. This isn’t really “money-saving,” but it kind of is: The more work I do within the finite amount of hours in the day, the more money I make. If possible, travel to a few laundromats in your area to see which one is most economical for you but, again, bring your own soap.