The Real.Est List
Inside Story: My illegal washer-dryer
I never knew there was a way to have a washer and dryer in an apartment without a washer/dryer hook-up.
Then in February 2008, I discovered portable washer/dryer combos and started doing research to find out which is the best. Normally, I’d pay top-dollar for an appliance, but I knew having the washer/dryer would be breaking my lease. If the landlord found out, I’d have to get rid of it immediately and lose my investment.
I looked on Craigslist and voila, found a used combo washer/dryer that normally sells for $1400 on sale for $350,
The relevant specifications for the Malber WD1000 Washer and Dryer Combo were as follows:
- 23.5" wide x 33.5" high x 21" deep
- Works on a standard 110 volt power, so no special wiring needed
- No venting required...advance design traps the moisture, condenses it into water and sends it down the drain
- Fully portable with wheels on the bottom
My laundromat days were over!!
For $125, I hired movers from Craigslist who carried the heavy machine (stoned) down four flights from the seller’s Village apartment and then back up four flights to my Upper East Side kitchen. All this occurred in the middle of the night when my neighbors would be asleep to ensure successful smuggling.
My Malber washer/dryer works like so: You plug the machine into a power outlet, attach the washer tube to a faucet, and then run a drain tube into a sink or bathtub. It took me a while -- and at least 10 small kitchen floods -- to figure out the best way to hook everything up, and my dog barked at the machine for three hours nonstop as it washed and dried its first load.
But finally I could do laundry in my own apartment.
The small combination appliance worked just as well as a normal washer and dryer, but took twice as long. The wash cycle ran 50 minutes (and required a running faucet -- I used the one in my bathroom -- that entire time) and the dryer about an hour-and-a-half. I settled into a routine of one white, one light, and one dark laundry load per week. Only my large blankets and comforter had to be taken to the laundromat, as they couldn't fit in the Malber.
I loved my illegal washer/dryer until the Great Christmas Eve Disaster of 2009.
That day, I’d decided to replace the kitchen tiles that had been damaged after a year of the appliance spinning and moving with each wash cycle.
I wheeled the machine to the other side of the kitchen, fixed the tiles (they’re the self-stick kind, so the job was easy), and felt victorious. But when I went to wheel the washer/dryer back to its place, one of the wheels broke off. The heavy machine nearly toppled to the ground with me and my dog under it.
I held on with all my might and used a cake pan to stabilize the contraption for a few minutes. I ran downstairs to my new neighbor, and she came up and helped me tip the machine so I could screw the wheel back in. No dice. It was completely broken.
My next plan was to unscrew the other three wheels. But they were so bent that I couldn’t get them unscrewed.
My neighbor suggested I call the pet supply store across the street and ask to speak to a strong delivery guy named Jay. I explained the job -- he’d need to bring another guy with him to tip this beast over and hack off the wheels -- and he was unfazed. He and a friend came over in a few seconds.
The men were so sweet and calm and didn't look twice at my water-soaked kitchen, dirty shorts and tee, or barking dog in a strange way. They tipped the washer/dryer over and used pliers to straighten the remaining wheels so they could be unscrewed. I tested the appliance when it was right-side up. It still worked! I happily forked out $60.
So what did I get for Christmas? A completely destroyed kitchen with water everywhere, broken tiles (the new ones and most of my old ones) -- and a working washer/dryer. I mopped and replaced more tiles a few days later, and all was right with the world.
Until I noticed a black, goopy substance oozing out of the cracks in my kitchen tiles. Upon further inspection, I discovered tons of water. I could only assume that now that the machine wasn’t on wheels, moisture had accumulated or there was a mysterious leak. I started to imagine the floor rotting and caving in on my neighbor who'd helped me earlier.
Luckily, I had a leak under my sink that I could blame.
I called the management company and explained there was water damage on my kitchen floor and also a leak under my sink. Technically, I wasn't lying… If someone wanted to put those two items together, well, that was fine with me.
When the plumber came to inspect the leak, I did my best to hide the washer/dryer by moving it into the living room, throwing a black and white blanket over it, and trying to make it look like a ridiculously large end table. Trust me, I wasn't fooling anyone.
It was literally the 300-pound leaking elephant in the room.
The dog distracted the plumber by barking so much that he didn’t notice my odd living room décor. My washer/dryer now rests inside a shallow rubber tub that I bought online and hasn’t given me a problem since.
I'd guess I used to spend about $1,200 per year at the laundromat, so despite it all (the original cost of the machine and movers, $80 for initial repairs, $60 for the wheel issue, and $32 for the rubber tub), I still come out ahead. Money wasn't an issue, though. It was being at the laundromat with annoying people. Laundry takes longer now, but I get to hang out at home while doing it.
So I guess the whole thing wasn't a wash.
See all Inside Stories here.