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Laundry: To do or not to do, that is the question. And how? This past week, we've been testing services throughout the city—from startups to a local dry-cleaner—that help make our lives easier by doing our wash loads for us. (A caveat: Our testers had bundles of varying sizes and clothing of various types, so the comparison isn't 100 percent uniform.) The takeaway: How decadent it is to not have to do your own wash! But that bliss—and convenience—comes at a price.
Cost: $1.48 per pound. $30 minimum
Geographic coverage: 19 Manhattan neighborhoods from the Upper West Side and Upper East Side and down; eight neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and in Queens, Woodside and Long Island City only.
Pros: Let's start with the obvious: It’s nice to come in after a long day and have your laundry waiting for you with the doorman. Our tester got a new laundry bag out of it, and the clothes arrived folded beautifully. Plus, Hamperville used dryer sheets (which we always forget to buy and throw in). And when a problem arose (see below), customer service was quick to respond.
Cons: The $30 minimum is our biggest problem with the service. (Also, the website could use a redesign, as it’s not as easy-to-navigate as we’d hoped). Plus, it takes more than a day to get your laundry back, which just isn’t convenient enough. (There’s a $7 for next business day delivery that a first time user doesn’t have to pay, but still, that seems silly. And excessive.) And the fact that the pick-ups are in three-hour windows (or four hours on the weekend), also seems inconvenient. Our tester doesn’t have a scale in her apartment and didn’t realize her laundry was only 13 pounds, and was told that she'd have to pay the $30 minimum anyway, which means she'd overpaid by $10. Luckily, they'd agreed to give credit for $10 for the next order.
Bottom line: As long as you don’t mind waiting a couple of days for your laundry to be ready, this might work for you. But be sure you weigh yours first to make the minimum charge worth it. While the pick-up and drop-off times run from 6 am to 11 pm, the windows are wide, time-wise, so not super-convenient. It's great for those who work from home or have a doorman and can just leave the laundry for pickup. For a family or anyone with a lot of laundry, Hamperville could be prohibitively expensive, but if you only have about 20 pounds of laundry every week and a half or so, it might be worth checking out.
Cost: 24 pounds of laundry at $1.50/lb, plus one laundered shirt at $2.85. $38.85 total.
Geographic coverage: Manhattan only, from Harlem to the West Village and East Harlem to the Lower East Side (not including SoHo and points south)
Pros: The pick-up valet was friendly and polite. He arrived promptly, one minute into the pickup window and came baring spiffy Cleanly laundry bags in which to load our tester's clothes. He also weighed them at her door so she'd have an idea of the cost. The delivery valet was also friendly and polite, and even graciously declined the tip. Most importantly, the laundry came back smelling fresh and beautifully folded, with sleeves tucked, socks right-side in and pants creased in thirds. (It was a Marie Kondo moment.) Plus, the underwear and socks came in their own wrapped bag to prevent loss—such a nice touch!
Cons: Scheduling the pick up was slightly inconvenient: Cleanly has one-hour windows that begin at 8am, but our tester was out of her apartment between 8:15 and 8:45 am for school drop-offs, wiping out that time slot and forcing her into the next, 9 to 10 am slot, which meant getting to the office late. (Her local dry cleaner picks up in 10-20 minutes of her calling and, after 10 years, knows what time she comes and goes.). Also, the 24-hour turnaround time is on the long side and due to her schedule, she couldn’t arrange for delivery until the following evening. (By comparison, her local dry cleaner offers same-day service if the laundry is in before 9 am.) That said, both of these problems could be somewhat alleviated by shifting pickups and deliveries from morning to evening.
Bottom line: The friendly valets, awesome folding and handy separation of easy-to-lose items really added to the experience but that turnaround time has to be sped up for our tester to consider Cleanly in the long term.
Service: DISCOUNT DRY CLEANERS
Cost: 99 cents per pound; $1 extra to separate the laundry
Geographic coverage: East Village, Gramercy Park
Pros: Having used Discount Dry Cleaners for about 10 years, our tester has become accustomed to a certain level of service from them: They greet her by name when she calls or stops by. They ask about her kids, know when she leaves the building each morning and to send someone before that time, and often call her at the end of the day to see if she's home before delivering her loads. They've even stopped at her door on the way to pick up from, or deliver to, a neighbor to see if she has anything for them to clean. They also offer same-day service if her laundry is collected before 9 am. And, at 99 cents per pound, they’re pretty affordable.
Cons: The laundry comes back simply folded (in half as opposed to neatly tucked and creased in department store-like fashion); socks are often inside out and outside in and, occasionally, one is lost. And, they’re closed Sundays.
Bottom line: Ever since our tester's building swapped out the coin-op washers and dryers for Smartcard-managed machines, she's able to do her laundry at home far more efficiently than ever before. That said, when time is tight, her local dry cleaners will always be her go-to for laundry needs. In a city as large and impersonal as New York can be, a friendly relationship with a local shop cannot be underestimated—or more appreciated.
Service: A LOCAL LAUNDROMAT
Cost: $9 for a minimum of eight pounds; $11.20 for 10 pounds. Add $1.10 for each additional pound. $1 charge for fabric softener, and $3 to separate the laundry. $50 total.
Geographic coverage: As far as you want. Whoever is willing to haul their stuff to the place can get it done.
Pros: A mid-morning drop-off and a same-day afternoon pickup was super convenient, especially since the Laundromat was just a few blocks from our tester's apartment and totally en-route to all her errands. (Since her schedule was jam-packed with appointments, she decided pickup and delivery, which is free, wouldn't work for her. Also, the Laundromat was unclear about times.) It took about the same time as doing her laundry in her basement, but sans the schlep down to the basement with nosy neighbors looking askance at her balancing a random assortment of laundry bags bursting at the seams. But she did have to stuff everything into two IKEA shopping bags to get everything out of the building all at once—not such an easy feat though the Laundromat was just two blocks away. In the end, the clothes were presented artfully folded: sweatpants almost looked as graceful as an office-appropriate pair of slacks when origami-d into a square. Socks were paired into tidy balls. No damage to any items, no complaints.
Cons: It wasn't clear how many pounds the laundry amounted to, and what she was charged extra for, but our tester was given a total price of $50, which is steep compared to her basement machines where, for a week's worth of her family's clothes, she spends anywhere between $15 to $17. She was too skittish about sending her family's undies out, so she still had to do those on her own. And though she ordinarily prefers to use a specific brand of laundry soap — some brands itch — she had to give up that level of control for the experiment. It was dreary and overcast by pickup time, so she also had to hope the rain would hold off before she got her clean laundry indoors. She could've opted for delivery, but didn't.
Bottom line: Quick and efficient, as long as you don't mind schlepping all your stuff to the them. If your schedule is freer, or you have a doorman with whom you can leave your bundles, it makes sense to sign up for pick-up and delivery.