The Rental Market

An expert's guide to laundry etiquette (or: how not to make your neighbors and dry cleaners hate you)

By Virginia K. Smith | April 1, 2015 - 10:30AM
Besides the usual hassle of separating your lights from your darks, delicates from the perma-press, and fishing out quarters from your change jar, laundry day can also come with a surprising number of loaded etiquette dilemmas: How soon is too soon to start doing your laundry as a couple (and dealing with your significant other's dirty underwear)? Who—if anyone—are you supposed to tip when you send your stuff out? And how many machines can you reasonably use before everyone else in the laundry room starts to come at you with pitchforks (or surreptitiously slip red socks into your load of whites)? 
For answers, we turned to Aaron Cohn, director of customer experience and growth at NYC-based laundry startup FlyCleaners, and before that, the founder of a service called Laundry Puppy, who knows his way around the world of wash-and-fold. 
How long do you have to wait before taking someone’s clothes out of a machine to move in your own?
I'd be so scared to take someone else's clothes out of a machine. Sure, it's rude that they're late. But I would just know they'd come back and see me "doing the deed" the second I have all their clothes in my arms.
Is it gross or taboo to send in your underwear for someone else to clean, and do most customers do this?
Eh. We all wear underwear. (Most of us, anyway.) If you're a "laundry professional," you're not skeeved by it, and people shouldn't feel weird sending it out.
How many machines can you reasonably use at once before everyone in the laundry room hates you?
Oof. If you're in a laundry room with a stranger instead of, say, bingeing on Netflix or grabbing drinks with friends, you're probably not a happy camper to begin with. Tensions will be high. Not super hard to get someone to hate you. But I'll say more than two or three is egregious.
Do I need to tip my wash and fold lady?
Only if she or he truly goes above and beyond. Tip yo' delivery guy though.
Is it ever kosher to change the channel (or request a channel change) on the laundromat TV?
Yeah, that's fine. They're usually on the worst possible channels. In fact you'll probably be doing everyone else a favor by sharing your knowledge of top-notch television with the greater laundromat community.
What’s the weirdest (or largest) load of laundry you’ve ever encountered?
My two favorites were a kimono, and the pair of leather overalls. FlyCleaners has done over one million pounds of laundry in the last year, so we've seen it all. Nothing shocks me anymore.
Any major pet peeves of laundromat staff?
When people come in to drop laundry off, and are like "I need this in an hour." Physics, brah, physics ...
What’s the best time of day to go to a laundromat if you want to avoid crowds?
Midday when everyone's at work! Or do pickup & delivery [cough cough].
What neighborhoods are the busiest for you?
East Village, West Village, UWS, and UES. Just tons of young professionals who get home late, after the local places are closed (post-7 pm). Also Williamsburg though, since FlyCleaners was born there.
Do New Yorkers’ laundry habits change depending on what neighborhood they live in?
Yep. People on the UWS and Park Slope send out laundry way more often. Because babies.


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