In my previous post, How To Catch Up On Laundry, I suggested washing clothes at the laundromat to plow through a mountain of built-up laundry. And I promised a post on how to use a laundromat.
But What If You Have a Washer and Dryer at Home?
If you’re an overwhelmed mom who needs help with laundry, the laundromat is a stellar way to catch up and get dirty clothes washed, dried, folded, and put away quickly.
Even with a perfectly functional washer and dryer at home, a visit to the laundromat could get you caught up in a few hours if you’re really behind on laundry.
You may already know how to use a laundromat (or maybe not – I mean, you did click on this post, right?), but if it’s been awhile, a refresher can make the experience a little more zen.
If you’re prepared, the unexpected (like a broken change machine) won’t derail an experience that was supposed to destress, not add stress.
Overview of How to Use a Laundromat
To use a laundromat to catch up laundry quickly:
- Research the best one in your area and the best time to go. Make sure they’re open.
- Plan enough time for loading and unloading, washing, drying, folding, putting away, and unexpected delays.
- Pack everything you need to do laundry and to keep yourself and your kids occupied.
- Check machine settings, capacities, and cleanliness before getting started.
- Use timers to make sure you’re ready to take clothes out of the machines right away.
- Be efficient to shorten drying times.
- Fold and sort clothes into baskets according to where you’ll put them away when you get home.
- Protect your clothes from weather and your car by covering clean baskets with plastic bags.
- Resist the urge to leave clean laundry in the car “for now” when you get home. Put it all away immediately.
If you need a checklist of what to pack for the laundromat, click here.
Why Do Laundry at the Laundromat?
If you’ve never been, here’s how a trip to the laundromat can get your laundry back on track.
- Access to lots of washers and dryers at your friendly (hopefully not scary) neighborhood laundromat means you can get buttloads of laundry done at one time.
- Being separated from distractions and To Dos while at the laundromat will keep you focused.
- If your laundromat is not skeevy and you’re able to leave the kids behind, you can have some “me” time.
I wouldn’t say it was comparable to “spa” time, but any alone time is better than none, am I right?
When my kids were small, even a solitary trip to the dentist felt like vacation.
- You’ll be inspired to fold your clean clothes as they get dry, since there’s nothing more fun tempting you.
Come to think of it, it’s hard to find anything that isn’t more fun than folding laundry.
- Having all your laundry clean, sorted and folded when you get home encourages you to put the clean clothes away immediately.
- You can wash bulky laundry (king-size comforter anyone?) that you’ve been putting off at the same time as your regular, everyday family laundry.
Drawbacks of Going to a Laundromat
Of course, there are drawbacks to the laundromat. Keep reading for suggestions to help lessen the pain.
- The big one is that some laundromats are questionable. Definitely try to find one that’s safe and clean. Thank you, Yelp.
- Other people’s smells can get in your clothes, and the machines are unfamiliar. I have a few suggestions for this below.
Sometimes other people’s smells are better than your people’s smells, so this isn’t necessarily a negative.
- Limited access to washing machines and dryers if the laundromat is crowded.
If you’re visiting the laundromat primarily to catch up on laundry quickly, this can be a downer. More on avoiding this below.
- If you have a washer and dryer at home, it’s hard to justify spending money to do laundry elsewhere.
- If you’re not used to having all your laundry clean at one time, you may overflow your dressers.
You may also have a panic attack because you’ve never seen it all done before. Still better than having it all dirty though.
- You might have to talk to other people.
Hands down biggest drawback for me but visible earbuds helps.
SIDE NOTE: Somehow wireless earbuds seem to almost magnetically draw people to me. I have to remember to push my hair back and hope they understand what glowing blue lights coming out of my ears means.
I have to talk to people when I do laundry at home, too, so this is a manageable drawback.
How to Prepare To Use a Laundromat
Forethought and prep can make up for the drawbacks.
Go to the Right Laundromat at the Right Time
- Do a quick search to find a good laundromat . Don’t just go to the closest one.
- Find the best day to do laundry in your area. Washday Laundry Centre recommends the middle of the week mornings. Avoid weekends!
- Check times before you go. If they close at 9 PM, you probably have to be completely done and out by then.
If you’re a night owl lucky enough to have a safe, 24-hour laundromat, late nights are perfect.
What To Do Before You Go
- Plan enough time for everything, start-to-finish, to avoid semi-damp laundry due to another commitment.
Build in time for:
- Waiting for a free machine
- Folding the final load
- Re-packing the car
- Unloading when you get home
- Plan for close-by errands, if you feel safe leaving laundry in progress.
- Shovel out your car to make room. If it’s yucky, put a sheet over the seats.
- Pre-sort your clothes, whether that’s by color or person. Don’t sort at the laundromat.
- Pre-treat stains. Take along a stain stick or wipes just in case there’s more.
- Check pockets.
- Double-check all the hampers and the kids’ floors. You wanna get it all!
- Lastly, pack well. Keep reading for a list of what to take.
Pack Well Before Heading Off to the Laundromat
Put supplies in an easy-to-carry tote.
Keep personal stuff and valuables in a separate bag (preferably a backpack to keep it close). That way you can leave them in the car while unloading the rest.
Assemble the following items.
NOTE: Bold = important. The rest are optional.
Must Haves for a Trip to the Laundromat
For a packing list to use next time you have a mountain of laundry to catch up on at the laundromat, click here.
- Your own laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. Decant into plastic water bottles to avoid lugging huge jugs.
You can usually buy detergent, etc., at the laundromat but
- It won’t be your brand,
- They might be out, and
- If they have what you need, it will cost way more.
- Cash –preferably quarters. If the cash machine is broken or empty, your trip won’t be wasted.
Plan time to go to the bank (don’t forget your bank card) on the way if possible.
Most banks won’t send coins out through the little tube sucker upper thingie so be ready to go in.
- Sanitizing wipes
- White vinegar
- Fully-charged phone (and/or charger)
- Stain wipes or 0re-treatment
- Plastic bags to cover clean laundry to protect it from rain and/or your dirty car
- Extra laundry baskets so your clean, nicely-folded clothes don’t get smushed.
What to Pack If You’re Taking the Kids
If you’re taking kids, here are a few extras to pack:
- Activities/Charged devices.
- Extra diapers and whatnot
- Something for them to sit on to play
- Germ-X since little.kids.touch.everything.
Optional Laundromat Packing List
- Snacks and drinks.
- OTC meds, especially if your laundromat is not one you’d want to leave with clothes undone.
As a person sensitive to smells, having Tylenol and Sudafed on hand when trapped somewhere with perfume-y detergent is a must.
- Color catchers.
- Magaines, a book, crossword puzzle, etc. in case you can’t get a signal and/or you want to unplug.
- Earbuds to watch videos or listen to music.
Or to avoid people. See above.
- Post-it notes or painter’s tape to mark machines if your laundromat is huge.
- Clean dry towels if you have any, even old ones or beach towels, to get clothes dry faster.
- A bike lock. This might sound strange, but we use one to attach our bags to the chair at water parks.
- Whatever you need for other errands while your clothes wash.
How to Get Started and Other Helpful Laundromat Tips
- Before you haul all your laundry in, go in and make sure there are enough machines open.
- Check for a functional bathroom BEFORE you start your laundry.
So you’ll know if it’s safe to drink the 4 diet Pepsis you brought without doing the peepee dance for 3 hours.
- Leave valuables locked in the car for now. You’ll be distracted for awhile, especially if you brought kids.
- Look for a block of washing machines all together.
- Check settings on the machines to make sure you’re washing at the temperature you want
- Be aware of any differences between machines. Different washing machines may be for difference purposes.
If you want to run errands, make sure you don’t choose a machine where you have to stay to add fabric softener.
Sniff and Wipe the Washing Machines/Dryers
- Sniff the insides and inspect them to see if you need to wipe them down or switch washers. I recommend vinegar in all your loads to ensure no odors transfer onto your clothes from the machines.
- If you smell bleach, run a load of towels or sheets in that washer instead of darker clothes.
- Get started by washing towels, jeans, and blankets first, because they take the longest to dry.
- Stick a post-it on any machines you’re using so it’s easier to check on your laundry and to double-check dryers at the end for stray socks.
- Follow instructions on the machines.
- Set a timer on your phone so you don’t have to hover near the machines.
While You Wait for the Laundromat To Do Its Magic
- If you’re planning to run errands, be back well before the cycles end.
Leave a basket next to the machines just in case you’re late.
Better dumped in your basket than dumped on the floor.
- Keep valuables with you or in the car while preoccupied switching or folding laundry.
Laundromat Dryer (and Beyond) Tips
Drying Your Clothes
- Try to get a block of dryers together.
- As you move loads of laundry to the dryers, double-check the washers thoroughly for strays.
- Choose warm dryers to shorten drying time.
However, if I have to choose between spread apart warm dryers or a clump of cold dryers, I go for the clump.
- Choose dryers higher on the wall for easier emptying.
- Add a dry towel to dry clothes faster. Don’t forget dryer sheets.
- Shake out clothes as you load the dryers for faster drying and less wrinkles.
- Don’t overstuff to save money. You’ll end up with clothes that feel dry at first but are actually slightly damp.
- Pay attention to the arrow that shows which coin slot goes to which dryer.
- Take note of the countdown timer. Usually, you can extend dry time one quarter a time after the initial outlay.
Folding and Sorting
- Pack up your personal stuff when the dryers are winding down, and put it in the car before you start folding.
- Once your clothes are almost dry, stake out a nearby laundry table and wipe it down.
- Make sure clothes are thoroughly dry before removing them.
If heavier items like towels and socks aren’t done, take out the dry items to fold now and restart the dryer.
- Check once more for stray socks, etc.
- As you fold, sort by room so you can take each basket directly to its final resting place when you get home.
- Cover baskets of folded laundry with the plastic bags to protect them outside and in the car.
- Pack it all in the car carefully so it doesn’t fall over, sticky fingers don’t touch it, and so laundry detergent stays upright.
- Once you get home, resist the urge to “take a break” before continuing.
Unload your kids, then the car. Take each basket to where it belongs and put the laundry away ASAP. Then put away all the other stuff you took with you.
- Now for that break!
Conclusion: So How Do You Use a Laundromat To Catch Up Laundry?
Going to a laundromat is an awesome way to catch up on dirty laundry. You can get everything in the house washed in 1/3 the time (or less) that it takes at home. And you’ll be focused so you’ll actually finish it.
Recap of How To Use a Laundromat
- Choose a decent laundromat.
- Plan enough time to get everything dried, folded, and home safely.
- Prepare in advance and pack what you need.
- Check for machine cleanliness, read instructions, and set timers.
- Protect clean clothes from weather, your car, and little hands.
- Follow through when you get home.
If laundry piling up is a regular thing, keep your eye out for a post I’m working on now.
Since 2013, I’ve managed to keep up on laundry like a professional-laundry-keeping-up-onner using a method I’ll detail in that post. It’ll have ideas on how to stop getting overwhelmed with laundry in the first place.
Comment below and let me know if you prefer to do your laundry at home or the laundromat, all things being equal?
Am I the only one who actually likes the laundromat?