Ask Alice: Advice for Life at Home

Alice, Can I Take a Stranger’s Laundry Out of the Shared Machines?

updated May 4, 2019
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Dear Alice,

I live in a big apartment building with a busy laundry room — during peak days/hours the machines are usually all full. So what about those machines where the load has finished but the owner hasn’t come back to switch the wash to the dryer or take his dried laundry home? I often have to stand around waiting for someone to show up and deal with their clothes. Is it rude to remove those loads so I can get my own laundry started?

Unlucky in Laundry

Dear Unlucky in Laundry,

First, let me ask you a question. Are there timers on the machines? Most laundry rooms now use machines that show you exactly how long your load will take AND when you should be back to free up the machine for someone else. Keeping track of time is an important part of the task that is laundry day especially when it’s a high-traffic day, so if they can’t be bothered to come back for the their clothes in a timely fashion, then they shouldn’t be surprised that you have moved them.

However, it would be nice of you to set a little grace period in your own mind. Say, 15 minutes or so, just to give them the benefit of the doubt. If you know a load has been done for that long then I fully support you in removing those clothes and getting on with your day.

Make sure to set clean clothes somewhere clean (duh) like a table or on top of the washer and, out of respect, try not to look at their undies if you can help it.

One more thing, you might think that putting a wet load in the dryer for them is a nice thing to do but I’d nix that idea. Many people are very particular about what exactly gets washed and dried and you wouldn’t want to inadvertently ruin something they love.


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