Oh No They Didn’t: The Laws of Laundromat Etiquette

updated Jul 23, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

In my dozen-plus years of schleppin’ it to the laundromat, I learned a few things: which laundromats had best staff, vending machines, and washers-to-dryers-to-creeps ratio, how to stuff two weeks’ worth of laundry into a suitcase, what days and times I would have the place to myself, and most of all, how to be an upstanding launderer…

#1 If you leave, set a timer.

I occasionally hung out and read National Geographic while my clothes washed, but I generally left to do errands or go for a brisk walk. I also always set a timer on my phone so I would be back right when my clothes finished spinning. A washing machine is not a Wet Clothing Storage Facility, and chances are good that someone’s waiting for your machine.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

#2 Have Patience (Within Reason)

If someone is occupying a washer or dryer you need with their completely washed or dried clothes, give them a few minutes before you start cursing their name. I’d say 5-10 minutes is reasonable to wait before you commandeer the in-demand appliance, but it might depend on how rushed you are and how busy the laundry room is.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

#3 You’re Not the Designated Dryer

If you’ve waited impatiently and fear the Missing Launderer is never going to show up, feel free to remove their clothes from the washing machine. Do not, however, put a single item of their clothing in the dryer. Clothes (and puppets) are so easy to ruin, and do you really want to have to pay to replace their merino wool sweater or fancy-pants underpants? Don’t make anyone’s drying decisions for them.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

#4 Keep Clean Clothes Clean

If you take someone’s clothes out of the washer after a reasonable amount of time (#2) and want to put them somewhere other than the dryer (see #3), please put them somewhere clean. Same rule applies to clean, dry clothes. Don’t be That Person from Rory’s dorm:

RORY: Well, it seems that if you leave your laundry in the machine for even two minutes after it stops, some incredibly impatient person will come and take your nice clean clothes out and dump them.
RORY: Anywhere. The floor, the top of another dirty washing machine. My Belle & Sebastian t-shirt was in the garbage. So now, on top of a massive amount of reading and studying, I get to rewash my formerly perfect clean clothes.
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

#5 Don’t Stare

Resist the urge to gaze deeply at every single pair of someone’s underthings. Yes, they’re washing them in public, but they’re still private. Put your Polite Blinders on, keep your head down, and let everyone else do their thing.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

#6 Clean Spills Thoroughly

You might think it’s no big deal to spill a bit of detergent, fabric softener, or- heaven forbid- bleach because they’re clean, right? Wrong. They can all create sticky messes, cause slipping hazards, or in the case of bleach, ruin someone’s clothes. A half-hearted wipe with a paper towel won’t do the trick: really get in there and wash, rinse, and dry.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

#7 Take Calls Outside (Or At Least Quietly)

Going to the laundromat means you might be stuck there for an hour or two- but it also means that everyone else is a captive audience. If you want to use your time at the ‘mat to return calls and make plans, keep your voice down or go outside. We’re here to clean our clothes, not hear all your, your friends’, and your family’s business.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

#8 This Is Not Your Personal Laundry Room

This really could have been the entire post, but then we wouldn’t have had Muppets or Gilmore Girls quotes. Clean up your trash, don’t be loud, the washers, dryers, and carts are not just for you, don’t take up the entire folding area, don’t crash your cart into people, don’t force everyone to listen to your music, be polite and patient, and for crying out loud, keep your clothes on.