The Unbreakable Rules of Laundromat Etiquette

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You uphold the social contract every day by not piling your bags into the seat next to you on a crowded bus or melting down on someone who gives you a little attitude at the grocery store. But there are still places where even the most dutifully polite citizens run the risk of violating unspoken etiquette rules. The laundromat, where we schlep to wash our dirty clothes under the watchful gaze of strangers, is chief among them. It’s all so undignified, but there are ways to make it slightly better: Here’s how to behave in a laundromat, for the good of everyone.
Respect the rolling carts
“One rule burned in my brain when I first used a laundromat is that the rolling baskets are used for the washed and clean clothes only,” New Yorker Katie Dickinson says. “I got called out for that.”
When you enter the laundromat with your dirty clothes, don’t plop them into a rolling cart to sort them. After you’re gone, someone else may use that same cart to hold their clean clothes (which is what the baskets are for), and it’s unfair for their freshly laundered linens to touch the same wiring your dirty ones just laid upon.
Pre-sort your laundry before you get to the laundromat to avoid this. Try putting delicates, colors, whites, or items that need special attention into distinct bags, whether those are multiple laundry bags or garbage bags that keep them separated inside one larger laundry bag.
Stay conscious of your space
The thing about laundromats is they’re public spaces, so even though you’re doing something a little private, you have to keep in mind this isn’t your home.
Rick Rome, CEO and founder of WashClub, an on-demand laundry service based in New York City, says it’s important to be mindful of how much space you’re taking up. In addition to not dirtying up the carts, for instance, you can’t hog them, either—or the counter space, for that matter. Don’t spread your clothes out everywhere as you sort and fold. If you do, the person next to you may abscond with your lucky gameday hoodie if it gets too close to their pile—and you’ll kind of deserve it.
Avoid the sprawl by doing small loads and having the necessary tools with you. A laundry bag with dividers is essential and costs less than $ 10 on Amazon. Keeping separate, private spaces for each load will do wonders to decrease the amount of space you need to take up as you sort and fold. Another way to save space is not lugging large jugs of detergent and fabric softener with you. Pick up six travel-sized containers you can fill at home for $9.79.
Clean up after yourself
There is one way a laundromat is like an at-home laundry setup: You have to clean up after yourself. That’s not the attendant’s job, and your mess isn’t the responsibility of the person who uses the machine after you. Rome says, “Ensure that you are cleaning any lint or debris from the lint trap in the dryer, wiping down the machines after use, and throwing away any trash.”
Pack a microfiber cloth for quick, efficient wipe-down and also consider how you can be clean during your actual laundry duties. Using mesh bags (here are two for $5.99) for socks and delicates, for instance, will keep all your miniature items secure so you don’t leave them behind.
Don’t be mad if someone moves your stuff
If you’re heading to the laundromat, you’re making a commitment to doing your chore fully and responsibly. Rome recommends staying near your laundry when it’s running so you can monitor progress and be sure your clothes aren’t unattended too long, but in the event you do have to step away, don’t get mad if someone moves your clothes out of a machine so they can use it. If, on a given day, you have too many errands and think you won’t be able to give your laundry your full attention, consider waiting until a non-peak time, instead. Rome says weekend mornings are the busiest, so aim for a weeknight. If you really don’t have time and don’t want someone moving your stuff, opt for a drop-off center or pick-up service. It’s a little more expensive, but you won’t have to deal with timing issues or getting worked up about someone putting your dry laundry into a cart while you’re not around.
The length of time you should wait to move someone else’s stuff if they don’t appear to be around to do it themselves varies. It’s one of those cultural debates that spring up on Reddit all the time. Some people suggest waiting only five minutes, but most people say 10 is the sweet spot.

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