Having a laundry room in your building is an undeniable perk. If you’ve ever had to drag your dirty clothes six blocks to a Laundromat in the rain, your basement laundry room can feel like a real luxury. Of course, it isn’t just your laundry room. You’ve got to share it with everyone else in the building. Even in an apartment complex where neighbors treat each other like strangers, the laundry room brings everyone together–and not always in the best way. Right in front of the washing machines, epic battles rage every day in apartment buildings across the nation. Suspicions are cast, territories are claimed, nasty notes are posted, and clothes disappear–sometimes without a single spoken exchange. Don’t let yourself get dragged into the drama in your laundry room. These tips and tricks will show you how.
Leaving Clothes Unattended–Laundry Room Etiquette
Sitting in the laundry room waiting for a wash and dry cycle to complete can seem like a big waste of time. It’s tempting to use that time to do something more productive and come back at the end of a cycle. Before you make other plans however, remember your laundry room etiquette. Your neighbors don’t want to wait for you to come back. They want your machine as soon as you’re finished using it. Leave your clothes too long and you’ll almost certainly find that they’re not where you left them.
“We have three washers in our building for 30 apartments,” says Mira, a media buyer in St. Paul, MN. “There are usually enough washers, except on Sunday when everyone wants to do their laundry. I hate those people that come back for their clothes an hour or two late.” Most neighbors won’t politely wait for you to come back if all the other machines are occupied. Mira says, “I just pile their laundry on the folding table. If that’s taken, I’ll throw it on top of one of the machines.” How long does she wait for the clothes’ owner once the cycle has finished? “Maybe 20 minutes.” Paul, a real-estate agent in White Plains, NY, gives his neighbors “five minutes, at the most.” He thinks he’s being generous. “I’ve had people take my laundry out of the dryer before the time I paid for is up. People in my building are ruthless.”
Many people think your laundry is fair game for removal just a few minutes after the cycle ends. Keeping an eye on your load while you catch up on some reading is your safest bet. If you have to leave the laundry room, set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you to return on time. Most wash cycles take 30 minutes while commercial dryers will generally show you how much time you’ve purchased.
Leave Your Clothes Unattended at Your Own Risk
If the thought of your neighbors manhandling your most personal garments when you’re late to collect your clothes doesn’t bother you, remember that a stranger won’t take care of your clothes as well as you do. Like Mira, many people pile forgotten clothes on the tops of washers that may sport sticky puddles of detergent or worse, bleach. And beware of the extra-helpful neighbor who throws your load from the washer into the dryer as a favor. You may have some items that don’t belong in the dryer at all.
Of course, there’s always the chance that your clothes won’t be there when you return–at all. “When I was in college, I left my laundry in a dorm dryer for a few hours. When I brought the load up to my room to fold it, I noticed that some things were missing,” remembers Alyssa, a grad student in New Haven, CT. “My underwear was gone–but not all of it. The thief had gone to the trouble to just pick out the nice stuff! It was a very expensive mistake.”
Communicate, but be Polite
If a neighbor really crosses the line by removing your clothes before they’ve finished a cycle or simply walking off with your favorite shirt, it’s fine to leave a note. The other residents may appreciate that you’ve brought attention to the problem. Just don’t make it as strongly worded as you’d like. Derek from Boston remembers when “a neighbor piled some of my clothes on a washer when I was 10 minutes late. I was so annoyed.” He left a note on the bulletin board with a few “choice” words. “Later I realized that I probably overreacted, but by then everyone had seen the note. I overheard a few people in the mail room talking about the ‘uptight guy who left that note.'” You never know when you’ll need a favor from one of your neighbors. Unless the transgression is egregious, it’s best to let your frustrations go. It’s not worth being the “uptight guy” over a load of laundry.
Save Those Quarters
If your laundry room still operates solely on quarters, you’ll find that you’re always coming up short. Make a mental note to pick up a roll of quarters each time you’re at the bank or leave a quarter jar near the door to your apartment for loose change. Don’t wait until you’re on the last pair of clean socks to look around for quarters. Of course, some apartment laundry rooms have moved out of the Stone Age. Their machines accept credit cards or smart cards that can be pre-paid with larger sums of money. Wouldn’t it be great if your laundry room did the same? Why not convince your building manager to make the switch? Of course, if your building has less than 20 units, it may not be worth your time to bother. But in larger buildings, the manager may consider a change if enough people ask for it. Create an informal petition or sign-up sheet for your neighbors. You can leave a copy in the laundry room and another in the mail room. Do some initial research about options and pricing. This may make the manager’s job easier and show him or her that the tenants are serious about wanting a new system.
Be Considerate of the Next User
You know all these things, but they’re easy to forget. Clean the lint screen. Clean up spills, especially bleach! Remove your clothes promptly. Treat others’ clothes the way you would treat your own. You never know who might have noticed that you’re guilty of violating laundry room etiquette.
We know you have some laundry room horror stories and we want to hear them! What happened and how did you handle it? Tell us about your weirdest and worst experiences in our comments section.