Tips and Tricks for Doing Laundry in your Building Laundry Room

in Neighbors on by

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.

14 Responses to “Tips and Tricks for Doing Laundry in your Building Laundry Room”

  1. January 02, 2008 at 9:27 pm, Guest said:

    yep laundry wars can SUCK. I live in a “small” complex ad there are 3 large washers and 4 small apartment sized dryers. Our machines are leased by our Managing Agent. Well needless to say when i moved in i knew the machines were OLD, now the washer in the middle skips the rinse cycle and the washer next to it dosen’t agetate ad the last washer it’s on it’s way to being busted as well. The dryers don’t work for beans, and “MANAGEMENT has been FIXING IT now for almost two years”. I hardly use the wash room now and my boyfriend ad I shelp the wash down to our local econo-wash. Twenty dollars gets all our things clean ad DRY. RENTING SUCKS I can’t wait to OWN.

    It’s bad when the trash that you live with steals your things and has no tolerance for others.


  2. January 08, 2008 at 10:45 am, Guest said:

    I once left my laundry in one of the apartments building’s washing machine a little too long. I came back to find some dude jackin’ off into the washing machine! I walked in just as he was shooting his man-ranch all over the clean laundry. It was one sticky situation.


  3. January 28, 2008 at 1:35 am, Guest said:

    Oh no! Thats just gross. I hope he got evicted.


  4. February 15, 2008 at 2:57 am, Guest said:



  5. August 05, 2008 at 11:51 pm, Guest said:

    That’s just rude about “the Stone Age.” I work in an apartment office–I know. Laundry rooms are a loss leader if ever there was one. Tenants mistreat the appliances–rough handling, overcrowding, starting and stopping–and it’s a rare one who cleans the lint filter AND puts the lint in the trash. If you think the four or five quarters pay for the appliances and the utility bills, you are SO wrong. I’ve heard people say that they always use hot water, because “we aren’t paying for it!” It’s a courtesy for the tenants and a huge headache for us, including the tenants’ wars over hogging the machines etc. We have to go around morning and night and unlock/lock them, Monday through Sunday, and no one pays attention to the scheduled hours; tenants don’t hesitate to call at 1 am and complain that we locked up their laundry at 11 pm, which they have just noticed. As for change machines, are you kidding? Most laundry rooms are ripped off about once a month, even in nice neighborhoods, often by people in the complex or their guests (we’ve caught them). Laundromats are expensive for a reason–they have to cover their expenses. Apartments often can’t, but they are expected to provide laundry services regardless.


  6. November 10, 2008 at 10:31 pm, Guest said:

    I live in an apartment complex with 4 buildings, 48 apartments total. For all of these units, they only provide 4 washers & 4 dryers! They don’t work half the time or someone has left their filthy laundry in the machines for days & it smells so bad that you don’t want to even touch it, let alone put YOUR clothes in there! I go to the laundromat to do my washing. There’s a nice one around where I live that’s open 24 hours a day & I know the owners. Very nice people! It sure beats washing my clothes where I live!


  7. November 20, 2008 at 5:04 pm, Guest said:

    sorry, i wash my clothes in my tub now… the laundry room we have is always broken into.. the machines are broken and filthy and sewage always backs up into the laundry room from another close by complex.

    nah, if i don’t want a disease, i’ll wash my clothes the hard way.


  8. November 25, 2008 at 11:57 am, Guest said:

    you’re apparently an expert on “moron”?


  9. November 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm, Guest said:

    i know, been there, worked for a management company for 7 years.

    but i also know it’s a conspiracy going on with apartment complexes.

    yeh the stuff is treated badly but it’s already junk by the time it’s delivered and it’s never upkept.

    also the adjustments on the machines are tampered with and it costs much more to do laundry than it’s worth.

    if the change boxes are broken into, get better machines where the box is not visible and can only be accessed by a special device.


    so, i bet the rent is murder and the walls are thinner than quilted northern toilet tissue?


  10. February 25, 2009 at 2:19 pm, BILL said:

    Umm-well I moved into a brand new ocmplex a year ago and the laudromat has only SIX WASHERS and DRIERS for 228 apartments!!And the driers do not do a good job so I drive a mile to get a better job done and the driers work!! As far as the neighbors, they park int he handicapped even though they have HUGE trucks and can walk fine and the only time I ahve seen a coip give out tickets is when I called them myself because I was hemmed into my parking space by some moron who parked at the curb and extended into the parking space I was in at the time. Also, they park right in front of the fire hydrant at night becuase they are LAZY!!!! The cop gave out four tickets the night I called him but it happens EVERY night not just once.


  11. July 23, 2009 at 1:08 am, Moe said:

    This was about laundry idiot. NOT parking.


  12. March 25, 2013 at 10:54 am, shirley said:

    I live in apartment and we have no problem with the laundry room .Every time I have went it has always been clean no clothes left in machines machines clean all working. I al;ways stay until my clothes are all done. I love to read so I take a book with me and time goes by fast. I think we just have very good people that are always there. The ones that make ready the apartments are there everyday and they clean it everyday. I think our apartments are just the exception to the rule.


  13. March 31, 2013 at 3:45 pm, Kirk said:

    The problem is there are too many humans living in too-close proximity. Please, if you don’t have children, consider adopting or being child-free. The planet’s resources are finite and we don’t need more humans-there are enough.


  14. January 05, 2017 at 7:15 am, Burt Silver said:

    These are great tips! I don't have a laundry room in my building, so I have to go to the laundromat. I like that you mentioned to be considerate of the people using the laundromat after you. I can't tell you the number of times I've gone into the laundromat to see spills on the floor and uncleaned dryer trays. If everybody was more considerate, the whole process would be much easier for everybody.


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