No one wants to do their laundry.
During the seven years I lived in New York City, I never bought a single container of laundry detergent. Instead, I sent a bag of dirty clothes out to one of the multitude of laundry operations within a two-block radius of my apartment. When I first arrived to NYC, prices could dip as low as 60 cents a pound; they eventually rose to 80 cents before I left. It still seemed worth it: With time at a premium in the city, dropping off laundry was just about as expensive as doing it myself without all the added hassle.
When I made the jump to the West Coast two years ago, the beautiful responsibility-free laundry world I’d build for myself swiftly crumbled. In LA, nothing is quite so convenient. The city is spaced out, and the laundromats are not within walking distance. The idea of having to drive my laundry to drop it off or kill an afternoon at the laundromat myself makes the whole prospect of having clean clothes a frustration.
Fortunately, we live in an age where most any service can be found online—yes, even someone to pick up, wash, fold, and return my clothes. Armed with a pile of dirty laundry, I set out to figure out the best options technology can provide for having someone else do my washing for me, without breaking the bank.
20 pound minimum
$1.75 per pound for 24 hour service, $2.25 per pound for same day turnaround (30 pound minimum)
TOTAL BILL: $36.75
My first attempt was Lav, which Yelp recommended when I desperately Googled laundry services in LA and then weeded out the ones clearly priced for Hollywood celebs. They seemed pretty straightforward, but I felt awkward having to fill out a form on a web site to set up my pick-up. As a millennial spoiled by the app revolution that lets me do everything from order a car to find someone to date via my phone, using a web browser felt outdated and annoying. However, I wanted clean clothes, and I was willing to suffer.
The actual laundry process was easy, if a little weird. I shoved my clothes into garbage bags since they don’t provide reusable bags, and I had tossed out my almost-disintegrating cheap New York bag when I moved. Lav picked it up at my door, weighed everything in front of me so I knew the price beforehand, and dropped it off the next day in paper bags with tissue paper over the top. It felt like a present! Everything was lovely, but I was still put off by the web form process.
Minimum weight is 15 lbs, Minimum on order is $20
free delivery (orders below 35 dollars subject to $3.99 fee)
$1.85 per pound for wash and fold
TOTAL BILL: 27.62 (17 lbs of laundry—I did mine when the rate was $1.39 per pound, it recently jumped)
First to the app-based game in LA was Washio, which employs a cast of unemployed actors to act as “ninjas,” picking up and delivering my dirty clothes with a smile. I did have to scoop my unmentionables into a provided bag on the first experience, but moving forward it was mine to keep and hand over fully stuffed each time around.
Washio is all about immediacy. If you decide right that moment that your hamper is too much, you can schedule a pickup within 30 minutes. I could get the clothes back as early as 36 hours after my pickup, so I wouldn’t have to live on my last few pairs of underwear for a week. However, when you hand over your bag, they don’t weigh it in front of you. You only find out the cost after the whole experience, so for a first time user it was a total guessing game as to what my charges would be. The potential for sticker shock may be unappealing to some people.
One more thing: I put in a set of sheets, not sure if that will be charged at wash/fold or at the higher “household” rate for sheet sets at $11.99 per item, as I didn’t pull it out for specific cleaning. As far as I could tell by the price breakdown, they were lumped in with wash and fold, but if I’d had items to dry-clean, the rate for almost everything else was an affordable $4.99 a piece, from shirts to pants.
10 pound minimum on wash and fold, no price minimum on dry cleaning.
$1.50 per pound wash and fold
There’s also a hand dry option which is relative to their dry cleaning rates ($2.50 for a shirt, $7 for pants or a blouse)
TOTAL BILL: $31.50 for wash and fold (21 lbs) and $28 for dry clean and hang dry options (a dress, a robe, and active wear)
After launching in San Francisco in 2013, Rinse expanded to LA in summer 2015. The company follows the same basic formula as Washio, but with more restrictions, at least for now. They aren’t available all over Los Angeles yet, but Washio started out the same way. Pick-up and drop off times are between 8p.m. and 10 p.m. This seems fine for people with normal jobs, but as a stay-at-home writer I love the idea of taking care of these things early in the day. Regardless of the weird timing aspects, the personalization of Rinse and the attention they give me and my clothes was top notch.
My agent (which is what they call the person who does pickups) was super-friendly and didn’t bat an eye as I went through the ritual of a first-timer scooping dirty clothes into the newly provided bags. He shook my hand upon arrival, and gave me the lowdown on how the service and the variety of bags worked: White bags for dry cleaning, black bags for wash-and-fold, and a purple bag for a hang dry option.
I have tried to weed more dry clean options out of my closet, so I assumed all my stuff was wash-and-fold. Not true! Thankfully, Rinse didn’t trust my casual assumption that everything could just go in the washer and dryer, and three hours after pickup, I got an email alerting me that they’d done what I didn’t do: read my labels. They separated out the erroneous items (a dress, and some gym pants) for the correct kind of cleaning. Even though I should have felt shamed that Rinse effectively called me out on my casual disregard of label-reading, it actually felt like a leaning experience. As an adult, I should be washing my clothes the correct way!
For return, Rinse can do one-day turnaround for a $3.95 fee, but I said I didn’t mind waiting three days. They also provide you with a hook, so you can leave it on your front door and authorize them to just hang your laundry bag and dry clean items on it if you’re not home for delivery. This is useful, since their window isn’t as flexible. Obviously, this option works best if you feel like your area is safe enough for your clothes to just be sitting outside until you return.
Sure, I could just run a simple wash in my building, which runs about $5 per load wash and dry and can be full off anything I can shove in there. However, the apps are putting a premium on convenience, perfect folding, and not having to think about whether my gym pants need to hang dry. For the money, I’d rather spend more on the total Rinse experience when I’m ready to do a variety of types of clothing because it saves me multiple trips. Rinse also made me feel the most grown up, like I was doing my laundry correctly, instead of just shoving tee shirts in a bag and hoping for the best.
Washio option isn’t a poor one either, but if I’m going to go through the process of door-to-door laundry service, I want it to feel as fancy as possible…especially since my $20 days of easy NYC laundry are done.
Internet archive book images/Flickr (PD) | Remix by Jason Reed