Mar 09, 2012, 05:17AM

How to Do Laundry in New York City

Because you have to, even if you don't want to.

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There are certain household amenities you suburban people take for granted that we New Yorkers don’t have. You know, things like pools and dishwashers. What I would give to just throw all my nasty, pasta sauce-covered dishes into the dishwasher, press a button, and have them squeaky clean in 40 minutes or less! The one thing I miss the most is a good old washing machine and dryer. I avoid doing my laundry for as long as possible, because in this city doing your laundry means packing all your socks and underwear into a giant IKEA bag and trekking to the nearest laundromat. I hate doing this. So sometimes my dirty clothes pile up for weeks if not months, just an FYI. You know it’s bad when that pile grows so big you never even get to the clothes in the hamper.

You also know it’s bad when you’re like, Okay, I know I don’t have any clean underwear or socks... but then you feel like it will be easier and much more efficient to just stop off at K-Mart at Astor Pl. or JCPenney in Herald Square and buy some brand new ones. You always need those things, right? Two birds, one stone.

It takes about two hours and $8 in quarters to do my laundry. But who in New York has two full, consecutive hours to devote to this task when there are other, better things to do—like brunch or Bikram yoga? Laundry is much easier when you have your own personal machines because you can do it whenever you feel like it. Pop in a load in the morning, leave for work, come back and throw it in the dryer. At least you didn’t have to sit there staring at it for two hours straight! New Yorkers are multi-taskers by nature, or learn to be like that anyway, so you’re wasting time doing one thing if you can’t simultaneously do three other things.

I live right down the street from the laundromat, but like everything in New York, going there means competing with everyone else for a washer. It means there are 25 washers in the joint but only five of them work at any one time. It means the cheapest available machine is the $5 one, and you only have a tiny load. It means figuring out the timeframe when the number of people in there will be the lowest. It means going at that time and finding out, much to your surprise, the place is packed. It means not making eye contact with people as they are putting their dirty underwear into the wash. But getting a washer is the easy part. Getting a dryer, now that’s where the real challenge comes. Because inevitably, there will be some very impatient people with someplace to be who will not wait until the dryer you’re using buzzes off before they throw out all your clothes—dry or not!—and put their stuff in. So if you come back to get your clothes a moment too late, you meet the risk of the lady running the joint asking you if these lace panties with the velvet hearts all over the front are yours (yes).

Which, by the way: how weird is it to fold your clothes in front of a group of strangers? You watch people fold up their stuff, secretly judging their character on the basis of their underwear. You’re like, Wow, that’s some discoloration! Or: Really? The hole in those is that big and you’re still wearing them?

But sometimes the laundromat isn’t all bad. You know how New Yorkers are stereotyped for having small living spaces and even smaller closets? Space so small that Manhattan Mini Storage, a left-leaning company, can make subway advertisements and billboards with thinly veiled political statements like “Your Closet’s So Narrow It Makes Cheney Look Liberal.” Well, the other day I was having dinner with a friend, a fellow laundry-doing hater, and we were disclosing our horror stories and all the ways we avoid doing the deed. But she told her secret: “Actually what I do, because I have so many clothes and my closet is so small, is I take a whole load over to the laundromat, pay them by the pound to wash it for me. Then I leave it there for 30 days—the maximum you can leave it. Come back on day 30, take those clothes out and bring in new ones, have them washed and leave those for another 30 days. It’s pseudo-free storage. My closet is small! What do you expect!”


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