If you live in a major city without a washer-dryer, laundry can be an incredible time suck.
But residents of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. can outsource that chore to an app.
Laundry apps are nothing if not convenient, but we had to ask: Do they actually save you money?
To find out, we compared the price of using three apps with visiting a laundromat or dropping off your clothes at the cleaners.
The apps we compared were FlyCleaners (available in Brooklyn and Manhattan; $US1.15 per pound of wash-and-fold laundry), Cleanly (available in central Manhattan; $1.50 per pound), and
Washio (available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.; $1.60 per pound).
The individual apps, which arrange pickups and dropoffs through your iOS or Android phone, have different prices for dry cleaning and for items that need more specific care, listed on the websites linked above.
They take one night to 24 hours to turn around your clothes (more in the case of dry cleaning). They also have different minimum orders, but we used enough laundry in our price estimations to eliminate any below-minimum fees.
App vs. laundromat
Estimated cost of one laundromat load: $4.50. That’s $US1.50 for wash, $US1.50 for dry, and we’ll assume you run your clothes through the dryer twice, because we all know that communal dryers are somewhat ineffective.
In the below calculations, we’ll also assume that you’re doing two loads, because you saved up a lot of laundry before heading down the street.
Laundromat: $US9 for 16 pounds/two loads, or about 56 cents per pound
Clearly, the laundromat is cheaper. But then you have to take one more thing into account: The cost of your time. Even if you’re very lucky and the laundromat is 10 minutes away, that’s a 20-minute round trip, plus a 20-minute wash and a 40-minute dry (assuming all of the machines are available right when you need them): at least 80 minutes of your time.
If your time is worth, for instance, $US20 an hour, the cost of your laundry just rocketed to $US35 (add $US26 of time) — more expensive than the apps.
App vs. drop-off service
I called around to some local cleaners to find out their charges, and came up with a per-pound average price of $US1.10, and an average minimum of 9.5 pounds: $US10.45 per dropoff.
Let’s stick with our standard 16 pounds of laundry for consistency.
The time to bring that laundry to the laundromat is roughly comparable to the time it takes to coordinate a pickup through the app (maybe a little more). If there’s a place you like on the way to work, dropping your laundry off may very well be cheaper.
So why use an app?
Use an app if:
– You don’t want to spend the time at the laundromat
– The nearest dropoff place is overpriced or inconvenient
– You like being able to coordinate through an app and eliminate any potential phone conversations
– You need your laundry picked up
– You aren’t in a huge rush and can wait overnight, or longer, for your clean clothes
– You aren’t pinching pennies
Apps aren’t the only alternatives …
There are other services to take some of the pain out of laundry, as well. For instance, San Francisco’s SFWash, which allows you to place an order online or via phone, and Sudzee, which has you use a special lockable bag to leave your laundry outside for pickup, then delivers the clean clothes back to your door. Delivery.com (which acquired laundry startup Brinkmat) coordinates laundry delivery with local cleaners across Manhattan and in Hoboken, New Jersey.
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