10 Tips For Living Without A Washer And Dryer

doing-laundryLets just get this out of the way…

Laundromats suck, doing laundry in public sucks, sharing facilities sucks, and worrying about having a pocket full of quarters also sucks pretty hard.

It can be tough to get used to life without a laundry room, but many of us do it for short periods because of work or school, and quite a few of us do it for a lifetime because we live in apartments and other compact living quarters. Little tricks and techniques can make the most annoying chores easier to manage, and doing laundry without a washing machine or dryer at home, is no different. The absence of these crucial appliances can be a real pain, but once you get a system down, it will take less time to get everything clean, and it will have a much smaller impact on your life.

We don’t have the power to strong arm your landlord into changing the rules, or magically expand your apartment in order to fit a full size washer and dryer in there, and we certainly aren’t going to foot the bill to install some space-age, compact wonder appliance either. The advice listed below will not teach you how to trick others into doing your laundry for you, nor will it list some clever method of hand washing with some contraption you build yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you live in a condo, an apartment, or a dorm, and it doesn’t matter if your laundromat is on site, or across town. If you currently do your laundry in a location other than the one you live in, the tips below will help you spend less time and effort getting your clothes clean, and they will also help to eliminate the frustrations and annoyances commonly associated with using a laundromat.

1. Set a Schedule

Some people prefer to do a large amount of laundry all in one day, while others prefer to wash one small load on a more frequent basis. There are pros and cons with either schedule, but having a set frequency will help you stay away when you want to, and anticipate going when it’s necessary. If you have to lug your load several blocks to get it washed, multiple trips may make it easier because you can keep the weight down. However, if you are doing laundry for more than yourself, tiny loads may not be an option, and could result in you spending multiple days, each week, at the laundromat. It will come down to personality and lifestyle as to which schedule would work best for you, but if you begin to squeeze it in on your way to and from other locations, or if you save up to do a large amount all on one day, you’ll end up with a more predictable, and easier to manage laundry schedule.

2. Come Prepared

Want to waste some money? Show up without your detergent and you are guaranteed to make that happen. All locations will provide the stuff you need to get your clothes clean, but if you purchase on site, be prepared to pay a premium. Save money and leave your clothes smelling the way you like by picking up detergent and softeners before you go.

Don’t get caught without quarters either. You can be pretty sure that there will be change machine when you get there, but it takes time to use it, there could be a line, it may be out of order, or it may decide to spit your dollar out, over and over again. If trips to the laundromat are a regular thing for you, do yourself a favor and keep a good supply of quarters on hand. That way you can just grab a handful on your way out the door, and there will be no waiting or guessing when you get there.

3. Transportation Is Key

Your method of travel is not that important, but how you transport your clothing is. For those doing large loads, a cart with rolling wheels is the perfect choice. You can pile on tons of weight, but you won’t have to worry about lifting and carrying it. For those doing smaller loads, a bag might be sufficient, and it can be quite convenient to sling a load over your shoulder, and head out the door without any hassle. Mesh laundry bags are perfect for those living where space is limited because once empty, they take up very little space. Any large bag would do in a pinch, but one that closes to prevent accidents, and one with thick straps or wheels will be your best bet.

4. Pass The Time

Let’s face it. Washing clothes is boring. Nobody wants to sit there and watch shirts and pants spin around in circles, and if you did, it would make time crawl to ensure that your wait is as awful as possible. Some people like to start a load, and then head out to do some nearby errands. This can be a great idea if you know and trust the area, and also if you actually have stuff to do in the general vicinity. In some locations, you might come back to find an empty machine and that would suck worse than washing the clothes in the first place. For other people, a good book is the perfect way to pass the time. This allows you to tend to your machine and guard your clothes, but you can still escape, somewhat, in order to pass the time more quickly. Video games, browsing the internet, or watching videos on your phone can work just as well, and some people actually like, and look forward, to the solitude this chore allows because they always come prepared with a good way to kill time.

5. Find A Good Machine

A functioning machine is key when washing your laundry, so scoping out the best ones will be beneficial in the long run. Before you commit to one or the other, take some time to evaluate the condition of those available. For dryers, check for any funky smells or substances inside. Also check for any defects or broken parts on the interior that may snag your laundry as it tumbles. Once you find a clean one that’s in good shape, put in a couple of quarters in and let it run for a few minutes. Feel the front to see if it’s hot, and if not, switch to another dryer. This way you’ll never waste time or money waiting for cold air to dry your washed garments. When looking for a washer, watch out for the universal sign of a defective machine. If you see a large “x” on the front, keep moving because it’s either totally broken, or just non-functioning in some way. After you choose one that will work, check for grime on the inside because it’ll be tough to clean clothes with a dirty interior.

6. At Home Storage

Adequate storage at home will make each trip easier to manage because you’ll be better prepared to walk out the door. If you’re washing large amounts each time, you’ll want to have large laundry baskets in each bedroom or bathroom in order to collect dirty clothing until it’s time to wash. If your storage also facilitates separation, or transforms into a portable something-or-other, then it will be even more helpful. For those with small children, or babies with cloth diapers, you’ll want to have an airtight container for soaking and pre-treating stains. That way you can rinse and apply stain fighters, and then allow to soak until laundry day. With an airtight lid, you won’t smell the stinky stuff inside, and you won’t spill on the way to the laundromat. Because you let your extra-dirty clothing soak, it will come clean easier, and it will look and smell better once finished.

7. Emergency Supplies

It doesn’t matter if you’re on your last pair of undies, or if you just spilled something on your favorite shirt. We will all encounter situations where we need to wash one or more items in between laundry days. With certain supplies on hand, this will be easy to manage, so you can avoid an emergency trip across town, and still make that hot date or work meeting. A single shirt is pretty easy to wash by hand in your sink, but having a line set up in your bathtub or shower will make it a whole lot easier to get them dry. Using a blow dryer can speed up drying times, and there are detergents specific to hand washing to prevent you from making a mess by using the stuff you put in a machine. It’s impractical to think that you can rush out every time one thing needs cleaning, so prepare for the inevitable to prevent disaster, and avoid missing out on last minute plans.

8. Separation Anxiety

Separating laundry is important, but doing it at the laundromat can be a real pain. It’s in your best interest to separate before you go so you can get right down to business. You should have at least two categories when dividing your clothes, but those working with a large amount may want more than just whites and colors. You may want to do a jean load, or a sheet load, and you may want to wash delicates separate from others, or keep baby clothes away from your work clothes. If you make separate piles before you head out the door, you can have each load set up and ready to go, right when you get there. You will maximize your efficiency, and you won’t end up turning everything a dingy gray color.

9. Maximize Your Time

Nobody wants to spend the whole day washing clothes, so efficiency can be key to a good experience. When you use your time wisely, you can cut the time it takes without compromising cleanliness. If you try to go late at night, or early in the morning, you should be able to use more than one machine without forcing someone else to wait. Now you can do several loads at the same time, so you’ll be out of there quickly. By staging your dirty clothes ahead of time, you can prep each load before you leave home. When you get to your laundry location, you can get right to work instead of setting things up after you arrive. Begin folding as soon as you’re able, and while other loads are still washing or drying. If you toss everything into a basket without folding, you’ll have wrinkled clothes, and if you wait to do it all at once, before you leave, you’ll spend more time than is necessary.

10. Spend Some Money

If you’re in a pinch for time, or if you’re just sick and tired of all the manual labor, it may be time to drop some cash, and make your life easier. Fluff and Fold services can be found almost anywhere, and they’ll take your bag of dirty clothing to clean it for you. Once washed, dried, and folded, they’ll bring it back for you to use. Different locations may not offer pickup or delivery, but even when you drop it off and pick it up yourself, it can be much easier than doing all the work alone. A service like this will cost you a bit more than going to the laundromat, but if you’re fed up with your current situation, it may be a good choice, if only on a temporary basis.

If you prefer that other folks don’t see your dirty underwear, then you could still do it yourself, but without leaving your apartment. You can get a compact and portable washing machine and dryer, and stay home on laundry day, or wash individual loads while you hang around the house. These little machines don’t hold as much as standard versions do, but they also don’t need special water or electrical hook-ups either. You can get water from your kitchen sink, and you can plug them into any regular outlet. With a wide range of choices available, you can find ones that use no electricity at all, ones that offer basic automatic function, and ones that are computer controlled and require absolutely no baby sitting or effort. With a set at home you’ll be able to clean clothes whenever necessary, and you’ll be able to skip as many “laundry days” as you please. With such a low cost of ownership, it won’t be long before this type of set-up pays for itself, and it may be instantly worth while just based on the convenience it offers.

If you’re considering a mini laundry appliance to avoid washing your clothes away from home, check out the options below, or visit our laundry category to learn more, or see all of the models available.

wonderwash portable washing machineWonderWash
A hand-crank washer that uses no electricity. Perfect for apartments, but also nice for camping and RV’s. Although it has a crank at the side, the pressurized container is what actually does the cleaning. Simply add in clothing along with water and detergent, then secure the lid tightly. After a couple spins your clothes will be clean, and the dirty water will drain out into the sink. With a small footprint and with an overall weight that’s less than six pounds, this model can easily store or travel just about anywhere. Read more.

miniwash plus compact washing machineMiniWash Plus
This is a fully automatic washer with computer controls and a rinse cycle. It holds more clothing than the WonderWash above, and it also offers hands-off operation. Simply hook it up to your kitchen sink faucet, then direct the drain hose into the sink. Once you load with laundry, simply add detergent, turn on the water, and then push a button to turn it on. You’ll have your choice of cycle lengths and type. Water will pull from the faucet when needed, and dirty water will drain into the sink automatically. It has an agitator at the center, so clothing mixes back and forth and spins around just like in larger machines. Read more.

mini dryerCounter Top Spin Dryer
Compact washers don’t usually have a spin cycle, so most people use a spin dryer to pull out most of the moisture after cleaning. After a couple minutes of spinning the fabric will be barely damp and able to hang dry in minutes instead of hours. This model is extremely lightweight and able to sit on the counter, next to your kitchen sink. All the water sucked from your laundry will spill out through the drain hose, and into the drain. This machine uses very little electricity, and is incredibly efficient. Just pop in clothes, and turn the dial to set the timer. Read more.

Living without a traditional washer and dryer doesn’t have to be a disaster, and with a little work, you can easily reduce the annoyance, and speed up the process. Whether you continue to make the trek to facilities downstairs or across the street, hire a service to do it for you, or if you decide to get a counter top unit to avoid leaving home altogether, you can easily manage life without these appliances in your apartment, condo or dorm.

If you have your own tips for efficiency, or if you have an idea not mentioned above, please share in the comments section below.

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  1. I didn’t even know about those mini machines that could wash a couple articles of clothing. Your first piece of advice about setting a schedule is probably the most valuable. Organisation is always the key to making a difficult situation easier. Long ago, I had to change my idea that doing laundry meant doing all of it at once. It is much more efficient to only do your whites when you have a full load and to do your color loads as often as necessary.

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    • Thanks for the comment Daelin. We would all be better off to realize that laundry is never actually done. Doing it at a pace that works for you is ideal, and if having a small machine in your apartment will help you avoid epic laundry days at the laundromat, it’s probably a solid investment.

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