Laundry 101

The drum in the washer goes swish, swish, swish . . .

Got detergent? Alexandra J. Smith fills up a triple-loader at Chico Laundry Co.

Got detergent? Alexandra J. Smith fills up a triple-loader at Chico Laundry Co.

Want another use for Bounce fabric softener sheets? Put a sheet in your gym shoes to keep them smelling April fresh.

I have never been one to enjoy airing dirty laundry in public. It’s too embarrassing. Some things should remain private. Who really needs to know that your pajamas consist of a threadbare pair of boxers and Speed Racer T-shirt?

But when your date complains about the odor coming from the pile of socks, underwear and gym clothes you tried to hide under the bed, it’s time to hit the laundromat. Always counted on Mom to wash your sheets? Here are a few things the laundromat virgin should know.

The first rule of detergent land is: You’re on your own. Laundromats are for the most part “unattended.” That means if the machine eats your change, there is no one around to give it back. Leave a note on the bulletin board with your name, phone number and which machine grabbed your hard-earned coins.

This rule was put to the test at Chico Laundry Co. on West Sacramento Avenue. Both of the change machines ran out of quarters on the day I was in—not such a dire circumstance since there are several alternative sources available. However, for the merchant I bothered, you would have thought I had asked for the moon.

Photo By Tom Angel

The only laundromat with an attendant on duty that I know of is East Avenue Coin Laundry and Dry Cleaners. They’ll even give you washing advice.

Second rule: It is always a good idea to stay with your clothes. Bring your homework, bring a book, but don’t take off. With no attendant, your laundry is prime pickings for fetishists prone to scavenge. If you forget about your load long enough, that $45 No Doubt concert T-shirt will be on its way to a charity.

At Laundry Room (over on Mangrove Avenue next to Kinko’s), it’s clearly posted that you have 30 days to gather your things before they go. They also make it clear where your stuff is—stacked on the triple loaders in the back. Two loads were waiting for retrieval when I paid a visit. The owners have even made hanging out a little easier. If you forget your reading material, they have a magazine and book rack. For those toting homework along there is counter space and chairs.

Third rule: Not all laundromats are created equal. There are several common elements —change machines, detergent dispensers and, of course, washers and dryers—but there are other factors that should be taken into account. Proximity to food sources, entertainment options and the “hottie” factor (number of attractive persons of the opposite sex) should all be considered when choosing your personal laundromat.

Bubbles (also on Mangrove but in the Park Plaza Shopping Center) is a long, narrow space that leaves little room to move but it has a high hottie rating and gets bonus points for being next door to Baskin-Robbins.

Chico Laundry Co. has a big-screen TV and affordable food sources in the same center but loses points for having fluorescent lights so intense I had to keep my sunglasses on when reading the CN&R. (Suggestion to management: If you remove every other tube, you’ll save money on your electrical bill.) For those rich in quarters, there are three video games.

Laundry Room has plenty of space to roll the carts and fold your laundry. Adjacent bagels, frozen yogurt and pizza are in abundance. At East Avenue Coin Laundry you can get your dry cleaning in and then do your circuit workout next door at Curves while waiting for the dryer to finish.

Fourth rule: Not all washing machines are created equal, nor do they all require the same number of quarters to make them wash. There are regular-load washers, which range from 75 cents to $1.25; double-load washers range from $1.25 to $2.75; and the big, industrial triple-loaders (these are really good for blankets and pillows) range from $2.75 to $3.50 per load. Bubbles had the lowest washer charges—75 cents for a single and $1.00 for the big loaders—but they may be “grand opening” prices.

The same rule applies to dryers. Dryers at Laundry Room are 25 cents for 10 minutes, but they had difficulty getting my heavy cotton sweaters dry. After 50 minutes, I went home with damp sweaters.

At Bubbles it’s 12 minutes for a quarter; Chico Laundry Co. gives you eight minutes.

And one last rule to do laundry by: Strangers will not do your laundry for you. This is a variation of the “your-mama-doesn’t-live-here” principle. At high-use times your unattended clothes will get dumped in a basket and shoved in a corner. If they’re wet, too bad. If they’re dry, no harm. If they’re dry and in a washing machine, where are you?