How do we do laundry while we travel in the van? Well, what do people who don’t have a washer and dryer in their house or apartment do? This is one those things that we figured everyone already knew but it’s surprising how often people ask us how we do laundry while traveling. The short answer is laundromats. Sure, we occasionally get to do a free load at a friend or family members house, but that is few and far between.
Laundromats are everywhere, in basically every city. They are straight forward and just like doing laundry at home, except it’s going to require quarters. We aren’t going to tell ya how to do your laundry, but we do have a 7 tips that we’ve learned from using laundromats during our our time on the road.
1. Make sure you have enough cash (quarters).
This one is number one for a reason. If you don’t have enough quarters you’re not going to get much done. It is pretty common for most places have coin machines to exchange small bills (typically $1s and $5s) for quarters. However, we have ran into a few places where there was not a coin machine or it was broken. If you have bigger bills, you can try asking the attendant if they can exchange your bills for change.
Some laundry mats do not take quarters at all, instead they make you purchase a card (usually $1-$3) and then you need to preload the card with money to use the machines. This is not bad if you are going to go back to the same laundromat again, but if not, try to add up how much your loads will cost ahead of time so you put just the right amount on the card with no extra!
When we do laundry it usually costs $10-$15.
2. Bring Your Own Detergent
This one is simple, bring our own detergent and dryer sheets to save money. If you forget or run out, the laundromat usually sells detergent but it’s at a huge mark up.
We keep a small bag in the van with all our laundry supplies; detergent pods, dryer sheets, etc.
3. Check out the Google reviews
To find out where we’ll do laundry, we do a quick search on Google Maps for laundromats in our area. Before picking one, scroll through the reviews. We search through the reviews for pricing to see if someone has shared the prices of the washers and dryers at that facility, which is nice to see ahead of time. Also, reviewers will usually let you know if many of the machines are broken or poorly maintained - which is an issue. We’ve been to a few where nearly half the machines were broken.
4. Smell the machines before using them
While most people use the laundromat for their weekly laundry, some people come to use them when they’re got something big, exceptionally dirty or particullarly nasty that they don’t want to do in their personal washer or dryer.
We learned from experience to sniff out your machines before using them. On one of our first trips to the laundromat, we ended up with all of our clothes smelling like smoke AFTER washing them. We assume this was because a heavy smoker used the driers right before us. Now before we use any machine we open it and take a little whiff. It’s saved us a few times from having stinky clean clothes.
5. Top loading machines are the cheapest
Laundromats are a business and they are not going to put the cheapest machines in the front. They want you to come in and use one of the mid ranged washers without even thinking about it. Before committing to a washer, walk around the laundromat and check the prices of the machines to save a few bucks.
A lot of times the top load washers are hiding in the back of the store and are around $2.00 - $2.50 per load and they are always the cheapest option. They usually the hold just as much as most of the front loading machines just dont pack them too full or your clothes won’t get quite as clean (especially if you have pet hair on your clothes). If you have a lot of clothes to wash, sometimes you can use 2-3 of these for the price of one large front loading machine.
6. Color Catchers
If you want to save money, say goodbye to sorting your clothes by color. If you are worried about your whites taking on the color of your darks throw one of these Color Catchers in your load (especially if you have newer clothes or denim). Color Catchers absorb any loose dye so your light colors don’t end up taking on the color of the darks.
We only separate our laundry when we do bedding or if we have something really dirty (dog towels, dirty rugs, muddy clothes), other than that it all goes in together!
7. Put heavy items in a separate dryer
We usually use 2 dryers to help speed things up. We find if we put our jeans, heavy towels and really thick clothing in its own dryer and everything else in its own dryer we can have everything dry in about 25 minutes.
If we put everything together, after 30 minutes smaller items will be dry while those thicker/heavier items are still pretty damp.