Skill a Week: Frugal Apartment Clothes Cleaning

A bit late, maybe, but the skill I’d like to highlight this week is a cheaper way of cleaning clothes (particularly for apartment-dwellers).

Prior to this year, I had lived in a building that had a washer & dryer, except for two years in college. It’s a huge pain having to travel to do laundry; even worse, if you work odd hours you might not be able to get to a laundromat. Here’s the solution I’ve worked out:

I bought a small portable washing machine. There are two varieties: a hand-operated model, and an electric washer. I went with the electric model, because I’m lazy. Its priced at $250, but 9 months in, I’m happy with it. Assuming it doesn’t break for another year or two, I won’t have any complaints.

It’s light enough to be easily carried by two people. It’s 17″ by 17″, and under 3 feet tall. It uses a regular power outlet, and a nozzle attachment you put on a sink. The waste water goes into the tub. The load size is enough for a king-sized sheet, plus maybe a few socks, or 8-10 undershirts. Like I said, it’s already paid for itself in terms of convenience. If I assumed the laundromat would cost $5/week, I’m approaching payoff in pure cost terms as well.

In addition to the small electric washer, I have a drying rack (from Ikea). Everything dries on it, and there’s no wear on clothes compared to a heated dryer. If I had a yard, I’d use a clothesline… but I don’t. For half my clothes (sheets, towels, underclothes, some shirts), the drying rack is good enough. For the other half, particularly work clothes, I don’t want the wrinkles. I have two solutions here. Historically I’ve just taken all the work clothes – a single huge load is feasible, since they’re all pre-dried – and carried it to the laundromat, where 50 cents and 15 minutes is enough to heat and de-wrinkle.

However, that’s kind of a pain, and some clothes just need a quick once-over, so I’ve been (re-)teaching myself to iron clothes. I don’t mind the process of ironing. It can be rather calming. On the hole, it probably costs the same as the laundromat, in electricity terms. But it’s convenient to be able to do just a few shirts at a time.

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