Housing Complex

ASK HOUSING COMPLEX: My Laundromat Closed—Will My Landlord Buy Me a Washer?

blog_laundro-1Soap Opera: Swann Cleaners has folded.

My boyfriend and I live on the top floor of a row house on 16th Street, in one of those gorgeous old mansions that was converted into separate units. We don’t have a laundry machine or dryer, but this wasn’t a problem when we first moved in six months ago because Swann Cleaners was only 3 blocks away. I admit I didn’t particularly like putting on my exercise clothes and lugging my 15 pounds of laundry down the street, but hey, that’s city life, and I’m happy to romanticize the experience a bit. I actually began to enjoy sitting in the laundromat for those two hours, reading a book or people watching in the hazy, mountain-breeze smelling, lint-filled air. But now those days are over: Swann Cleaners has closed its doors, and the closest laundromat that we can find would require a bus ride or a Zipcar, which after a while will become quite expensive. I am hesitant to contact my landlord and ask him to install the machines, because, well, we agreed to that lease and it’s not his fault that Swann Cleaners closed. I found a little gadget called the Wonderwash, which might help, but it only does two to three pairs of pants at a time, so we’d spend much more time doing laundry. What should we do!?! Contact the landlord? Board the Circulator up 14th Street every three weeks? Please help!

—Laundry Quandary on 16th

Well, that sucks. Not only have you lost your laundromat but also a great, reliable arm workout—hauling all that wrinkly stuff around builds biceps!—and a chance for quaint encounters with your neighbors. Ah, times gone by. But back to your sweat-stained shirts and dirty underwear: Your landlord doesn’t need to care if the closest laundromat is in Columbia Heights or in Delaware. But he should. The moment Swann Cleaners closed, your apartment lost some value. Sooner or later, your lease will be up, and you’ll probably go looking for some place with in-house laundry. Then, your landlord will not only need to find another tenant, he will have the extra burden of convincing someone else to board the Circulator for the next lease term.

It’s in both your interests to figure this out. I see a few possible solutions: First, your landlord buys a washer/dryer and just considers it a property investment. Second, your landlord pays for a laundry service by allowing you to deduct costs from your rent. (This amenity might persuade you to stick around. But it’s a costly long-term solution for your landlord, and if you’re like me, you probably prefer to separate your own darks and lights.) Third, you or your landlord try to negotiate with a nearby building to use its laundry room. Or maybe your landlord owns another nearby property with laundry facilities you could use. This is how my brother, who lives in an apartment building in Columbia Heights, is able to clean his clothes. He just walks right across the street.

As for your suggestion about the Wonderwash—a miniature hand-crank machine ideal for campers—well, it would not be my personal preference here in D.C. or in the wilderness. I’d rather wash my clothes in a glacial lake or down yonder in Rock Creek Park than spend hours every night at home posing as a pioneer. But to each his own.

And now, courtesy of Metacafe, here's a video of the Wonderwash:


WonderWash: Camping Mini Washing Machine Example VideoFunny home videos are a click away


Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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