RE: Common Laundry Advice Needed
From: Kay (argylemines.utah.edu)
Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2004 13:10:52 -0700 (PDT)
At Wasatch Commons maybe 12 units use the laundry.  

RECORDKEEPING

Usage is recorded on an honor basis on a clipboard in the laundry room.  

At first, we wrote "date -- name -- number of loads" in columns on lined
paper.  Adding up monthly usage for each household took flipping through
pages.

Somebody created a form which we have used for about three years with only a
few tweaks.  It is a table, with unit numbers and resident names on the y
axis (down), and number of loads and half dollars on the x axis (across).
People mark a box for each load as they do it (or in my household's case,
write the date in the box, so we keep track better -- "That's the fifth load
today. Oops! Forgot to mark one."  Management is encouraging wider adoption
of the practice).  Awhile back I got fancy and put the amounts inside all
the boxes, in a very small font in one corner, all the way down the table.
By its design, you automatically have a running total. I print out about
three months' forms at a time, finding that a reasonable balance between
efficiency and needed frequency of editing as units change owners.

CHARGES

We charge separately for washers and dryers, to allow for households that
own a washer but not a dryer, or prefer to line-dry -- Salt Lake averages
237 sunny days a year.  We finally got community clotheslines built this
spring :).

The charge of 50c for each machine-load seems to have been arrived at simply
because it was a bit less than what the local Laundromats were charging.
Half the proceeds go to the common house utility budget and half go to the
laundry reserve.  Payment is expected monthly.

When a machine needed replacing, we reopened the question of payment --
leasing vs. owning, coin-op, card-reader, etc.   We decided the hassles of
leasing were probably equal to the hassles of owning.  Added income from
better compliance would be swallowed by the lessor's cut, or if we owned a
coin-op ourselves, counterbalanced by the time factor of counting and
depositing coins and greater maintenance because more parts to break; plus,
in either case, the niggle factor of needing quarters.  The honor system
takes little time to manage and had brought in enough to replace the
machine, so we decided to stick with it.

SCHEDULING

Some initial scheduling difficulties were reduced to manageability by asking
that people without M-F 8-5 jobs avoid weekends.  It's rare to check back
more than once, waiting for an available machine.

BRANDS AND FEATURES

We started out with two Gibson front-loaders and two Gibson gas dryers.  I'm
told they can stack to save space (without the access problems of a stacked
top-load unit), and we have discussed doing this to fit a third set of
machines into our small laundry room.  Another set of washer and dryer would
further reduce scheduling conflicts and let people use their time more
efficiently -- it's more work to put in a single load at a time when you
have to trot down the path through the snow, not just into the next room.
This option was tabled for possible future funding.

An advantage common to all front-loaders is that the washers are
water-efficient (no water height option necessary) and the spin cycle does
an excellent job at extraction, cutting down on dryer time.  A problem is
that some users take a while to figure out that you need half the detergent
as for a top-loader.  (I can see the movie trailer now:  "It's frothing.
It's breaking free.  It's -- The Suds That Ate Salt Lake!")

The Gibsons have needed repairs about once a year -- refusing to fill, loud
thunka-thunks when the belts go out, broken door locks, smoke (golly, you
mean lint burns?), etc. -- as well as on-going maintenance like replacing
the drum light, vacuuming the lint trap, scrubbing off the buildup of caked
detergent, pouring water down the floor drain to block sewer gas, and
snaking a wire back to the turn in the dryer vent, to fish out a dead bird
(phew!).

On the plus side, 
(a) the Gibsons have an optional second rinse (not so optional if you have
chemical sensitivities).  
(b) The dryers have a moisture sensor cycle, which runs until the items are
dry and no longer, as well as a timer (some people prefer it -- go figure).

(c) You can turn the end-of-cycle buzzers off (please!).  

Some annoyances include 
(a) We've repeatedly had to replace the fragile control knobs on the dryers.
(b) You pour the detergent (etc.) into a pull-out drawer.  They jam, and at
least one has broken.  If not cleaned often enough, caked detergent from a
previous user can get deposited on clothes, a problem if it has bleach or
scent.
(c) Our hard water quickly films the glass door port.  My room-mate can't
stand this, and takes it off with chemicals and elbow-grease periodically,
or it would long since have become opaque.  
(d) The doors open to the center of the room instead of toward the outside.
Better if the machines were either in reverse positions (hookups prevent) or
had the doors hinged opposite the present arrangement, so the doors weren't
in the way when you are transferring from washer to dryer.  Better yet,
Kenmore dryers have a door that opens DOWN.  You can drop the load on it, to
shake out each item as you toss it in (the washers tend to twist sheets into
ropes) or to pull out items that don't machine dry.

One of the washers was declared unfixable, and we got a commercial Maytag
($1,200?).  I prefer it to the Gibson, despite slightly simpler options.  No
dial collecting grunge. No buzzer. No glass to cloud up.  Detergent is
poured into a flapped opening on top of the machine instead of a
recalcitrant drawer, and the accumulations don't seem to get inadvertently
added to a subsequent load.

The door still opens the wrong way, and we had to call the installer back to
increase the spin cycle to its faster setting (a wimpy spin means more time,
and more quarters, to get clothes dry, and is thus a popular feature with
laundromats). 

Kay


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