Re: Common house shared laundry
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 21 May 2019 07:47:59 -0700 (PDT)
> On May 21, 2019, at 6:35 AM, Patti Lentz <ptpattilentz [at]> wrote:
> How have you figured out how many washers and dryers are optimal?   We are in 
> the planning stage for our cohousing in Albuquerque and plan to have a common 
> laundry and hookups in individual houses.  We don’t know yet how many 
> households plan to install their own washers and dryers
> Would appreciate any input

The majority of our 43 units have their own machines, 30+, but the rest use it 
routinely. Everyone uses it when their machine is broken or they are doing 
large items and a large number of items. One thing to remember is that a 
facility might seem important to address accessibility and affordability, but 
everyone becomes disabled or short of funds at some point or the other. Shortly 
after we installed an automatic door on the front of our CH for wheelchair 
access, a member broke her ankle and was on crutches. It made her life easier 
for weeks. Others appreciate it daily for strollers and shopping carts. So what 
seem like extra features are likely to be important to everyone at some point.

We have 2 washers and 2 dryers of commercial size. They are used a lot. There 
does seem to be a community of people. They don’t stand around and fold clothes 
together but they do interact as they come and go. The only time we had big 
backups is when we had a single parent with 3 preteens who helped do the 
laundry. In addition to having a lot of laundry, they would often leave clothes 
in the machines all day or baskets of clothes filling the room. (They finally 
bought their own machines.)

My personal experience is that a minor charge, enough to pay for repairs, is 
advisable. We routinely have people plugging up the washer by using too much 
detergent. Someone here learned how to service the machines but it takes his 
time and we also have to call service sometimes. One machine, a badly designed 
Speed Queen, does not have a filter that stops baby socks and other very small 
items from clogging the  drain.  (I contacted the manufacturer and they don’t 
even make an extra filter we can purchase!)

The point person for the laundry room has learned how to dig the stuff out of 
the drain but it takes 30 minutes of taking things apart and putting them back. 
We have net bags for small items but either people are not using them or not 
careful about sorting their laundry. 

We also have roommates in the college ages and early 20s who will put anything 
in a washer and dryer — purses with long and big chain straps, Levis with 
grommets without turning them inside out, 3 pairs of tennis shoes, etc. The 
tennis shoes make a lot of noise in the CH and the metal chains and grommets 
can scratch the surface of the washer and dryer. And they do laundry at 
midnight so no one can “remind" them.

For that reason I would advise having coin slots and charging maybe 50 cents a 
load to pay for repairs. I don’t think there are objections to purchasing the 
machines but the repairs can cost $300 a visit. Making it a “profit center” I 
don’t think is a good idea — not community-friendly — doesn’t feel welcoming. 
Too commercial.

In almost 20 years I think we have had one new  set of dryers (they come 2 
stacked) and 6-8 new washers. I don’t think we have always purchased 
almost-commercial quality washers and sometimes the service people have 
installed something they happened to have in their backroom. So your mileage 
might vary. We use front loaders.

A laundry room is very convenient for everyone, but not because it is a center 
of communications — that may also vary by the size of the room. Ours isn’t 
large enough to have people both loading and unloading machines and 2-3 people 
standing around with coffee cups.

One community had their machines along the side of a large activity room so 
their experience might be different.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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