1. Do laundry often.
When I was in college, I would do laundry once I ran out of clean clothes or once my laundry basket was full, whichever came first. Unfortunately that meant about once a month. I have a lot of underwear and only wash my jeans once they start to “feel” weird, smell, or spill something on them.
When I moved to Japan, that became impossible, not because I ran out of clothes faster, but because I started using a coin laundry place a five minute bike ride from my house. I learned that I can’t let my clothes pile up in the corner. Why? Because my bike basket isn’t huge, biking with a month’s worth of clothes is a recipe for disaster.
2. Never bike with too much laundry in your basket.
For the first couple months in Japan, I kept my system of only doing laundry once a month. I hate doing laundry. I would go to that coin laundry place down the road only when necessary.
Then I would pile and stuff all my clothes into my basket and bike away to the nearest Japanese laundromat. Then, everything changed. A couple months ago, while I was biking one night, a pair of my underwear hit a gust of hair and flew out of my basket – straight into incoming traffic. It hit a dark minivan and was carried (plastered to the front of the car, thankfully not on the windshield) for about 10 feet, before it dropped down. And got run over several times.
I stood by the road in shock.
By the time I got to my underwear, it was thoroughly smashed into the pavement in the middle of the road. It wasn’t a cute pair; my dignity was worth more than that. I just left it. The next morning when I went to check, it was gone.
But still, every time I pass that spot, a small part of me still shudders in the memory.
I still hate doing laundry at the coin laundry place, but I do laundry more often now. I’ve never let myself get to that point where I physically cannot fit all my dirty laundry into my bike basket.
3. Go at awkward times so that the machines are always empty.
The other problem with doing massive amounts of laundry at one time is that sometimes all the washing machines at my Tokyo laundromat are full. Not too often, but twice I’ve been left there awkwardly holding a gigantic bag of laundry and wondering what to do.
The coin laundry place (at least in Tokyo) seems to be busy in the morning and early afternoon. I once made a mistake of going around 9am and there was actually a line waiting to use the machine. After washing their clothes, most Japanese people will hang them out to dry. Naturally, they will wash clothes in the morning so there is plenty of time to dry.
The machines are the most empty in the later afternoon and evening.
4. Coordinate shopping or bring something to do while you wait for your laundry to finish.
Most machines take about 40 minutes to wash your clothes. I used to bring my computer and mess around on facebook or watch TV shows online… but I always felt awkwardly judged by the other patrons at the coin laundry place.
Now I just do groceries. There is roughly enough time to put my clothes in the machine, bike to the store, do grocery shopping, drop the food off at home, and head back the laundry – with still a couple minutes to spare.
The real world isn’t like college. If you’re five or ten minutes late, no one is going to angrily pull your clothes out of the washing machine and put them on a shelf for other machine. That being said, in the 9 months I’ve lived in my apartment, I’ve never seen someone more than a couple minutes. When she did arrive, she apologized to me as she pulled her clothes from the machine, even though it was obvious that I was reading Detective Conan online while waiting for my laundry to finish.
5. Only use the industrial dyer on blankets, towels, or sheets (unless you are pressed for time).
As I mentioned in the other article, the industrial dyer is enormous. And is fully capable of drying an entire machine’s worth of clothes in 10 minutes (20 minutes for jeans or large loads).
But that kind of heat can’t be good for clothes. Like, at all. Most of the shirts I buy in Japan are too fragile to even use with a regular dyer, never mind the crazy-powerful industrial one. I use the industrial dyer on jeans and linens only. I love the way my sheets and blankets feel afterwards.
Unless I’m pressed for time or it’s raining. I needed a sweater dried ASAP, so I took it to the industrial dyer and it went from sopping wet to perfectly dry in 10 minutes. If it’s raining, I will usually put most of my clothes in the dyer. I can technically hang them up in my room but… I’m lazy. It’s complicated.
The industrial dyer is convenient and efficient, but can seriously ruin, damage, or vastly increase the normal wear-and-tear of your clothes.
Click here for a chart that shows how much coin laundry machines in Japan cost.
When looking for the nearest coin laundry place in Japan, type “コインランドリ” into Googlemaps. Places to do laundry in Japan are called coin laundry places, rather than the typical laundromat or laundrymat.
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