how to use a launderette.

Posted by smol on



Hands up who uses their local launderette? 

If not… have you ever wondered how to use one? Read on to discover everything you need to know about using your local launderette.

the rise. 

When these UK stalwarts hit the highstreets in 1949 they opened up a world of automatic washing for people who could never dream of having access to washing machines. 

They were known at first as “gossip shops for lazy people”. Gossip because you were displaying your dirty laundry to others and lazy, because carrying out laundry in the home meant heating water in large copper pans, scrubbing dirty washing by hand and wringing items out in a mangle. It was backbreaking. The washing machine ended all that work!

Added to this, the appliances were far too expensive for most households at that time (well over £1000 in today’s money). So no wonder the launderette was such a popular option. 

By the 1980s there were around 12,500 launderettes in the UK. It was a heyday for the service - helped along by one very famous advert c.1985 featuring Nick Kamen and a pair of jeans! 

the fall.

Fast forward to the 2020s and there are less than 3000 left. 

What went wrong? 

Washing machines simply got more affordable. In 1972 only 66% of homes had washing machines whereas nowadays that number is around 97%.

do we still need launderettes then?

We think so, YES! Perhaps:

  • You don’t have a washing machine

  • Your home machine has broken

  • Having someone else do your laundry works best for you

  • You need larger washer/dryer drum sizes

so how do they work? 

Here’s what you’ll need for a visit to a launderette:

your dirty washing!

You’ll need a big bag to transport your dirty laundry - and a cloth one is probably best but if you don’t have one large enough then a bin bag works too! Some people use laundry baskets but they could prove bulky once you’re inside the launderette itself. 

It’s a good idea to sort your laundry before you head out if you’ll have more than one load. 

some coins. 

Most self-service machines at launderettes are still coin-operated so bring a mix of 50p, £1 and £2 coins. Wondering how much a launderette costs? For a standard load in a self service machine - expect to pay from around £5.

Some machines have a contactless symbol on them - so you can pay by card or phone - you will need to follow the instructions on the machine but the card paypoint is usually located in a central place and you will need to select the correct machine number when you pay.

If you don’t mind paying extra for a service wash of course (where all the work is done for you) then this makes life even easier. You can also probably pay for this by card but it’s still a good idea to bring coins to be safe! Service washes start from around £10 but the staff will wash, iron and fold your laundry for you.


It’s best to bring your own! smol capsules are perfect for a trip to the launderette because they are super concentrated and take up much less space. If you’re after some more stain removal for specific areas don’t forget your stain gel too!

Launderettes often sell packets of powder but it tends to cost more than if you had bought along your own from home. 

fabric conditioner. 

If you use a softener don’t forget to bring your own fabric conditioner. Again, smol fabcon is so super concentrated it’s far less bulky to take along than the usual huge bottles of softener AND there’s no animal fat! Winner!

Now you have all you need… what next?

5 steps to clean laundry.

1. find a machine.

Self-service machines come in varying drum sizes. The bigger ones will be more expensive, so find the smallest size that your load will fit in. If you have more than one load to wash, you can use more than one machine at a time (try to find ones next to each other).

Remember though… if there is already washing inside the machine you wish to use you must wait for that customer to finish first!

2. load it up. 

If you are using smol laundry capsules remember to put them into the empty drum first at the back before adding your laundry. Make sure to leave a hand’s width from the top of your laundry to the top inside of the metal drum - that way you know you have loaded in the correct amount of washing. 

If you’re using powder or liquid detergent then you’ll need to pour the required amount into the dispenser drawer. And if you’re using fabric conditioner, remember to add this too. 

3. pick and pay. 

Shut the machine door, insert the correct number of coins into the machine coin slot and pick the wash programme you wish to run.

Don’t worry if the machine looks different to ones you have been used to - they should have instructions on the machine to help guide you along. 

4. time out!

Whilst a launderette machine can be quicker than a domestic version, a standard wash is still going to last around 30-40 mins so why not take along a book! Alternatively you can always run a few short errands but don’t be late to unload your laundry in case there are other folk waiting to use the machine!

5. unload. 

Empty out your washing once the cycle has finished and double check the drum for any stray socks! It’s cheaper to line dry your laundry at home but the launderette will have tumble dryers if you prefer.

Your local launderette is a valuable resource for your community so if you reckon it could work for you don’t hold back! Our guide should have you covered and whilst we can’t promise you a scene from a Levi jeans advert… you will be supporting one of our vital service industries and it could be the start of a brand new way to do laundry!


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