10 Laundromat Etiquette Rules


The Place is Bugged

Every laundry basket harbors grossness. Serious grossness. © PaulMichaelHughes/iStockphoto
Every laundry basket harbors grossness. Serious grossness. © PaulMichaelHughes/iStockphoto

Think twice about bringing your lunch to eat as you pass the time waiting for your clothes to wash and tumble; the place is bugged — and, now, so are your hands.

Laundry is dirty before you wash it, but also after. And it's pretty gross. Let's imagine the person using the washing machine before you does a load of underwear: Each pair of underwear in that load carries an average of one-tenth of a gram of fecal matter. That translates into about 100 million E.coli released into the soapy water as the clothes are cleaned and rinsed (and that's not taking into account the other fecal-friendly microorganisms such as hepatitis A virus), bacteria that will wait around to hitch a ride on your clothes — and then onto your hands [source: Carollo]. Other potentially harmful bacteria include Staphylococcus (which may cause mild to severe skin infections as well as life-threatening conditions such as sepsis) and klebsiella (which, among other serious conditions, causes pneumonia and urinary tract infections).

Since you won't be able to refine the water temperature to anything more specific than "hot" (and most hot settings don't meet the 140 to 150 degree Fahrenheit [60 to 66 Celsius] threshold for killing bacteria), use bleach to get rid of germs. That's something most people don't do: Collectively, we use bleach in only 15 percent of all the loads of wash we do [source: Rotstein].

Also, as you wouldn't want to fold your clean clothes on a stranger's worn undergarments, refrain from placing any dirty laundry and transferring an unattended load of wet clothes to a folding table (of course you'd never do that, anyway) — they're intended for clean clothes only.