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Laundry at home vs laundromat services — which is cheaper?

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The process of doing the laundry can be tedious. First, sort by colour and type (please don't mix bath towels with your kitchen rags!). Next, mix the detergent. Then comes the waiting, drying, and folding.

When you're tired from work, laundromats that offer to wash and fold your clothes for you is truly heaven-sent! Is it worth the money, though? Value Penguin breaks it down for you. 

True Cost of Laundry: DIY vs Laundromat

According to our calculation, an average laundry load of 3.5kg should cost about $3 to wash at home, and largely consists of the cost of water, electricity, detergent and the depreciation of the washing machine. If we were to account for the cost of human labour going into loading and unloading the machine, hanging the clothes to dry and ultimately folding them (approximately 45 minutes), this cost could increase to almost $9 assuming $8 of hourly wage.

In comparison, most laundry service providers charge around $4 to $6 per kg for wash & fold service. This would imply that you could be spending around at least $20 on your laundry including delivery (most places offer free delivery for orders above $50).

Assessing Value of Using Laundry Services

Given the analysis above, a consumer would really be incurring a total "net" cost of around $10-$11 to compensate someone else for taking care of the pick up, laundry, folding and delivery of his dirty clothes instead of doing it on his own. While the cost difference may sound high, spending an extra $10 when you are extremely tired or busy could very well be a good economic decision, especially when you are running out of certain articles of clothing you really need (socks and underwear anyone?). 

Also, there's another way of looking at this cost comparison. What if you were not to buy a laundry machine at all and always rely on a third-party to wash your clothes? At $20 per laundry service, you could do 34 laundries (or 8.5 months x 4 times per month) before the total cost of using third party service exceeds the total cost of buying a laundry machines and doing it yourself.

Therefore, using a third-party service could actually be a decent way of buying time if you plan on getting married and moving into a new place in the near future.

How to Save More on Laundry Service

For those who want to use laundry services more but are wary of the costs associated with it, there are still some ways to reduce this cost further. For example, by timing your wash and fold requests to coincide with your dry cleaning for suits, dresses and jackets, you could easily save by getting free deliveries.

Not only that, some laundromats will allow you to register your credit card with them so that you can make payments automatically for each service instead of paying in cash to the delivery person. If you have a cashback card that provide special rewards on laundry, or one that provides flat rate rewards (i.e. 3-5 per cent on all retail spending in Singapore) or a miles credit cards, it will actually help you save money by earning rewards.

Lastly, it's important to hit a balance between doing your own laundry to save money and using a third party service when you are in a pickle. Clearly, the math suggests that it's 40 to 50 per cent cheaper to wash your own clothes than to hire someone else to do it for you.

Over 10 years, this difference could easily add up to a thousand dollars or more. Still, there's value in spending a few extra dollars for the convenience, especially for people who live a very busy and tiring life. Perhaps, the right approach to take is to do your own laundry when you can and to sparingly use a laundry service for when you can't (or for dry cleaning).

This article was first published on Value Penguin.