Washing Machines: Costs and Saving Money

I've always been a huge proponent of washing machines as a way to save money. Unfortunately, many apartments don't have laundry rooms, so lower-income families have to wash at a laundromat. However, after doing some math, I think that my assumption might be wrong.

The cost to wash at a laundromat is $1.25 a load or so. Detergent is around 25 cents. You generally dry, too and it's 50 cents or so. I'm including drying because I find it too heavy to carry wet clothes. So the cost is $2.00 per load.

Compare to washing at home: 40 gallons of water costs around 6 or 7 cents, based on LA DWP rates. This is not a high efficiency washer. 30 minutes at 1kw, at 14 cents per kwh, costs around 4.5 cents. A drying rack is around $15 to $25, and lasts three years (conservatively), and that means around 15 cents a week (if we do only one load a week). When I wash at home, I tend to never use the dryer (and now don't get one). Air drying works in California.

So, one load a week costs, at most, 51 cents when you do it at home, and dry on a rack.

The flipside is the increase in rent due to having a washing machine area. I don't have the time to explore this, but it seems like having washer hookups costs more, but not much more - I'd guess around $50 more, which is in-line with local rents which are around 1.5/sqft. (My actual rent is lower, and it's a toss up whether the rents are higher due to a washing machine room.) The other thing is, more modern houses simply use less space for the washing room - it's integrated into the kitchen, or in the garage - so the rent increase is much smaller. The washing room is something of a remnant of the wash-tub days, when washing took a lot of time and a lot of splashing water.

There's also a one-time cost of between $80 to $1200 for a washer. I'd aim toward getting a used top loader washer, which is going to be the most generic, most reliable. They haven't changed much in 30 years. I had a front-loader and, while it saves water, it seems like it's not as sturdy and more complex.

How does this compare if you have 4 loads per week. Let's say that taking the bus is $1.50 per boarding, once a week.

Laundromat: $416 per year + $156 transportation costs. = $572.
Washing at home: $106.08 per year + $600 rent. = $706.

Egads! I'm wrong. It's cheaper not to have a washing machine.

These numbers apply, basically, to a single person. The numbers change if you have more loads to wash, because the marginal cost of washing at home is so small: if you have a spouse or kids, you're doing more than 4 loads a week. Also, you can alter the numbers by buying cheaper detergent.

If you do 8 loads, the numbers look like this:

Laundromat: $816 per year + $156 transportation costs = $972.
Home: $212 to wash + $600 rent = $812.

Finally, there is one other trick that people don't really consider. You can alter an outside water hose to supply cold water to the washer, use an extension cord to power it, and drain it into a sink or into a sewer. If you're in a little house or a cottage, or a back house, you can have your washing machine, and not have to suffer the rent to own it.