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What Is a Laundry Mat?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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A laundry mat is a coin operated commercial laundry facility. The term, laundry mat, is the incorrect form of the word, laundromat but is still in common use in some parts of North America. The word laundromat originated in the 1950s from the words laundry and automat. Laundry mats, or laundromats, are coin-operated laundry businesses used regularly by those without access to home laundry cleaning machines. These commercial coin laundries are also used by those wanting to wash items such as large comforters that may not fit in a regular-sized household washing machine.

Many laundromats have different sizes and types of washing machines available. For example, in addition to commercial washers that hold one load each, a laundromat may have a triple-loader washing machine that washes three loads of dirty laundry at once. The cost of the triple loader is usually a little less than the cost of using three single load commercial washing machines. The dryers in coin laundries may just be one size, but many laundromat dryers hold two loads.

The number of washers and dryers in a laundry mat depends on the size of the facility and the approximate number of customers it is meant to serve. Many coin laundry cleaning facilities have at least six washers and six dryers, but this varies widely. Apartment buildings may have one or two washers and dryers on each floor or one coin-operated laundry room with as few as four washers and dryers to serve the entire building.

To save space, dryers in laundromats are often mounted on the wall. A laundry mat may also have wall-mounted machines that dispense small sizes of laundry soaps and/or make change from paper money. Some coin laundries have staff laundry attendants available, but many do not. A laundry mat may provide a drop off and pick up laundry service for customers to use. Having the staff do the laundry costs more than just using the machines, yet it may be worth it to some people if they can drop their dirty laundry off to the laundry mat service in the morning before work and pick up their clean laundry on the way home from work.

Even the smallest-sized laundry mat is likely to have at least one small table for folding clothes. Larger laundromats may have extra features such as ceiling mounted televisions and vending machines that dispense coffee or snacks. Unlike in a home where there is just one washer and dryer so only one load of laundry can be done at once, several loads can usually be done at the same time in different machines in a laundry mat.

Expanding options for customers, stocking laundry sheets at laundry mats would be a smart move. Some products, which are eco-friendly and plant-based, offer a convenient and effective alternative to traditional detergents. The best laundry sheets are tough on stains yet gentle on skin, making them suitable for a wide range of customers with varying needs. By providing these sheets, laundry mats would offer their customers a more environmentally conscious and skin-friendly choice for their laundry cleaning needs.

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Discussion Comments

By TreeMan — On Jun 24, 2012

@kentuckycat - I agree. I bet laundry mat equipment doesn't have the best life. I suppose that is part of doing business, though.

I think in the end that owning a laundry mat is a pretty good business. I don't know how much commercial washers and driers are, but they seem pretty durable, and each load costs a couple of bucks, usually. I'm sure they make a nice profit. There's a lot of overhead, though. I'm sure the electric and water bills are through the roof!

Along with keeping the machines working, you have to deal with insurance issues. I have seen tons of videos of people spinning around in driers. There is even one of someone sticking a kid in a washer and then the thing locking him in for a couple minutes. I guess those people are just part of doing business, though.

By kentuckycat — On Jun 24, 2012

I always wondered where the "mat" part of the word laundromat came from. I guess now I know.

I think it is really nice having laundromats around for people to use, but I also think that a lot of people abuse the facilities. I know I have been guilty of it a couple of times. When I used to work at a restaurant, we went through a lot of towels cleaning up messes and grease and stuff. We had our own washer and drier, but didn't like washing the greasy towels, because it would clog up the washer. Instead we took them to the laundromat every couple of weeks to wash all the really nasty towels.

I think that is pretty tame compared to some people, though. I have seen a lot of people kick machines and beat them up for no apparent reason. It's amazing what people will do when it's not their stuff.

By matthewc23 — On Jun 23, 2012

@StarJo - I know what you mean. There were tons of coin-op laundry mats in the town where I went to college. I have found that most apartments have their own washers and driers for residents, but sometimes people still go to the laundry mats. I think a lot of landlords don't keep up the maintenance on their equipment, and sometimes I think the laundry mat prices are just cheaper.

Luckily, I never had to go to a laundry mat to do my regular washing. It would be a real pain to have to load up all of your clothes and take them there. Plus, you don't really have anything to do while you're waiting.

The one time I think laundry mats are really good is if you're washing big stuff. I usually don't sleep with a comforter, but when I was growing up, I remember my mom always loading up all the comforters from the house and taking them up to be washed. I still go to the laundry mat to wash big things like blankets and bath mats, though.

By Emilski — On Jun 22, 2012

@cloudel - Wow, that's a lot of clothes. I don't even have enough clothes to fill up 4 washers! I doubt it was the strangest site anyone had seen at the laundromat. When I was younger and lived in apartments, one of the places I stayed didn't have a washer or dryer, so you had to go to the laundromat. For some reason, those places seem to attract strange characters.

I remember one couple always seemed to be there when I was, and they would scatter their laundry in different washers all around the building instead of putting them in machines next to each other. Then, they would spend the whole time walking around to each machine and watching the clothes spin for a couple minutes.

The place I went also had a few TVs, and there was always a group of older women there who would watch soap operas and make comments about the episodes during commercials. Sometimes those conversations were pretty interesting.

By cloudel — On Jun 22, 2012

I've only ever been to a self service laundry mat, but being able to leave it with an attendant and go shopping would be awesome. I don't think we have any laundry mats with attendants around here, though, because people are generally poor and wouldn't be able to afford the service.

I have a friend who fell on hard times, and he saved up his laundry for three weeks before going. By then, he had enough money to do it all at once.

I went with him, and he used twelve washers at one time! I imagine that the people coming into the laundry mat were wondering where all the other people were, because we were the only ones there, yet all of the washers were taken!

By seag47 — On Jun 22, 2012

@orangey03 – A laundry mat without a lot of people in it can be a great place to catch up on work or get some reading done. Like you, I go to mine at odd hours so that I can concentrate on what I'm reading.

I do a lot of work with my laptop, so I just take it with me. If I don't have any work to do, I will catch up on reading my magazines that I subscribe to or a good book.

If I were able to do my laundry at home, then I would be distracted by a million other things. Doing it at a laundry mat lets me relax and stay focused.

By orangey03 — On Jun 21, 2012

There is a coin laundry mat in my small town that stays open late at night. This is good for insomniacs like me, because there are very few people there then, and I can get my laundry done without having to wait in line.

I used to do my laundry on Saturday morning, but the place was always packed. Screaming children ran rampant, because their mothers had nowhere to leave them while doing their laundry. I always had a headache by the time I left that place.

Now, I wait until about 10 at night to do mine. The place is brightly lit, and so is the parking lot, so I feel safe when I leave at about midnight.

By StarJo — On Jun 21, 2012

Laundry mat businesses make a killing in college towns. Usually, students don't have enough money to buy their own washers and dryers, so off to the laundry mat they go every few days.

I work in a college town that has four laundry mats within five square miles. If any other town had this many, they would probably not be able to stay in operation.

Of course, every apartment complex has its own little laundry mat, as well. There are far too many people living in each complex for them to be able to all share a couple of washers, though.

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