When you think of a laundry service, you may think of your neighborhood laundromat, with rows upon rows of washers and dryers.
But did you know that you can start your own wash-and-fold laundry business — and that you don’t need to invest in dozens of washers and dryers to do it?
Here’s how it works: Your clients leave their laundry outside their door for a scheduled pickup. You’ll pick up the laundry and take it home to wash, dry and fold. You’ll then return the laundry to the client, leaving the clean, folded clothes packaged outside their door.
How to Start Your Own In-Home Laundry Business
Some cities — notably New York City — have their own wash-and-fold ecosystems. However, if you live outside these cities, you can start your own laundry service via platforms like TaskRabbit, Care.com and Laundry Care. This can make it easy to find clients in your own area.
You’ll need to get some basic equipment before launching your wash-and-fold side hustle:
- Your own washer and dryer. You’re not going to make much profit if you’re taking your client’s laundry to the coin-op place.
- A way to transport laundry from your client’s home to yours. In many places, this will require access to a vehicle. In densely populated areas, you may be able to use a cart or a bike.
- A dedicated space to fold and prepare laundry. This is usually required by the third-party service that connects you with your clients.
In addition to the basics, you may want to invest in these items as well:
- Laundry bags or hampers. These will be used to transport the laundry. You may find it helpful to provide these to your clients prior to your first visit.
- Garment covers. There may be times you launder a garment that should be on a hanger rather than folded. In these instances, you’ll want to have some garment covers on hand.
- Bag tags. Labeling each load with the client’s name will save you a lot of headaches once you have multiple clients.
- Hanging scale. Laundry services traditionally charge clients per pound. Having a hanging scale to measure each load of laundry will help you make sure your pricing stays competitive, should you opt to charge by the pound.
If you’re using a platform like TaskRabbit or Care.com to build your business, you may choose to bill per hour rather than pound, which eliminates the need for a scale. If you join a company like Laundry Care, you’ll charge by the bag. A scale is available for a fee through Laundry Care if you’d like it, though.
Finally, you’ll need to develop clear policies so your clients know what to expect. This is especially important to ensure safety and social distancing during the pandemic. Some things you’ll want to make clear can include:
- How contactless pickup and delivery work.
- Which items you will wash and which you will not.
- How you’re ensuring safety as you handle each client’s order.
What You Can Earn With a Home Laundry Business
Typically, you can make between $15-$20 an hour with this side hustle. On platforms like TaskRabbit and Care.com, you can charge more as you get more positive reviews and your reputation on the platform grows.
On platforms like Laundry Care, clients will see laundry services priced per bag rather than per hour. If you use a platform with that pricing model, the platform will set the fee (currently $20/bag through Laundry Care) and handle your payout, averaging out to the $15-$20/hour range.
If you want to use a price-per-pound model but don’t want to use an online platform, you can figure out how to set your rates by researching going rates for your area. A 13-gallon bag generally weighs 10 to 15 pounds, and pricing can range anywhere from $1/pound to $3/pound depending on your area.
Estimate how much your utility bills will increase due to your new business. You won’t notice a difference with your first clients, but as your business grows, so will your heat and water bills.
You can earn more than $20 an hour by taking on commercial clients who have more regular and high-volume needs. If you take this route, you’ll want to invest in more than one washing machine and dryer for your home, and you’ll also need to account for how much extra energy expenses will eat into your profits. However, if you can do twice the laundry in half the time for larger-volume clients, your earnings skyrocket.
Safety Precautions for In-Home Laundry Business
Laundry itself is not considered a high-risk activity. Still, there are some common-sense safety measures you should be implementing when handling other people’s laundry.
During the height of the pandemic, this was a good way to continue to make money because so much of the interaction was contactless and that kept people safe. Some of those precautions remain smart moves today.
How to Safely Do Business
Lyndsee Campbell, director of marketing at Laundry Care, shares some of the pandemic safety measures their providers are encouraged to follow but it’s a good idea to follow them all of the time to prevent the spread of germs.
- Wear gloves while handling dirty laundry.
- Choose the hottest wash cycle available, preferably between 140 and 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to separate out items that suggest cooler water temperatures, like silks and rayons.
- Dry on medium to high heat for at least 30 to 40 minutes, again, separating items that may require lower temperatures.
- Disinfect laundry baskets, folding surfaces and hampers between uses.
- Wash your hands immediately after handling laundry.
- As you’re picking up people’s laundry, be sure to use gloves while loading the laundry into your car, and hand sanitizer afterwards.
- Always keep each client’s laundry separate from each other. No mixing loads.
- If you use reusable laundry bags, make sure to clean them between each use.
- Make all pickups and dropoffs contactless.
Should You Start a Laundry Business?
Not everyone should start their own laundry service. If you hate doing laundry and the extra cash isn’t enough for you to stomach the chore, you’ll obviously want to count yourself out.
But let’s say you’re not put off by the task. You’ll still need the right equipment to wash, dry and transport laundry. If you’ve got these bases covered, starting your own wash-and-fold service can be a good socially-distant side hustle to help make ends meet during the pandemic.
If you decide to invest in business equipment like additional washers and dryers, it could even develop into a self-sustaining business.
Pittsburgh-based writer Brynne Conroy is the founder of the Femme Frugality blog and the author of “The Feminist Financial Handbook.” She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.