Doing laundry is one of the biggest house chores in our lives. While some people may find the process of washing clothes, hanging them up to try and folding them to be cathartic, a lot of people also view it one of the more annoying domestic chores. For those who want to outsource this work to save time for other activities, there are plenty of laundry services that offer to wash and fold your dirty clothes for you. Still, using these services also cost more than doing it on your own. Below, we attempt to quantify the true cost of laundry in either of the cases to help consumers make a more conscious decision with their money.
True Cost of Laundry: DIY vs Laundromat
According to our calculation, an average laundry load of 3.5kg should cost about S$3.0 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 labor 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 S$9.00 assuming S$8.0 of hourly wage.
In comparison, most laundry service providers charge around S$4.00 to S$6.00 per kg for wash & fold service. This would imply that you could be spending around at least S$20.00 on your laundry including delivery (most places offer free delivery for orders above S$50.00).
Assessing Value of Using Laundry Services
Given the analysis above, a consumer would really be incurring a total "net" cost of around S$10.00-S$11.00 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 S$10.00 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 S$20.00 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 & 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. Some while not all cashback cards will provide special rewards on laundry, some cash back cards that provide flat rate rewards (i.e. 3-5% on all retail spending in Singapore) or most miles credit cards 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 40-50% 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).