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When is it ok to move someone’s wet laundry? Answer: Almost never

If you’re new to NYC, you might be surprised to hear how often people pull dirty deeds in the laundry room, so here are five rules to keep the peace.

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Having lived in New York City apartment buildings for over 20 years, I’m no stranger to the challenges of communal living. Crowded buildings and tight spaces are the perfect breeding ground for conflict. My personal battleground? The laundry room.

If you’re new to NYC, you might be surprised to hear how often people pull dirty deeds in the room that’s meant for cleaning things up, but the pressures of living here and defending one’s turf can sometimes bring out the worst behavior. Here’s what has happened to me, and the rules I think everyone should live by to keep the peace.

Several years ago, I came down to our shared basement laundry room and saw a neighbor’s housekeeper removing my wet clothes from a dryer mid-cycle. Caught in the act, she said she didn’t have time to wait because her shift was almost over. She then lied about which tenant was her boss, but the doorman later ratted her out.

I left a note for her boss, requesting a refund of my dryer money. Instead of apologizing, the boss was nasty and defended her housekeeper, who had told her the cycle had finished and someone else had removed the clothing. Well, most of it. It wasn’t until she found my three pairs of underwear in her laundry that she realized I was telling the truth. This still makes for awkward elevator rides.

Who takes a wet rug out of a dryer?

Something similar happened recently. I washed a throw rug in our building’s only industrial-sized washer available, and transferred it to the only available large dryer. I came down a few minutes later (I went upstairs to get my credit card to add more minutes) to find my still very wet rug in a cart and a young woman I had never seen before putting her laundry into my dryer. (Please note, there are 13 other smaller dryers and several of them were empty at the time.)

“Why would you remove a wet rug after only a few minutes?” I asked. I figured she would apologize and move her regular load to one of several smaller dryers that were available, but she refused. This made me furious and I decided to school her in laundry room etiquette. A fight ensued, expletives were hurled (me), and tears were cried (her).

I was ultimately victorious when she finally moved her load to a smaller dryer. My nemesis was in such a tizzy she actually put money the wrong dryer and raced out. I used my own card to put money in her machine so she wouldn’t come back 45 minutes later to sopping wet laundry. (I’m not a total monster.) So to the red-headed narcissist who clearly needs some help with laundry room etiquette, these five tips are for you—and anyone else new to the apartment building living.

1) Don’t remove carts unless the laundry room is empty

One of the main battles in my building is fought over our four laundry carts. Considering that our laundry room is shared by two buildings and over 400 units, they are a hot commodity.

People use them to bring their finished loads upstairs and then don’t return them. This leaves people scrambling to move their wet laundry from washer to dryer. And if the carts are missing, and someone doesn’t remove a finished load, there’s no place to put it. So if you have to take a cart upstairs, return it immediately.

2) Pay attention to when your cycle will end

No one likes their underwear being handled by strangers. (And most people really don’t want to touch your underwear, either.) So be downstairs in time to remove your own clothing from the machine when the cycle ends so others may use it. Chances are your neighbors are waiting for you to finish.

3) Be respectful when removing others’ clothing from machines

Of course, you can’t always time things precisely. But use common sense before taking laundry out of a machine. If the laundry is fully dried, it is safe to place it neatly in an empty cart. If it is still wet, assume the tenant will be down shortly and will want to put more money in to run an additional cycle. Do not remove wet clothing from a dryer. Don’t be that neighbor.

4) Leave the area looking better than how you found it.

Place empty detergent bottles in the recycle bin. Pick up errant dryer sheets and toss them. Remove lint from the trap in each dryer post-cycle. Wipe down any spilled detergent. If a machine stops working, call the service center.

5) Be aware a shared laundry room is a public place.  

This is not the place for loud, drawn-out phone calls. Don’t blast music. Do not eat in the laundry room. It’s not the place for children. No one wants a child opening your dryer and ending your cycle early. It’s not the place for dogs, either.

You would think all of these things would be obvious, but they’re not. Believe me, I have seen it all.