Laundry is something we all have to worry about, and if you travel frequently, keeping your clothes clean can be a bit of a challenge. Youth hostels and hotels may offer dry cleaning services, but these can be expensive and costs can add up quickly. Additionally, if you are living in Japan, buying your own washing machine can take a huge chunk out of your budget, meaning it might be better to make use of public laundry services in the meantime. The good news is that public laundry services are readily available and affordable, too.
In Japanese, “coin laundry” is the popular name for a laundromat, since it is an easy term meaning “doing laundry using coins.” Coin laundry is commonly used by many types of people, such as housewives, students, workers, and the elderly. You might even see other travelers in there! These people might use it because they don’t have their own washing machine at home, they are staying at a hotel that doesn’t offer affordable dry cleaning services, or they wash things that are too big for their home washer such as large blankets. Many people clearly make use of coin laundries since there are many of them available all over Japan.
It can be easy to feel intimidated by an unfamiliar place if you’re not sure how it works and if you know asking for help will be an even more difficult challenge. For that reason, we have decided to explain how use these handy and affordable services.
Before you go, make sure you have the following items, as having them on hand will make the experience much easier:
- A basket to keep your clothes in
- Laundry detergent (see below where you can get some)
- Plenty of 100 yen coins
Going to a coin laundry place can be a little intimidating – after all, you’re visiting a new place with your dirty clothes under your arm and you’re going to try to use a bunch of machines you’ve never used before. However, it’s not so difficult to make use of these useful establishments and, like many things, it becomes much easier after you’ve done it once. Here is what you should do when you arrive at your local laundromat.
- Search for the nearest coin laundry establishment in Google Maps or any other map app on your phone or computer. Searching “coin laundry” in English should work just fine.
- Bring your own washing detergent. You can either buy washing detergent at a convenience store on your way to coin laundry (the cheapest brand is at around 100 yen) or buy it from the detergent vending machine in the laundry place (30 to 50 yen for 1kg laundry). However, not all laundromats offer this so it’s better to take your own. Some coin laundries, especially in urban areas, are also equipped with detergent-ready machines, but adding more detergent to your laundry will not be a problem.
- Make sure you have the correct change. Both washing and drying machines only accept the 100 yen coin. In some coin laundries, they provide a coin changer machine where you can exchange your 1000 yen bill or 500 yen coin into 100 yen coins. If you cannot find one inside the coin laundry, just go to the nearest vending machine to buy a drink and pay using the remaining change. BE EXTRA CAREFUL HERE, since it’s not uncommon for peole to insert 500 yen coins just to later see that the machine won’t turn on and that it won’t give back the coin. In cases like this, one has to call a specific number, which is usually posted on a sign detailing what to do if a problem were to arise. Naturally, going trhough all that trouble is sometimes not worth the missing 500 yen.
- Figure out which one is the washer and which one is the dryer. The dryers are usually stacked on top of each other and have clear lids. If you want to use the washer, there are usually two types of these: the 4.5kg (200 yen for about 35 minutes) and 7kg capacity (300 yen for about 40 minutes).
- Put your dirty clothes in the washer. The safest way is to use two machines: one for the white clothes, and one for the rest. After you put all the clothes inside, don’t forget to pour in your washing detergent.
- Insert the coins. The machine will start as soon as you insert the required number of coins and then the estimated finishing time will show up. If you are planning to go somewhere else while your laundry is being washed, just put your laundry bag on the top of the machine. In some cases, when the machines are all being used, people will take out your laundry when it’s done if you are not there, and put it inside your bago or one of the laundromat’s baskets.
- Same as washing, drying your laundry is very easy. Usually, the machines can hold between 7 and 14kg of laundry and for that capacity, you can dry for 20 to 30 minutes. It costs 100 yen for 10 minutes for drying.
Most coin laundromats have signs in English if that specific establishment has its own rules. Be sure to abide by whatever regulations they have in place, and to leave the establishment as clean and tidy as you left it. Most coin laundries are open 24 hours a day. Be sure to check on their website or on Google Maps (if available) before you go. Going at night or the early morning can be useful because it guarantees there will be empty machines available for you to use, which saves you having to wait or unload someone else’s laundry.
Coin laundries in Japan are clean, safe, and comfortable. They usually provide chairs or benches for you to sit on while you wait. Some coin laundry rooms are even equipped with air conditioners, meaning you can comfortably relax with a book if you don’t want to leave your laundry behind. This is especially useful, of course, if the coin laundry you track down happens to be in the middle of nowhere so there isn’t anywhere else for you to go to kill time. Japanese laundromats also usually provide coin dispensers. As previously mentioned, if you don’t have enough coins, just exchange your bills into a lot of coins inside the laundry room. This is handy for people who are in a hurry and don’t have time to get exact change. Some coin laundry places even have books or comics to read. You may even see a TV in there!
Many of these laundry places also have a detergent vending machine. For those who can’t find a nearby convenience store, this is exactly what you’ll need. It’s also useful if you are just traveling in Japan and for whom buying a whole tub of detergent would be a waste of money. Japanese coin laundries are also relatively quick. You can have your laundry totally washed and dried in only 50 minutes, giving you more time to get on with more interesting things.
The coin laundry is very helpful when you only have a limited time to get your laundry clean, especially when your apartment or hotel does not have any washing machines or their dry cleaning services are a little on the expensive side. To find the nearest coin laundry from your place, you can try this link (Japanese only) or simply search your nearest place on Google Maps. If you are a traveler, definitely be sure to make use of coin laundromats during your trip to ensure you always travel with clean, dry clothes! It can really make a difference to your stay.