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Owning Businesses

Owning a Laundromat: Pros, Cons, and What to Expect

Last Updated on June 28, 2024 by Mark Ferguson



I have 2 laundromats; a very small one in a small town and a medium-sized one in a city of about 100,000 people. I love the laundromats and they are a ton of fun but they come with challenges as well. My medium-sized laundromat makes money but the small one still struggles after a year of improving it.

I think the small laundromat has potential but the larger the laundromat, the more chances for success you will have. I am a real estate investor and broker by trade and I have learned a ton about small businesses the last few years. I also own a liquor store and a small grocery store in a small town. Laundromats are very different from anything else I have ever done. Here is what I have learned.

Want to know how much you can make with a laundromat? Try my laundromat calculator.

What are the biggest challenges of owning a laundromat?

Before I bought my first laundromat, I thought they were a pretty straightforward business. You buy some washers and dryers, people come and use them, and you collect the money. There is much more to the business than buying some machines and hoping people come to use them. Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned:

  • Washers and dryers in laundromats are very expensive. If you want the big machines that people come to laundromats for, expect to pay close to $10,000 for one machine! The smaller the machines, the less expensive but people won’t use those nearly as much. The good news is you can charge much more for the big machines since they can hold 4, 5, 6, or even more loads of laundry.
  • It is very hard to find people who can fix commercial washers and dryers. Appliance repair is a lost art and many of the companies that still do it, limit themselves to warranty work for specific companies. There are also a lot of people who claim they can fix these machines and have no idea what they are doing. Ask me how I know that one! The closet repair people to me are over an hour away. If you own a laundromat you must be able to do some of the simple repairs yourself or have someone on your team who can do them or you will go bankrupt because machines break all the time.
  • Laundromats get dirty as soon as you clean them. I have hired cleaners and cleaned myself and it doesn’t matter how often you clean, the next time someone comes in to do laundry it will be dirty again. People do not like a dirty laundromat. One tip is to get a floor that is as close to dirt color as possible!
  • Laundromats are not passive. They take constant monitoring and visits. It is fun collecting quarters but you will also get calls or texts about machines not working or taking money or people acting funny. If you want to keep people coming, you have to respond to the complaints and do your best to remedy them. You will be giving out a lot of small refunds.
  • Laundromats attract crime. My laundromats are not attended and while I have cameras there are still shenanigans going on all the time. Make sure you are not letting people sleep in them, abuse the bathrooms if you have them, or camp out outside.

These points may turn off a lot of people but I still love my laundromats. It is so much fun collecting quarters, watching sales, and trying to improve the business. Below is one of the videos of me collecting quarters.

Do laundromats make money?

The laundromat in the video above has been open for about 7 months and brings in around $7,000 a month with $4,500 in expenses a month. This does not count my own time collecting quarters and managing things. I was very lucky that I did not have to buy this laundromat. I took over the lease with most of the equipment still there. I had to add some equipment that I bought used from another laundromat and fix some of the machines already there. I probably spent $40,000 on machines, a little remodeling, and repairs. I lease this space but I purchased the real estate for my small laundromat. It does not make nearly as much ($1,200 to $2,000 a month) but that real estate came with an apartment, shop, and car wash as well.

Laundromats can make money and large laundromats can do very well but it is tough to make it with smaller spaces just because you are so limited in the equipment you can use and the amount of customers who can use the mat at once.

What kind of machines do you need?

The biggest obstacle with my small laundromat is I have small washers and dryers. The small dryers are not a big deal but the washers are. Many people use laundromats because they have tons of laundry or large items they want to wash. A lot of people who have washers and dryers still use laundromats. You may even have people using your laundromat who have wash-and-fold businesses where they pick up someone’s laundry and do it for them. A successful laundromat almost always has large washers.

With large washers come more expensive machines, more power (3 phase in many cases), more water (upgraded water heaters), and more support (concrete floors). My small laundromat has wood floors and 2 phase power which makes it very tough to add large machines. If you are choosing a place for a new laundromat or taking over an existing one make sure you have the mechanicals needed for big machines. Most of my washers and dryers are Speed Queens but there are many good brands out there.

Below is a video of the small laundromat:

Should you have an attended or unattended laundromat?

Most large laundromats are attended and offer wash and fold services to pay for those attendants. Mine do not have this service but I may offer it at some point. I am still able to make money without the wash and fold but it would most likely make me more if I decide to go that route. A wash and fold service does laundry for customers. Some laundromats even pick up and deliver loads. One nice thing about having wash and fold and attended laundromats is there is usually someone there who can help customers and clean up if things get messy.

If you have full-time staff at the laundromat that is a large expense and you will need to do quite a bit of wash and fold to pay for it. If you have a smaller laundromat you want to make sure you are not taking up machines with your wash and fold business that regular customers want to use. Of course, the biggest challenge is to find the right employees you can trust and who will work hard. I have that challenge in my real estate businesses as well.

Bonus income from laundromats

While my laundromats do okay I get a lot of bonus income from them. People love to watch quarters being collected. I have a pretty large social media following and a decent-sized YouTube channel (110K) and those all make me money. On bad months I make at least $1k from my videos and on good months close to $5k. If you like social media and making videos, the laundromats are perfect for content creators.

Conclusion

It would be impossible to give you all the ins and outs of the laundromat business in one article, well maybe if the article was 50 pages long… but I hope this helps give you an idea of what the laundromat business is like. My YouTube channel has weekly videos on both mats going over the pros and cons. I also am happy to answer questions here but I do check my YouTube comments more often.

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