Laundry Etiquette

Dear Annabel Manners, 

I live in an apartment building with a laundry room we all share. When people leave their stuff in the washer or dryer, doing laundry takes 10x longer.
Do you think it’s OK to take other people’s clothes out of the machines?
— MK in Santa Monica
Dear MK,
This is a precarious matter indeed. Here’s what we know:
  • Abandoning your laundry midway through the project is rude and likely to inconvenience your neighbors. But then again,
  • The person who removes said clothes and unceremoniously plops them on a table or another machine is being inconsiderate as well.
When you’re first in line, be vigilant and stay on top of the schedule. If you must step away, just leave a note on the machine that reads,
Hi there! 
I have to run out for a few minutes. If my clothes are finished before I get back, please feel free to pull them out and leave them in this basket. I don’t want to hold you up. 
[Your Name]
If you’re stuck behind a laissez-faire launderer or laundress, give them a grace period. As a general rule, it’s best not to touch other people’s clothes unless you absolutely have to.
Let’s say an hour goes by. I think it’s OK to remove your neighbor’s things. Ideally, he or she will have left behind an empty basket for you to put them in. In any case, make sure you place them on a clean surface.
If the clothes are dry and you’re feeling charitable, you can do a good deed and fold them, but that may be too intimate. It depends on your neighborly dynamic.
Whatever you do, don’t put someone else’s wet clothes in the dryer, insert quarters, and hit the start button. There may be delicate items that will shrink or mutate in the heat.
In any case, go out of your way to be respectful. Hopefully your neighbors will, too!
Graciously yours,
P.S. Dig the dryer in this picture? Check it out here.
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