There’s a new laundromat in town — one whose mission revolves around committing to “being a positive presence in the local community” by mitigating its impacts on the surrounding environment.
Born out of a complete remodel of the former Kings Blvd Laundromat, which was sold in February of last year, Corvallis Eco Laundry Company boasts friendly and knowledgeable laundry attendants, brand new services — including the ability to have one’s first load washed and dried for free — and higher-grade facilities like Electrolux washing machines.
“Electrolux was made in Sweden for hospitals, and so all the hospital settings are still on them,” said one employee, who has chosen to remain anonymous. “There’s a lot of different cycles to choose from, anywhere from cold to wool to delicate; there’s one for sleeping bags, there’s a quick wash one, there’s one for active wear, [and one for] ‘extra heavily soiled’ [clothes].”
One additional setting includes a free sanitation cycle, which takes approximately a minute to rinse out any residue from the previous wash. When patrons enter the laundromat and see all the washing machines’ doors are open, that normally signifies that the machines have already been sanitized, but for their peace of mind, the option of running this cycle is always open.
“We [also] provide complimentary soap every time you come in, because these machines function best with soap that was designed for them,” said the employee.
The eco-friendly liquid laundry detergent they provide is Charlie’s Soap, which is hypoallergenic, non-toxic, biodegradable, and only contains four ingredients.
“One of our mission statements is to keep harmful petrochemicals out of the water — and not only that, [these chemicals] also break down the machines,” said the employee. “So we encourage, if you bring your own [detergent], that it’s plant-based, non-toxic and free of all petrochemicals because these are hospital machines, and hospitals don’t use regular detergents, like Tide and Gain and all of those big names. [And] not only is it harmful in our water, but it’s harmful to our bodies.”
Ecos and Biokleen are a couple examples of other machine-compatible brands, which the employee said are carried by the Fred Meyer located across the street.
“When people do come in and use Tide or something like that, I’m always going back through to wash out the soapbox because there are people that come in that have skin allergies and are really grateful for a place that honors that,” said the employee.
Other allergens that could get on people’s clothes include pet hair, which the employee said she also keeps an eye on and wipes down in the machines.
The Pros and Cons
While still fairly new, the reviews that have come in for Corvallis Eco Laundry Co. have been mostly positive. Some people, however, have expressed concerns about the potential financial barriers that the increased prices present to community members — particularly those who used to rely on the former Kings Blvd Laundromat as their main source for offsite laundering.
“The new business has inflated their prices to the point that it is no longer financially accessible,” said Artie Malm, a Corvallis resident. “A single load of laundry in the smallest washing machine they offer has jumped from $1.25 to $4.25 — the approximate equivalent of 3.75 loads of laundry — severely reducing the amount of clothing one can fit within their laundry budget.”
Young June Han and his wife were the proud owners of the previous laundromat, which they had run for 30 years.
“We have owned that laundromat for so long that I didn’t have much overhead; no payment except utilities and so on,” said Han. “So we thought we could afford a little bit lower prices for the laundry… for the general public. That’s how we ran. And we made it okay.”
It’s having been more accessible to lower-income community members also proved to be the case for those who are unhoused.
“The previous laundromat absolutely had unhoused patrons,” said Malm. “I often encountered people I’ve seen or met around town in my trips over there — and those folks were the ones that I recognized.”
“We were happy for a while running that laundromat, but I’m kind of now pretty old — 80 years old — so I had to somehow stop running that laundromat,” said Han. “When these new people wanted to buy it, we decided to sell it. And since then, I’m not involved in remodeling or upgrading that laundromat at all.”
Staff and some reviewers argue that these upgrades — the higher-efficiency machines, added services, and complementary eco-friendly products (including wool dryer balls, which are natural fabric softeners that reduce wrinkles in clothing) — actually save patrons more time and money.
“[The washing machines] spin with 450 G force, and this pulls anywhere from 10 to 40 pounds of water out of your clothes, [which] reduces the drying time significantly,” said the employee. “[Prices] range anywhere from $4.25 to $15 depending on what you’re washing, but usually you can dry everything with $1, because of all the water that’s being taken out.”
In addition, the new machines are not solely coin-operated; they can be paid for using the FasCard system, which accepts multiple payment options — including debit or credit cards, loyalty cards, or mobile wallets — and also functions as an app.
“I really do think that, with the efficiency of the machines, the complimentary detergent, and the reduced drying time, it balances out,” said the employee. “When you really look at the whole picture, it isn’t too exorbitant for what you’re getting. And there are other choices in town, too.”
Still, for many in the community, other options couldn’t quite compare to the old laundromat.
“The beneficial impact of the previous business was that it was the least expensive laundromat in town,” said Malm. “Its proximity to the free number 5 bus line, a 7-11, [and] Fred Meyer whilst being within walking distance for the studio complex next door and less contemporary student housing made it ideal.”
It was perhaps particularly ideal for residents at the Fillmore Inn Studio apartment complex that Malm referred to, which currently has no on-site laundry facilities — though a new laundry room is allegedly supposed to be installed at the complex by this upcoming winter.
“Just because a business with new pricing went in doesn’t make the surrounding demographics change,” said Malm. “It’s a lower-income neighborhood with a middle-class priced laundromat.”
In the midst of praise on Google reviews, one reviewer wrote more recently, “The prices are absolutely outrageous for this neighborhood. I can’t believe anyone thinks $4.75 JUST TO WASH ONE LOAD [sic] is reasonable. This took over the only laundromat within transport of my house so now I’ll have to travel further to do any laundry. I have a hard time believing any of the other reviews are genuine in this weirdly sterile, corporate overhaul of a community necessity. Thanks for the gentrification, I guess I’ll try to be poor somewhere else.”
In response, the owner attempted to clarify the reviewer’s “initial impressions”, claiming that the “old, inefficient laundromat [they] remodeled” cost a person $4.50 to wash and dry one load of laundry and would take up to two hours to complete. They also claimed that the Corvallis Eco Laundry Company is not a corporate-owned business, “but rather a female owned small family business.”
“We take great pride in our G.O.L.D. standard of cleanliness, which stands for ‘Grand Opening Look Daily,’” the response reads. “Since our customers are coming into our business to have clean clothes by the time they walk out of our doors, we know that they appreciate the effort that goes into keeping the space safe and clean. We are providing a health service as a laundromat, as everyone needs clean clothes; and we take our commitment to upholding a higher standard of clean seriously. We are very proud to be a part of the Corvallis community and invite you to come in for your first wash and dry for free, so we can help you overcome your initial confusion and inaccurate conclusions.”
“I do notice some people seem to be a little turned off by the price,” said the employee. “But like I said, when you figure out the time you save and the soap you don’t have to buy, and the fact that it is always attended, the bathrooms are always clean, there’s WiFi — it kind of works out to be a pretty great deal.”
“I personally do not care about [employees’] opinions on whether or not their new facilities make up for the inflated prices,” said Malm. “A lot of assumptions were made about how often one had to re-use machines, or how obscenely priced one’s personal laundry detergent would have to be to fill the cash gap between the new and old facility. The dryers needed a long run, I will [admit] that, but I always found the cleanliness of both my laundered clothing and the facilities to be acceptable… I’m not as easily fooled by a new paint job, floors, and counters on a nearly unchanged mid-century building.”
For now, the laundromat will continue to pursue its mission of being an environmentally conscious public service, albeit not an entirely socially conscious one.
“All businesses should be responsible for and work to negate their environmental impacts,” said Malm. “I’m just not entirely convinced using eco-friendliness to squeeze the locals for a fraction of the laundry they could clean is the way to go.”