I had two competing startups do my laundry — here’s who won

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

In San Francisco, my apartment is full of “charm” – a word that loosely translates into great crown molding, but no modern appliances like a washer or dryer. Not even in the building.

Normally, I just carry my dirty clothes to the nearby laundromat and sit with it for two hours to make sure it doesn’t get stolen. It’s not fun, but it’s my only option.

With my laundromat closed for renovations, I decided to send my clothes off to Washio and Rinse, two competing laundry startups that promised to deliver my clothes back washed and folded.

Here’s how that went…


My boyfriend and I hadn’t done laundry in awhile, and the laundromat being closed didn’t help. We pull together our dirty clothes on a Saturday afternoon (the typical laundry day for us), but soon realize we’re out of luck when it comes to on-demand laundry.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

When I sign up for Rinse, I’m not given the option for a Saturday pick-up. The earliest it can do is on Sunday, and its pick-up window is from 8 to 10 p.m. By picking up on a Sunday night, my clothes won’t come back to me until Wednesday. Three days feels like a long time when my laundry is normally done in a few hours and because I have to wait an extra day before I can send them off. Rinse does let me choose between scented or hypo-allergenic detergent, whether they should use fabric softener, and how much starch they should use for laundered and pressed items.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

Washio is a little bit more flexible both with pick-up times and preferences. They have time slots available all day Sunday, and it also promises to turn my clothes around a day earlier than Rinse. Each of the time windows is an assigned 30 minutes. I also get the same assortment of detergent options.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

The only sorting I need to do before sending off my clothes is separating my dry cleaning from the wash and fold items. The items that I’m sending to be washed do need to be dryer safe, so some of my shirts don’t make it into the batch.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

On your first order, Washio and Rinse bring you their own bags. Washio’s are sturdier and look like a box with a laundry tie on top, while Rinse is just a black drawstring bag. Each service charges wash and fold by the pound, but since my scale is broken, I’m just eyeballing it. It makes it hard to estimate the cost, but I’ll find out when the bill comes how much it weighed.

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The Washio bag can easily fit half my clothes. The top then closes like a drawstring.
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Biz Carson/Business Insider

I get a text 45 minutes before my Rinse courier arrives. By the time he’s here, I have my clothes ready to go. My boyfriend flips over our laundry bin into the black laundry bag they provide. My two pieces of dry cleaning are slipped into a separate white bag. All in, it takes about 30 seconds to hand over my laundry.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

My Rinse courier also gives me a hook for my door so they can hang future deliveries. Because of where I live, that basically guarantees my clothes would be stolen, but for people who do have secure doorways, it’s a convenient option.

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If this was an external door, Rinse could return and pick-up my clothes from the hook.
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Biz Carson/Business Insider

Washio also sends a text, but you can track their movements in the app. When the Washio “ninja” (as they’re called) arrives, I hand over my Washio bag of laundry and the coat I’m sending out for dry cleaning. Unlike Rinse, my Washio ninja doesn’t put it in a separate bag, but just walks out carrying it.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

In return for my order, my ninja gives me a cookie from a bakery in Oakland. It’s delicious, and I forget to take a photo before it’s gone. But let’s get back to laundry. Once you’re laundry is sent out, there’s nothing you can do until delivery day.

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Sesame Street

Rinse does send me an order summary, which includes photos of my objects for dry cleaning. I didn’t notice originally, but the blazer I sent out is listed as a ‘coat’ on the summary. This will become a problem later, but at the time, it’s nice to see the my clothes and have some record of sending it off.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

Washio is the first to return my clothes, but not after running late. Since we have evening events, we set the drop-off time for between 11 to 11:30 p.m. At 11:25, we get a text saying our Ninja is running later by 20 minutes. There’s no traffic at this hour, so it’s frustrating that the company blew the delivery window. The revised estimate is close, and the clothes arrive at 11:45. (Although there’s no cookie with delivery).

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

The next night, Rinse drops off the remainder of my clothes and sends me the receipt. The first thing I notice is that my dress wasn’t dry-cleaned. Labeled a high-risk item, it was returned to me without being washed, although I’m annoyed I wasn’t told sooner that it wouldn’t be cleaned.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider

It doesn’t matter too much because my clothes are back. Let’s take a look at each startup’s laundry skills.

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Rinse on the left, Washio on the right
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Biz Carson/Business Insider

The best part is the folding. From each company, my clothes return in bags with everything folded. Underwear and socks are sorted into the small bag with larger items in the other one.

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My laundry from Rinse on the left, Washio on the right
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Biz Carson/Business Insider

One great part of Washio is that it will match up your sock pairs and roll them into a ball. With Rinse, socks aren’t folded or matched into pairs, although they were loosely grouped by color in the bag. That’s a win for Washio in my book.

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Socks matched by Washio on the left. Socks grouped together by Rinse on the right.
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Biz Carson/Business Insider

I also noticed Rinse’s bag of laundry was stacked higher and tied tighter. The end result was some very slight wrinkling of my shirt (seen below on the right compared to Washio’s on the left) but it wasn’t enough that I wouldn’t use the service again.

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Washio’s folded shirt on left versus Rinse’s on the right.
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Biz Carson/Business Insider

Then, there’s the price difference. Let’s start with Washio: The dry cleaning prices don’t run too much higher than in my neighborhood. Where Washio gets you is the $30 delivery minimum and the new $6 delivery fee (which is waved on orders more than $150). That means each order sets you back at least $36 to start. In my case, the cost for Wash and Fold had also been bumped up to $1.95 a pound in San Francisco. The 22 pounds of laundry I sent in ended up running me $42.90. With my delivery fee and dry cleaning factored in, that’s a $58 bill.

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Paramount

Rinse is a much cheaper option for the Wash and Fold part. At only $1.50 per pound, the 25 pounds I sent came in at $37.50 — cheaper than Washio and without the delivery fee. I text Rinse about the blazer being miscategorized as a coat, and they respond a few minutes later and correct the price. It’s fast and easy. My total with dry cleaning is much cheaper than Washio at $45.50 even though I had more laundry.

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Google

The real question here: Is all this folded laundry worth it? For my budget, no. Even though I had two coupons for each service (thank you venture capital), the costs were still much higher than the price of going to the laundromat, which normally runs me around $25 for this much clothing. If I could afford the convenience, I’d pay the little bit extra to go with Washio. I thought my clothes returned to me marginally neater, but the real perk was the flexibility in the 30-minute time windows and faster turn around for my clothes. While I’ll be sad to return to my laundromat ways, its new washing machines take far fewer quarters than a startup.

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Biz Carson/Business Insider