A Primer on Shared Laundry Rooms in Switzerland

Swiss Shared Laundry Room System

With such high quality of life standard in Switzerland, you might be shocked to find out that in a large majority of apartment buildings, you have to share a laundry room with your neighbors.

In many countries, you might not have your own laundry machine, but at least there are plenty of 24/7 laundromats that allow for doing laundry whenever you desire.

The unique thing about Switzerland is that there is a stringent system for even this menial task. If you are a renter in a pre-millennial apartment complex, you are likely not to have your own laundry machine.

Swiss Shared Laundry Room System
 

Thus, you have to conform with the system and sign up for a certain date and hour of day to do your laundry.

Can you imagine how inconvenient it might be to be left with Tuesday mornings from 10 AM until noon? It all depends on your landlord, but most places will only allow you to do laundry once per week (I have even heard stories of only twice per month)...

Swiss Shared Laundry Room System
 

My point is:

1. Washing your clothes in the same laundry machine as your long-haired neighbor is not fun.
2. To follow such a tight schedule can be a pain, especially for those who work, are into sports, or have kids (or all of these!)

Interestingly, enough renters seem to feel the same because there is a niche market for tiny, portable laundry machines in Switzerland! Advertised as "minimum size, maximum throughput" or "fits anywhere", these Port-O-Laundro's will easily fit underneath your bathroom sink...

Swiss Shared Laundry Room System

Just so we are clear though, this perceived, new-found freedom should not be abused with late night laundry parties, as most apartments have (surprise!) strict noise policies...

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Dimitri

As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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  • Haha. This is a good one. Ours was on a schedule. Every month they posted a new one and it went in the same order. Usually it was about every 10-11 days.

    It totally sucked if you missed your day. Many times I was hand washing and wringing clothes in the bathtub.

    I also had a family always trying to sneak their laundry in on my day. And then the other family who would leave their clothes on all the lines for two days. Then I would have no where to hang mine.

    The one we shared at the mountains was on a timer. The electricity would stop at random parts of the day for 1-2 hours.

  • When I lived in an flat in Winterthur it wasn’t a problem, there was a joker day and when you spoke with your neighbours sometimes you could swap days and even have theirs when they didn’t have washing!
    So my point is it’s always good to talk with your neighbours 😉
    PS: Power goes off on washing machine plug which is connected to a special controller in the electric box on you home/flat. In most cantons at lunch time this happens because people are using more power to cook etc.

  • There exists a fine short story on his by swiss author Hugo Loletscher:

    Der Waschküchenschlüssel

    Der Waschküchenschlüssel ist in diesem Lande nicht einfach ein Gebrauchsgegenstand, welcher jenen Raum öffnet, den man Waschküche nennt und wo die Maschinen stehen, welche den Vorgang erleichtern, der “waschen” heißt. O nein. Der Waschküchenschlüssel erschließt hierzulande einen ganz anderen Bereich; er bietet Zugang zu Tieferem. Und dies nicht nur, weil der Waschtag einen hohen Stellenwert im Ritualleben der schweizerischen Hausfrau einnimmt – demnach kommen nicht Hemden und Blusen, Socken oder Unterhosen auf die Leine, sondern es werden Flaggen der Sauberkeit gehißt. Nein – der Waschküchenschlüssel hat Bedeutung über seine bloße Funktion hinaus, eine Tür zu öffnen; er ist ein Schlüssel für demokratisches Verhalten und ordnungsgerechte Gesinnung. Um das zu verstehen, muß ich mit einer Geschichte ausholen, die zwar Jahre zurückliegt. Aber die neuerliche Erzählung eines Bekannten, die in gleicher Richtung zielte, bewies, daß es sich beim Waschküchenschlüssel um eine Grunderfahrung helvetischen Verhaltens handelt. In meinem Fall spielte sich die Geschichte in einem jener Mietshäuser ab, in denen es nicht nur Wohnungen, Dachböden, Kellerräume, Vorräume und Abstellräume gibt, sondern auch eine Kollektiv-Waschküche und dazu einen gemeinsamen Schlüssel. Diesen Schlüssel reichte man nach einem Terminplan von Wohnung zu Wohnung und von Etage zu Etage weiter; wenn der Schlüssel ganz oben rechts angelangt war, fing er seinen Rundgang durchs Haus unten links wieder an. Da ich Junggeselle war, brauchte ich diesen Schlüssel nicht, denn ich besorgte die Wäsche nicht selber. Aber ich mußte bald erfahren, daß es nicht nur ein Recht auf den Waschküchenschlüssel gibt, sondern auch eine Pflicht ihm gegenüber. Gemäß der Hausordnung, die mir per eingeschriebenem Brief zugestellt worden war, klingelte eines Abends eine Frau und überreichte mir einen Schlüssel. Als ich sagte, ich brauche ihn nicht, sie solle ihn doch gleich der Mieterin über mir weitergeben, sah mich die Frau vor der Tür recht verdutzt an: wie sie dazu komme, mir den Weg ins obere Stockwerk abzunehmen.

    Aus: Hugo Loetscher: Der Waschküchenschlüssel; Diogenes, ’83

    The full text you find here:
    http://universum.blueblog.ch/satire/hugo-loetscher-der-waschkuechenschluessel.html
    The book by the same name you can get on amazon

  • Sylvia

    Once every three weeks for me! We could reserve once a week and then grab any free slot we could find in case none had booked it, but at some point our landlord freaked out and he decided to give a day-log slot per apartment, (17 floors, 4 apartments per floor, and 4 washing rooms)… he locked the washing rooms with a key and he would only give it to the person on the list. Somehow now there is no key, no list no schedule anymore now… and it works perfectly.

  • @Uersal
    Exactly! & I am a schweizerischen Hausfrau!
    http://fergusmiller.com/about/

  • I am so glad these days are behind me (although having a dryer in you flat does make for a dusty bathroom…).

    We had a really snarky neighbour who would actually monitor what went on in the washing room. On Saturdays he was due to use it after our flat. One day I did my washing as on any other Saturday and I was out of his way by 11:00 (we switched at 12:00). I get a knock on the door and find a Swiss man I’ve never met before growling at me. He asked me rather gruffly if I had used the dryer. Since I don’t like to run the risk of ending up with kiddy size clothes, I avoid the dryer and told him something along those lines. I actually had to walk him into the living room to show him my clothes hanging on a drying rack to get him to believe me. Once he saw I wasn’t lying he looked really sheepish and practically bolted out the door. It was rather satisfying, actually.

  • @Christine
    Dryers are bad for the environment 😉 and any way our Swiss homes need moisture that’s why I always dry my clothes on a rack naturally, good tip that!
    As for your “Swiss Man” did you ask for his passport or ID? He does not sound very Swiss to me. You should have reported him as you don’t have to let any one without a warrant so to speak into your flat.

  • I have never dreamed that this topic would inspire so many of you to share your stories!

    @Allison: I love your anecdote of the sneaky neighbors! It sounds like you were able to avoid an underwear mix-up situation though…

    @Fergus: I appreciate your insight into the electrical makings of a Swiss laundry room. Now it makes sense why the power would switch off!

    @Uersel: You have added some good value by mentioning this classic, “Laundry Room Key”! Thanks for sharing the synopsis…

    @Sylvia: So I was thinking of *you* as having the lowest washing frequency, ever!
    Allow me to do some hypothetical “sock math”: 17 floors x 4 apartments x 2.5 renters (avg) x 21 days = 3570 pairs of socks in your building!!! Insanity…

    @Christine: I can’t believe your privacy was invaded because of a laundry issue! Seriously?

    Please keep your stories coming…

  • @Dimitri: Everything makes sense about this post when you look at it from a Swiss perspective 😉 Which as the “foreigners” adding to this thread should do!

  • We have a washing machine in our apartment, but no dryer and no outside clotheslines. So for towels and bed linens I use the dryer in the basement. We are lucky that this is a very small building, so no schedule needed. Unfortunately, we have had neighbors who don’t seem to understand that the “maid” is not going to come and clean up after them (lint trap dirty, spilled detergent and so on). And now a new neighbor has managed to find a way to put sand in the dyer! I have no idea how, and it’s happened more than once. I’m moving soon, so it doesn’t matter much to me anymore, but over the years I have been tempted to put up notes in the laundry about these problems. I’ve also been very glad we have a washing machine in our apartment.

  • @Kathy: Sand in the dryer? Did you happen to see any neighbors wearing extremely washed out blue jeans? This might be a clue… But other than that, I have no idea what is going on here, either!

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  • Brigitte Howard

    well and if you would have the SPACE in your flat to have a washer you would need the permission of your landlord to have one..wich does not make sence to me as every tenant in Switzerland must have a insurance that would cover water damages in such cases..lol..Happend to me several times..washing scedule was so terrible and neighbours filling out scedule weeks ahead..so I just bought one of those mini washer..without asking. huh lol