No more soap operas in this laundry room

App lets you monitor your laundry from afar

As chores go, laundry is pretty easy. Separate the whites from the permanent press, dump in the soap, turn on the machine. Toss it in the dryer for 40 minutes or so, fold it all up and you’re done.

But at certain times in our lives, laundry becomes a little trickier: In college, in the military, in a small apartment. You have to face a public laundry room that’s always crowded. If you leave your laundry in the washer one minute after the machine has stopped, some self-appointed laundry czar will take it out and pile it, all drippy and pathetic, on a table or worse, the floor. It’s happened to me, and my guess is it’s happened to you.

That’s why I was so impressed with the LaundryView app from Mac-Gray, maker of laundry equipment for government, military, colleges and apartments. It lets you monitor the status of every washer and dryer in your laundry room from your laptop; you can even have LaundryView send an alert to your cell phone when your laundry’s done. No need to be a slave to the basement on laundry day. You can go for a walk in the sunshine, grab a little Chipotle, and get back in time to fold your socks while they’re still warm, thanks to LaundryView’s mobile alert system.

You browse to the site at www.laundryview.com and the name of your building. The site works on any computer or laptop with Internet access and Adobe Flash. LaundryView served up an exact virtual reality replica of the laundry room in the basement of my building, down to the dreary green linoleum floor and the table along the wall for folding clothes. All that was missing were the warped Ansel Adams prints and the bulletin board covered with ads for cat-sitters. And, of course, the sock-stealing goblins who haunt every laundry room I’ve ever used, but that’s another story.

Each washer and dryer image is labeled with a number. You can see at a glance the status of every machine. White means the washer or dryer is empty and ready to go; red means it’s in use (and the image actually vibrates like a washing machine or dryer);  pale yellow means the cycle is finished but the user hasn’t opened the door and taken the laundry out; gray means the machine is out of order. Clicking on the red “in use” machines will show how many minutes remain until the cycle is finished.

LaundryView keeps track of when the machines are being used and compiles a graph of weekly use statistics. Plenty of times I’ve thought, “Sunday morning is sure to be quiet — I’ll have the place to myself and catch up with all my laundry,” only to find out every washer and dryer is in use. If I had known to click on the “view weekly stats” link, I would have seen that Sunday morning from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. is the busiest time of the week in my laundry room. Thursday, it turns out, is the best day for laundry. Nobody does laundry on Thursday. I would have thought Monday was the big laundry day, everybody trying to catch up from the weekend, but it turns out that Wednesday is the busiest laundry night of the week. Who knew? How cool is it that LaundryView captured all this data and puts it into a weekly graph?

LaundryView is available in about 100 locations, said Bob Tuttle, executive vice president for technology at Mac-Gray. The alert system works both ways, Tuttle said: Malfunctioning machines will send an alert back to Mac-Gray’s service dispatch system. It’s so popular with college students that students at the University of Iowa developed an iPhone app for LaundryView.

It’s a small thing, but I do believe that apps like LaundryView are the tip of an iceberg we’ve yet to see of innovative apps that will make this a happier, more efficient world. At least on laundry day.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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