Do We Really Need Tech Startups to Do Our Laundry for Us?

At least six laundry apps have sprung up in the past year. They must be banking on a whole load of people shitting themselves if they hope to turn any kind of profit.

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Nov 5 2014, 5:31pm

A surprisingly un-bleak laundromat. Photo by ​Mattias​ W​erner  ​via Flickr

This post originally appeared on VICE UK

​Real talk: I hugely enjoy getting a good load of laundry done. I have a special laundry bag that hangs on my wardrobe. I separate my darks and my lights and my colors. I tie careful knots in my hoody strings and turn my jeans inside-out. Oh what's that? Girl, that's a Surf liquitab. Smell this cardigan. I washed it eight months ago and it still smells of ylang-ylang. No crumbly-ass tablets for me. No gnarly old laundry balls. 

Anyway, safe to say that yes, I have opinions on laundry. Which means I was shocked to my very core when I heard of a new startup called ZipJet, a service which bills itself as the "Uber f​or laundry."

Does that mean a load of dry cleaners are going to block up London's Trafalgar Square in protest, putting a whole 14 pound thing of detergent in the fountain and foaming everything up? Does that mean surge pricing will lead to five shirts costing $140 to dry clean? Does that mean ZipJet will ​occasio​nally (allegedly) kidnap people?

No: It's not like Uber like that. But it is like Uber in that it promises to take laundry from your house and then bring back laundry to your house, and also there's an app. It's like Uber in that it takes a very simple job and makes it even simpler and slightly more expensive. It's like Uber in that it's not really like Uber; it's just a startup, and every single startup in the land is now legally required to announce itself in comparison to Uber.

A slightly bleaker but still not that bleak laundry. Photo by ​Shini​chi ​Higashi,  ​via Flickr

"The new startup finally liberates Londoners from the tedious task of laundry," the spiel goes. HEY. DOING LAUNDRY IS FUN. "With jet speed, our pilots pick up your dirty clothing whenever and wherever you like and return them fresh and clean within 24 hours." 

Essentially, it's a service that gives you all the benefits of dry cleaning your clothes without the bother of having to walk up and down some stairs to go to the dry cleaning shop that is literally on your road. People who get their clothes dry-cleaned on the regs are either doing it because they wear a lot of black dresses and get frequently Lewinsky'd, or because they cannot be bothered to do laundry. They favor the half-chore of going to the dry cleaners over the full chore of just doing some laundry like a normal person. They are, essentially, the laziest humans alive. ZipJet proposes to make them lazier.

ZipJet isn't even the only laundry startup launched this year: there's also Washbox and Spyn and ihateironing.com, and LaundryRepublic and Lavanda and Laundrapp. And Pinglocker. All of them competing to be the all-in-one service that takes your dirty clothes and takes them to a massive out-of-town laundromat and then brings them back, for really not a whole lot of profit, unless people choose to up-sell on tough stains. The newest tech bubble is putting a lot on people spilling an entire bottle of wine down themselves or finding their pants sullied with a fine-grain skid mark.

Pegs and that. Photo by  ​Flickr user ​7-How-7

But the question is: who is this for? The startup's manifesto (every startup must have a manifesto) cites the supposed jam-packed and busy lives we all lead as being its raison d'etre, the niche into which ZipJet will slip. But if you are too busy to press a button on a fucking washing machine, are you not also too busy to sit at home for an allocated half-hour time slot waiting for someone to come and grab your T-shirts and jumpers? Are you not too busy to mess around with an app? Do we really need eight laundry startups just to wash the same cash-rich, time-poor dude's shirt?

I like doing laundry because having a radiator neatly packed with slowly drying underwear gives me a real sense of achievement in my otherwise shitshow of a life. I like doing laundry because it feels like I am doing something. I like putting big piles of wet clothes into a laundry basket and pinning them out and then, like literal magic, waking up the next morning to some clean socks to put on. I like doing laundry because it is mindless and soothing. I like doing laundry because, like Sisyphus pushing that rock up that mountain, it never ends. The need to do laundry is unerring and constant. A metronome that keeps ticking in the background of my life. Realizing that I'd been scheduling my laundry (one big load of darks on a Sunday, a lighter load of whites and possibly colors on a Thursday night) was one of the first things that taught me I had suddenly become an adult. 

And now ZipJet wants to take that away from me? No, ZipJet. No. You may not have a sack full of my soiled underwear to wash. Get out of here and take your laundry startup pals with you.

Follow Joel Golby on  ​Twitter.

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