Millennials in SF seem to have it made with on-demand everything, including services that will pick up their dirty clothes and wash them so they don’t have to.
Rinse, an SF-based on-demand laundry startup, is just the latest to join the ranks of on-demand laundry services like Washio, Laundry Locker, Instawash, SFWash and Sudzee – not to mention the plethora of corner laundry mats they could just walk a few steps over to and clean their own clothes.
As you can see from that list, on-demand laundry is almost as prevalent in the 7×7 as on-demand food delivery. It’s a crowded space. So the mostly bootstrapped Rinse has just raised $3.5 million in seed money to go wash the clothes of any manchild living in Los Angeles, too.
The funding comes from a whole bunch of VC firms, including Arena Ventures, ff Venture Capital, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Accelerator Ventures, MESA Ventures, Expansion Venture Capital, Rothenberg Ventures, Base Ventures, Structure Capital, Otter Rock Capital, and some angels in the fashion industry.
Many of these on-demand laundry services work in a similar way. You sign up on either an app or online and tell the laundry person when to come and pick up your clothing. LaundryLocker is slightly different in that if you don’t have a deposit station in your building you have to haul your bag of dirty clothes to a locker facility for pick-up.
Most of the services range in price from $25-$45 per load, depending on how heavy and/or soiled your clothes are and if you require fancy detergent and/or dryer sheets or want your Lululemon pants hung in a special way.
I had just done all my laundry, including sheets, comforter cover and towels when I was first pitched this story, so I had my friend Chase Bowman test the service out for me.
The first thing I noticed was how expensive it was. It cost him $68.45 for one load of laundry and one comforter. Broken down the price came to $34.50 for 23 pounds of laundry and $30 for the comforter, plus $3.95 for the rush delivery fee. So that is roughly $40 every two weeks or so, depending on how much laundry you do.
Of course, all of these services seem expensive when compared to the $7.50 or so it costs to take two weeks worth of clothes to the laundry mat down the street. And Rinse is comparably priced to LaundryLocker, which I’ve used before.
The thing to keep in mind is that you are paying for other people to deal with your wine stains, sweaty pits and unmentionables.
While that is a tough job, Rinse employees are at least all W-2 workers with benefits, as opposed to the industry standard use of contract workers. Rinse co-founder Ajay Prakash also told me that he provides ways for his employees to move up in the company. So that’s nice.
Rinse co-founder James John grew up in the laundry service in SF so he knew some of the pain points around the trade. He and Prakash studied the best time to pick up the laundry and determined this is mostly later in the evening between 8-10 pm, when people are most likely to be home. Bowman wasn’t keen on this but said that the timing was flexible if you asked for it.
He also wasn’t sure about the plastic wrap around his neatly folded, cleaned clothes when his laundry valet dropped them off.
“The clothes themselves, they came in these cool heavy duty bags that I assume I now own. Inside they were wrapped in plastic bags, which I’m sure is an environmental concern. But I appreciated as it kept everything together (socks and underwear in one bag, the comforter in another, everything else in a third),” he told me. Then added, “The thing I loved the most was the folding. It was so compact and beautiful. I could never fold a shirt that neatly.”
He also liked the website UI for Rinse and that he could text back and forth with the person handling his laundry instead of having to go to an app.
“I guess I don’t see the price as absurdly high, just probably out of my price range currently. I can see it being popular with tech workers and the like. Overall it was a good service and other than the timing issue (which could be resolved with a lockbox if I were to do this for real) I have no complaints,” Bowman said.
Rinse will continue to expand to more areas, hire more people to do laundry and add on more service offerings, according to Prakash. He said he’s still mapping out what those services will be but is thinking of possibly adding shoe repair.