When doing the right thing is economically difficult – washing machine

I’m renting my house out on airbnb, to give me more flexibility in travel (listing here, if you’re keen) and need to think about upgrading some things. One of those is a washing machine, do I get one? I’ve been hauling my washing to my partner on the weekends (we don’t live together – one of the options of renting my house is to move in with him, maybe).

I would think the equitable and industrially ecological thing to do was use the laundromat down the road. It would be supporting a small local business, sweating their assets rather than have mine stand idle all week except for the one load I expect to do, and bonus! I get my stuff dried and folded. Last time I used them they were R100 for a load, so let’s use that as a nice round number, and fantastic service.

Obviously a helluva lot of assumptions are going in here, but I just want a rough ballpark idea of what we’re dealing with, so I did some calculations to answer the question “Should I buy a washing machine?”

Buying a washing machine would cost in the region of, I dunno, R5 000? (Price check washing machines …  Quick distraction OMG smeg washing machine! Yes! I want one! Uh, R30 000 … I’ll daydream about it a bit longer but that’s it). OK, let’s take this the other way and look at what a washing machine can cost to still win over the laundromat.

This is a washing machine not a fridge, and I am totes in love with it. Overpriced, not as reliable as Miele (apparently) but gosh, gorgeous.

Apparently washing machines should last at least 8 or 11 years, but let’s use a ‘break-even’ of 5 years for this calculation – so the money spent on taking the washing to the laundromat should be less than the purchase price of the washing machine divided by (5 * 52 weeks * 1 load per week = 260). If I pay the laundromat R100 per week then a washing machine needs to cost less than R26 000 to win, and that is without accounting for inflation related price increases. I can almost argue for that smeg.

Then there’s the cost of electricity, water, detergent, and labour. Leaving labour out for the moment the consumables cost a princely sum of about R7 per load, half of that being the detergent. And you wonder why we waste so much, because it’s so cheap, that’s why. By the way, a post on greening your water use at capetowngreenmap.

Now another ‘boot problem’ as Terry Pratchet would say, the more expensive washing machine probably lasts longer, saves more energy etc etc, but there’s no way  I can afford a R30 000 machine.

The biggest problem turned out to be the people. If I pay someone to do this for me, then it’s same-same if it’s the laundromat or the domestic (well, domestic is cheaper if you pay minimum rates, but I pay three times that for daily wages, I can’t live with myself to pay that little, holy cow). Currently I do my washing myself. I don’t have a domestic, for the simple reason that I find it a terrible thing, to have someone else clean my shit up for me. Yes, I do get in labour to clean, sometimes, but then I’m right there cleaning with them. Same as the garden labour, and I guiltily stalk off to do computer work when I need to earn income to pay them. I find this whole set-up so problematic and I don’t know what to do about it. Sure, if I had kids or a big house or whatever then I guess the load would get too much and I could justify hiring staff. I just feel that people should do quality jobs, and get paid well for it. I can’t afford paying well, so I stay without. Is this better? Is not getting exploited at all – in essence, forgotten, made redundant, irrelevant?? free to do something else?? – better than getting a low paying wage?

My conclusion is, for now, using the laundromat. It neatly sidesteps the issue by supporting local business, which just feels like the right thing to do.

Still thinking about that smeg. This cutie was discovered on https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/smegs-small-space-washer-with-74500. but, nope, not getting it.


2 Replies to “When doing the right thing is economically difficult – washing machine”

  1. There are a couple of points that spring to mind.

    Less importantly, it’s easy to get major brand washing powder for R30/kg if you shop carefully, and my routine wash takes no more than 50 litres.

    More importantly, if you would feel bad paying less than R105 for the labour element of doing it in house, paying only R100 for wash, dry and fold doesn’t sound like doing local business a favour?

    And if you’re prepared to consider a Smeg appliance then there is no scope for logic and reasoned economics

    1. Re the washing powder and the water use, I was trying to show that even with a very conservative element this still adds up to peanuts.

      Re the R105 to labour in someone else’s house with inefficient ways of washing and hauling stuff versus the jacked-up laundromat I think local business wins, but I haven’t considered all the aspects around this. As I said, I don’t know what the best thing to do here is, but to get a domestic I would still have to buy the machine in the first place. Once I have the machine I’ll do the washing myself so the domestic loses in every case anyway, unfortunately. I definitely don’t have money for a machine and a domestic, minimum wage or otherwise.

      True about the smeg 🙂 I don’t think I will be able to seriously consider it, no. So still a little bit of space for logic?

      But I think my conclusion is here that the economics doesn’t work in favour of equity. If this was seriously only an economic decision, then I would buy a decent machine (costing say R10k?) and do my washing myself – that would save the most money in the long run. No money to a domestic, no money to local business, loads of idle time on the machine (maybe I can tell people they can come wash their stuff here for free?). We haven’t even touched on environment because I think the material footprint of the piece of metal and concrete to then stand idle most of the time probably doesn’t score well.

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