9 Steps to Doing the Laundry in a Swedish Apartment Building

washing machine

The washing machine

Doing the laundry in my apartment building is a workout. It’s a (relatively) long way away, it involves numerous staircases, a trip outside over ice and snow, and, worst of all, braving the scary 19th century basement. Laundry is not a very “sexy” topic but it’s a slice of Swedish life as I know it.

I live on the 4th floor (technically the 5th floor if you ask me but Swedes don’t call the ground floor the first floor so I am splitting hairs here…)

Assemble all my dirty clothes. I often use the embarassing (if out in public) zebra-striped food cart someone gave me to save my back. Gather the washing powder for colors, washing powder for whites, and liquid softener (necessary evil with the hard water and air drying). Grab the dog. Make sure I have the keys. Make sure I have bags in case the dog does her thing when we pass through the courtyard. Put on boots and jacket….Okay, ready!

Squeeze onto the elevator. There’s hardly room for the laundry bag, me and the dog but you will see why the dog is incredibly important…

Exit into the courtyard and carefully make my way over ice and snow and some dodgy shovelling to the basement door. It’s not far from the back door but it’s kitty corner to the back door in the courtyard. I use my key to open the basement door.

stairs to basement

The stairs leading down to the basement where the communal washing machine is located…Those scary looking footprints are just snow melting from my boots…


I snap on the timed lightswitch and offer a prayer that it doesn’t shut off while I am still down there. Down the basement stairs I go. This is where the dog is vitally important. The basement is scary. It’s got old stonewalls, it’s dark and fairly dirty, it feels like maybe a soul or two might have been tortured down there. (OK, I’m a writer, my imagination can get away from me…) So if the dog doesn’t sense anything, I know the things waiting down there to get me are all on lunchbreak or something and it’s safe.


Turning the corners with some castoff junk stored agains the walls…


I turn a couple of corners and pass the signup list where I earlier signed up for a time slot. Most people must have machines in their apartments because it’s not hard to sign up. I turn right into the washroom.

wash room

The wash room sign-up sheet…


There is only one washing machine in the washroom. Even though it’s not hard to get a time, I wish there were more machines because then I could do simultaneous loads and save on trips up and down the stairs. Oh well, saves on gym memberships.

wash room

A sharp right turn into the wash room where the stone walls give way to plaster and it’s a little less scary…


Rinse and repeat.
I repeat the process at least times four times. In addition to the washing machine there is one dryer, a drying closet, a standing clothes rack, a sink, and a mangle. These are all pretty standard in communal washing rooms in Swedish housing. I usually use just the washing machine.

Keeping an eye on the ghostbuster, er, dog, I carefully make my way back through the scary basement, up the stairs, cross the courtyard and back up the elevator with my wet clothes in tow. I air dry the clothes on hangers and a drying rack in my room to cut down on trips up and down and also to control the amount of ironing needed.

wash room

Scary? I’m just sayin’… (Usually it’s pitch dark but my camera flash has lit up some of the stuff stored in there in this photo…)


It’s all repeated the following week after signing up for a new time. Thank goodness for the dog or I wouldn’t dare!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacob-Ericsson/598648853 Jacob Ericsson

    Oh, it seems like you drew a blank one when it comes to your laundry room. Man that basement looks like something from a SAW movie :o

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Ha ha! Thank goodness for the dog! I’m she’ll save me, right? Right?

  • Monica-USA

    Wow Kristin that does look so scary!!! :o ) To bad you and your roommates can’t save up and buy a wash machine for your apartment?

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Yes but then I would miss all that exercise running up and down the stairs and peeking around scary corners…. :)

  • Barbjfield

    I would have liked to have seen a photo of ‘Rabbit’ doing his job as laundramat guard dog. Makes me appreciate my tiny laundry room.

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Yes, a pic of Rabbit would have been good. Of course, I’m not sure if she wouldn’t just take cover behind me at the key moment!

  • Lola

    That is one seriously scary looking basement. Yikes.

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Ha ha! It is! Poltergeists, anyone?

  • S Terzian-feliz

    Where is the photo of Rabbit attacking the ghosts?

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Much as I love Rabbit…I think she might turn to me and say “Oh no! Do something!” when we see our first Swedish-speaking ghost!

      • Vaestgoete

        Sounds like something out of Scooby Doo.

  • dubium

    Not to scare you but that seems to be a really old basement and there is quite possible those walls have seen some scary or rough stuff through history. I would say “exciting” rather than scary. Usually you can”smell” history in old things like that.

    Stockholm is built in layers in many places, the basements can often have roots way back in medieval times. Some parts of those walls seems to be at least 2-300 years old. Pictures under step 4, 5 and 8 seems to have those kind of really old walls they are made of regular stone, except for brick in the arch in step 5.

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Whew! For a moment I thought you were going to tell me the walls might give way while I’m down there! I guess I just have to worry about ghosts but not structural integrity since they have stood this long…

  • jackie

    After reading this I am truly thankful for my washer and dryer!!!

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      I can live without a dryer and I have been air drying my clothes for over a year but I am starting to have fantasies about a washing machine in the apartment rather than in the basement. The scary basement…

  • Christie

    Travel isn’t always glamorous, is it? ;)

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Whah?! I’m living the life of a glamorous Swedsih model! Don’t know what you’re talking about!

  • Bonnie Holley

    Laundry in Sweden is something. Not knowing the drill, I, an American, spending a weekend in Sweden, foolishly thought I could go to the laundromat and wash clothes. You should have seen the puzzled looks I received while asking for a laundromat. One hotel clerk said “You want to wash your own clothes?” why yes, yes I do. Learned this lesson the hard way. When our friends from Uppsala finally make it to the states, I am going to show them a few laundromats (on almost every corner here) just so they do not think I am crazy!

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      That’s so true! I forgot about that but I have been told there are very few laundromats here. It’s quite a problem for people staying at hotels that don’t have a hotel service or it’s too expensive or something. I also didn’t mention how the washing machines wash the clothes for about 3x the amount of time of American machines. It takes forever!

  • Shoop-da-Whoop

    It’s worth noting that this laundry room doesn’t really represent tthe rest of the laundry rooms in Sweden haha, even I, a native Swede finds this one quite, how to say it… scary?

  • Ran Ma

    This is hilarious!!
    I have been living in stockholm for the two months now and I am sad to say that I have yet to even find where the laundry is….

    Now, if dry cleaning could be just a bit less expensive :(

  • http://www.bes.co.uk/ plumbing

    Use old baby-food jars to hold spices. Stash them in a drawer upside down so this recycling trick looks sleek, not cheap.