Washio picks up your dirty laundry, dry cleaning with the tap of an app


Washio's laundry on-demand app. (Courtesy of Washio/Courtesy of Washio)

Attention all lazy 20-somethings, time-strapped professionals and overtired parents: Put down the laundry detergent and pick up your smartphone.

A mobile application called Washio officially launched in the District Thursday with a promise to gather up your dirty laundry and dry cleaning, send it to be professionally cleaned and return it to your doorstep the next day.

Indeed, the on-demand app culture that brought you car services like Uber and Lyft and delivery services like Postmates now wants to give you a hand with your hamper.

“The reality is dry cleaners across America have always been a convenience-based service,” said founder Jordan Metzner. “You need to be a certain amount of distance with a customer’s home to get their business.”

It doesn’t get much closer than Washio.

Customers summon one of Washio’s “ninjas” to pick up their laundry or dry cleaning during a 30-minute window in the morning or evening. Items are returned 24 hours later — washed, fluffed and folded.

The company charges $1.60 per pound for wash-and-fold laundry and $5 to $38 per item for dry cleaning, depending on the item. “Ninjas” will pick up everything from suits to leather jackets, king-sized comforters and wedding dresses.

“We try to make the whole service as ubiquitous as possible,” Metzner said.

By comparison, the prices at the Zips Dry Cleaners in Van Ness run from $1.47 for a regular work shirt to $31.71 for items made of leather or suede. Zips can also return your items same day if you’re in the door before 9 a.m.

Washio ninja Lori Dando ran three orders Tuesday night during the evening commute.

The first stop: Elizabeth Johnson, 22, had a handful of blouses that needed to be laundered.

“I have a laundromat right in my basement but they’re really expensive and I don’t like going there because they’re not friendly,” said Johnson, who heard about Washio through a promotional e-mail that included a credit to try the service free of charge.

In the lobby of Johnson’s Chinatown apartment building, Dando stuffed the clothes into heavy-duty bags and handed Johnson a peppermint cookie from a local bakery — a hallmark of Washio’s customer service.

“Their eyes light up. Who doesn’t want a cookie?”said Dando, who gets paid hourly by Washio. “You’re not going to walk into a laundromat and they hand you a cookie.”

Less than10 minutes later, Dando was en route to the rowhome of Jake and Jessica Ward. The parents of a 2.5-year-old gladly outsourced a load of laundry and dry cleaning to Washio in exchange for the extra time at work and home.

“Anything’s easier than trying to get out of work to get to the dry cleaners," Jessica Ward said.

Washio got its start in Los Angeles before expanding to San Francisco last October.

The upstart settled on the District as its third market after analyzing the city’s population, average income, number of professionals and other factors. The firm will initially cover much of Northwest with plans to gradually add Zip codes over time, Metzner said.

It helps that Washio has attracted venture capital from entrepreneurs with local ties, including AddThis chairman Hooman Radfar, former Webs.com chief executive Haroon Mokhtarzada and Saba Software founder Bobby Yazdani.

The company’s slate of investors also includes Hollywood hotshots such as actor Ashton Kutcher, musician Calvin Harris, and music industry managers Troy Carter and Scooter Braun, Metzner said.

For Washio, the shift to D.C. may be as much cultural as it is coastal.

“While standard work attire in San Francisco consists of jeans and a T-shirt, Washingtonians are associated with pencil skirts, dark suits and aspirational dressing,” Metzner said. “As a result, we expect to do considerably more dry cleaning as a percentage of our sales mix in D.C. compared to our first two markets.”

“Ninjas” here must also contend with the complex grid-and-circle traffic patterns of Washington and, as the past week has demonstrated, weather conditions not commonly found in sunny California.

“D.C. will have its own mix of weather and logistical challenges that we haven’t experienced on the West Coast. We’re preparing for all sorts of snow, wind, rain and seasonal congressional migratory patterns,” Metzner said.

Follow Steven Overly on Twitter: @StevenOverly

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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