A clean break: Pop-up laundry service offers free wash and dry to Jackson Heights community

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Maria Acuna (right) surprises a Queens resident with a free laundry service.
Photo by Dean Moses

The Laundry Project encouraged those in need to share their dirty laundry on Thursday.

Residents of Jackson Heights were treated to quite the shock when they rolled up their dirty clothes to Laundrybee on 71-16 37th Avenue on June 24. Prepared for another slog at the local washateria, they instead found a group of smiling volunteers who offered to pay for both the cleaning and drying.

Maria Acuna and fellow volunteer Everett Apple. Photo by Dean Moses

Maria Acuna travels throughout the United States with fellow volunteers setting up free services that pay for unsuspecting launderette users to enjoy a free wash and dry in low-income neighborhoods.

This service is designed to not only relieve the financial burden that accumulates with heavy loads, but also to promote the good nature of humanity by aiding in what can be a menial and laborious task.

“Today for three hours anybody who comes in, we pay for their laundry, and we also provide soaps for them to use as well,” Acuna began, sharing her enthusiasm.

“I feel like it is a little light during all the craziness of the pandemic. And laundry can be so expensive, especially if it is for a big family,” Acuna added.     

Acuna shares the good news to a customer that his laundry would be washed free of charge. Photo by Dean Moses

According to the Laundry Project, more than 170,000 loads of laundry have been washed for approximately 17,000 families in more than 600 projects nationwide.

As Queens locals began to trickle in, they were left shocked and thankful for the service, even rushing back home to grab more loads. A superintendent of a local apartment building swiftly spread the word, understanding that the service would be a vital one for many in the community.

Jesus Rodriguez said that this initiative is not only so helpful due to the financial alleviation, but also a great relief due to the time it saves.

Jesus Rodriguez was grateful for the Laundry Project’s help. Photo by Dean Moses

“I was walking by, and I saw it. I have three bags and I am rushing here there and everywhere,” Rodriguez told amNewYork Metro. “I don’t make much money so this is a big help.”

It is interactions like these that Acuna and her team say makes the whole experience worth it, and continues to inspire her.

Acuna pays for a customer’s laundry to be dried. Photo by Dean Moses

Laundry Project prefers not to promote their pop-up events beforehand, instead creating a series of happy accidents for the unaware.

“One time I had a lady come in with two shopping carts and had no idea that she was going to get her laundry done. When we told her, she started crying — it was a beautiful thing,” Acuna said. “She was with a lot of kids, and she said she was debating whether she should do her laundry or go out to eat.”