British Columbia

Salt Spring Island pushes for public laundry facility

It’s been more than three years since the only public laundry business on Salt Spring Island closed, leaving some members of the community to do their washing in the bathtub or travel to another island to clean their clothes.

No public laundry, showers since February 2016

Ganges on Salt Spring Island near where the Mrs. Clean laundromat used to operate before closing. Some residents now spend hundreds of dollars each month to travel to Vancouver Island to use its laundromats. (Google Street View)

It's been more than three years since the only public laundry business on Salt Spring Island closed, leaving some members of the community to do their washing in the bathtub or travel to another island to clean their clothes.

But if all goes according to plan, the island could have a laundromat by the fall.  

Grassroots organization Wagon Wheel Housing Society has been collecting donations and working with the community to fund and operate a laundromat and public shower facility in Ganges. 

"Everybody supports this idea," Cherie Geauvreau, who works with the society, told CBC's On The Island host Gregor Craigie. "Our community needs a laundromat and public shower more than anything right now."

In February 2016, Mrs. Clean, which had been operating for 25 years, closed. 

Geauvreau said families who have to travel to do their laundry spend up to $100 on ferry costs and laundry fees every couple of weeks. 

"I know of a woman who changes her sheets once a month, and then in the spring she throws them in the bathtub then washes them with a stick and hangs them outside," Geauvreau said. 

"Other people use tubs … where it's a pail with a plunger and you have soap and water in one and rinse water in another. That's what people do here."

In addition, Salt Spring Island has a large homeless population who, without a public laundromat and shower, have no ability to wash their clothing or themselves. 

And on top of all that, the island continues to experience drought year after year. That means water is a hot commodity on the small island and opening a service that uses a lot of water is difficult. 

Before the laundromat can get going, the building has to undergo a water test. That means a plumber will look at the amount of water used by nearby businesses to ensure that there is enough water to support a laundromat and shower service. If that gets cleared, the society will renovate the building and go through necessary inspections before it can open. 

The business plan for the laundromat includes high-efficiency washing machines that use no hot water. 

"We have to be [efficient], because we're in a drought, and water is a huge issue here," she said.

The laundromat and public shower facility will be a non-profit organization, which means the Wagon Wheel Housing Society will continue to fundraise for the project.

With files from On the Island

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