I recently went to my building's laundry room to discover all four washing machines occupied, all having started at the same time and filled with similarly-styled men's clothing, leading me to believe the same jerk took them all. I begrudgingly went back upstairs to wait it out and upon returning a long time later, found the guy's clothes still sitting in the washers. What is the laundry room etiquette regarding multiple tubfulls of soggy tighty-whities that are long overdue for the dryer?
--Sleepy Girl in Need of Clean Jammies
Like the office refrigerator, an apartment building's laundry room proves that issues of ettiquette and the strange ways in which New Yorkers interact do not always require that two people be present in the same room at the same time.
Walking into the laundry when you're running low on appropriate sleep attire can indeed be frustrating, especially on busy Sundays before the work week or late at night. That is why Ask Gothamist sleeps naked. But unless your building has a policy enforcing something different - different in terms of using the washing machines, not sleeping naked - your neighbor is free to use as many washers as it takes to clean his tighty-whities. If the four machines had been busy washing four different tenants' clothing, you still would not have been able to do your laundry when you wanted.
The real problem here is that your neighbor left his clothes in the machines well beyond the 30 or 40 minutes it took for the wash cycle to complete. Knowing that he was using all of the washers should have compelled your unknown neighbor to promptly move everything to the dryer, but, alas, it did not. In the face of such disregard for common courtesy what can a jammie-less girl do for some clean clothes?
If it is clear that the clothes have been sitting in the washer for longer than, say, 15 or 20 minutes past the end of the cycle, move the wet clothes. Where should you put them? To an empty dryer (leave the door open so the load is clearly visible) or to one of the laundry carts or baskets that might be provided by your building. As long as the surface on which you put them is clean - and as long as you don't mind touching someone else's wet, but freshly washed tighty-whities - by all means move the clothes.
In the future, washing machines will let people know when the cycle is done.