Jessica Perkins, left, disinfects a folding counter Tuesday while chatting with customer Wanda Clark at the Western Avenue Laundromat in Augusta. Perkins said she cleans the machines and folding areas several times a shift, and each machine is cleaned inside and out at the close of business each day. Laundromats across the United States are anticipating a surge of business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

AUGUSTA — While other types of businesses are closing up to halt the spread of coronavirus, central Maine laundromat owners are preparing for an essential role in prevention.

Todd Hedrick, who owns a dozen laundromats from Presque Isle to Sanford — including Bangor Street Laundromat and Western Avenue Laundromat in Augusta, said laundromats are “imperative” to the prevention of the virus and the employees are stepping us cleaning of highly-trafficked areas at the businesses.

“Along with frequent hand washing, the (Center for Disease Control) said make frequent laundering … a routine,” he said. “(Customers are) going in more frequently because they have to clean their garments.”

On Tuesday, state officials said there were 32 positive and likely cases of coronavirus statewide, including the first case in Kennebec County. The rapidly increasing case volume is leading to closures of municipal offices and restaurants.

Jessica Perkins disinfects washing machines Tuesday at Western Avenue Laundromat in Augusta. Perkins said she cleans the machines and folding areas several times a shift, and each machine is cleaned inside and out at the close of business each day. Laundromats across the United States are anticipating a surge of business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Hedrick said employees have been asked if the laundromat is closing, with the answer being a resounding “no.” He said his employees have been ramping up their routine cleaning, including disinfecting surfaces, and the handles of the washers and dryers. Hedrick said his employees are “up for the task” of remaining open through the outbreak.

“You can’t … go without washing your clothes,” he said. “If people can’t wash their clothes, it doesn’t make them feel secure.”

Hedrick said any customers who were concerned about catching the virus could wait in their cars while doing laundry to reduce exposure to others and take their laundry home before folding it.

Kitty Carrier, owner of the Randolph Poly Clean, said she closed her laundromat Tuesday after employees expressed concerns of becoming infected and potentially infecting their loved ones. Before the closure, she said, the laundromat was busy. Any customers who still have clothing at the laundromat can arrange appointments to pick up their laundry, Carrier said.

Carrier said customers were standoffish about the cleanliness of the business before doing their laundry. She said some of her employees will come in and clean to collect their wages.

Carrier, who said she has owned the laundromat for 52 years, said she only closed twice before — once for a flood that was up to the front desk and also for the Ice Storm of 1998.

“I’m 72, I’m a very healthy person,” she said. “I don’t think I could catch it, but who knows. I’m trying to do my part.”

Al Aronson, owner of Gardiner-based commercial laundry and cleaning company Spruce It Up Services, said he was surprised that his company’s clients have not made more requests for cleaning services in the wake of the outbreak.

“Maybe everybody feels like they know how to do it themselves,” he said.

Aronson said his company has about a month’s supply of cleaning products, while his suppliers are back-stocked for about a month. He said his company’s operations will remain the same for now.

While his company often doesn’t do private laundry, Aronson said he would do some laundry himself if people needed it done. He said it was important to educate the public on cleaning procedures to remain on top of the virus as it spreads.


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