Free, you say?

Laundry owners Francois and Christel Stols, with staff Ngaire Wilson and Anita Dawson offering to do laundry for free. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

They say the best things in life are free – even laundry. Once or twice a month, Onyx Laundry Ltd owner Francois Stols lets families in need do their laundry for free at his Mount Maunganui laundromat.

“We don’t do it all the time, only sometimes when I get hassled too much by some of our struggling families,” says Francois. By hassled, he means they ask him nicely.

“It’s basically for families who are struggling to make ends meet. They can come in and we let the machines run without any charge.”

Francois says they’ve run about nine free-laundry days between the Tauranga and Rotorua laundromats since coming up with the idea in November.

“We’ll often have the same families who come on a regular basis. It’s a way of paying back a little bit to our regular patrons who support us.”

It can get pretty busy sometimes, with both washing machines and dryers running for sometimes two hours.

There are four 9kg washing machines and one 18kg, and six 13kg dryers and two 20kg dryers, at the laundromat. So if it costs $4 for a 9kg wash and $10 for an 18kg wash, that means Francois loses $52 if all washing machines are running for two hours.

He’s also losing about $60 from operating the 13kg dryer at $2-a-spin per 12 minutes and the 20kg dryer at $2 per six minutes. That’s $112 worth of free laundry Francois is giving away to families in need in just two hours.

It’s a nice gesture from someone whose laundry career didn’t get the best start.

“About six years ago we had a fire that almost took out half of our premises,” says Francois. He’s talking about his previous laundromat on Hull Rd.

It’s also nice considering the laundromats are Francois’ main source of income.

“About 19 years ago I decided I wanted to work for myself. I thought I’d be Donald Trump by now. But not yet, talk to me in another 10 years,” laughs Francois.