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On-demand laundry start-up Washio shuts down

Washio, a Santa Monica start-up, aimed to release people from the burden of doing laundry, a process pictured in this file photo.
Washio, a Santa Monica start-up, aimed to release people from the burden of doing laundry, a process pictured in this file photo.
(Ron Johnson / Associated Press)

On-demand laundry and dry cleaning app Washio announced Monday it is shutting down, becoming the latest service-oriented start-up to wash out.

The Santa Monica company expanded quickly to six cities after its launch in 2013, attracting time-crunched customers who wanted their laundry picked up, washed and delivered within 24 hours. Despite raising nearly $17 million in funding, the three founders wrote on the Washio website that they had been forced to close its doors.

“We generated millions in revenue and hundreds of thousands of orders,” the letter said, “but the nature of startups is being innovative and venturing into uncharted territory: sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t.”

Several on-demand start-ups, which seek to deliver products or services at the tap of a button, have folded or struggled recently. In 2014, rival laundry start-up Prim called it quits. Last year, home cleaning service Homejoy shut down after facing lawsuits alleging its workers should be considered employees, rather than independent contractors.

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Washio was also hit with a labor lawsuit making a similar argument (the same attorney has also sued other on-demand companies including Uber, Lyft and Postmates).

Analysts said it can be extremely difficult for on-demand services to make money and hard to maintain high quality. Washio was charging $2.19 a pound for washing and folding clothing, along with a $5.99 delivery fee.

The company has been lambasted by unhappy customers online. On the iTunes store, its current app has only two stars.

“The service is ridiculously expensive,” one reviewer wrote. “Given the cost I would expect my things to be folded nicely and maybe have my socks bound together with a rubber band like every other laundry service in SF. Instead, I received a pile of underwear and a heap of socks.”

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