The Chicago suburb of Berwyn is home to the largest laundromat in the world, measuring in at 13,500 square feet and featuring 301 machines. The extraordinary facility is adorned with 16 TV screens, an aviary filled with finches, a massage chair, and arcade games along its front windows. The walls are painted and the word “welcome” is written in neon in 31 different languages, a testament to the multiculturalism present in Berwyn.
The World’s Largest Laundromat doesn’t just claim to hold the world record, it has evidence to prove it. In 1983, the Coin Laundry Association surveyed all potential contenders and empirically declared the Berwyn laundromat to be the one and only title holder, a claim to fame that has remained in place to this day.
Tom Benson, the owner of the World’s Largest Laundromat—as it is simply and straightforwardly known—views the laundromat less as an ordinary facility and more as a “third place,” a community gathering space outside of home and work.
Benson dedicated his spare time to perfecting the laundromat. There are four vending machines, free pizza on Wednesday nights, and daily free coffee and donuts. The community center even holds immigration forums to help prepare local residents for citizenship interviews.
From some back-of-the-envelope calculations, Benson estimated that roughly a quarter of Berwyn’s laundromat-goers were under the age of 16. So to brighten up the lives of Berwyn’s youth, he built a small play area for the kids with activities like face painting, clowns, and Santa during Christmas. To stay green, the World’s Largest Laundromat uses 36 solar panels to heat their water and puts on a fireworks show every year. And, to ensure that the World’s Largest Laundromat is open 24/7, Benson professes that “I don’t have a key! There is no key! Everything’s automatic doors, and they’re always on!”