Launched in September 2021 by siblings Bryan and Cynthia Lok, Clean is a hybrid laundromat-cafe with sustainability at its heart. ‘Often, when it comes to the environment, people don't understand what they need to do or how they can help,’ says Cynthia. ‘We thought, since drinking coffee and doing laundry are already essential habits of a Hong Kong citizen, why don't we make changes here, so that these activities can become more sustainable?’ From energy-efficient washing machines to coffee beans certified by environmental non-profit Rainforest Alliance, Clean is focused on greening its operations. We stopped by the space in the Sheung Wan neighborhood and got the details.
‘In Hong Kong, laundromats are essential – apartments are usually quite small, so not everyone has a washing machine in their own homes,’ says Cynthia. ‘We chose the Sheung Wan neighborhood because it has a good mix of people – in terms of age, nationality and interests – and a slightly slower pace of life. That way, people are more likely to stop by and listen to what we want to say [about sustainability].’
When it comes to appearances, with its millennial‑pink window frames and branding, sage‑green washing machines and a scattering of plants, Clean certainly has plenty of Insta-friendly appeal. ‘Often, laundromats are a bit dark and clinical, and doing laundry isn't exactly “fun”. We wanted to change that, so we made sure to create a fun and bright environment for our customers,’ explains Cynthia.
Clean prioritizes working with local roasters, and its coffee is brewed using only Rainforest Alliance-certified or direct trade beans. Lattes are made with Oatly oat milk as the default – dairy milk can be requested for an additional HK$2. ‘We're happy to provide dairy milk, but at an extra cost,’ says Cynthia. Plus, all takeaway packaging is recyclable and home compostable.
Clean uses ECOS detergent, which is environmentally friendly, vegan, hypoallergenic and non-toxic. ‘The machines automatically dispense the detergent to prevent over-consumption,’ says Cynthia.
Clothes made of synthetic materials, such as polyester, shed tiny plastic fibers called microfibers, which more often than not end up polluting the oceans. At Clean, customers can rent a Cora Ball, which prevents clothes from shedding these fibers and traps any fragments that may be released during the washing process.
The laundromat has adopted a cashless system to minimize paper usage. Payments are accepted via Alipay, WeChat Pay and Octopus (a reusable contactless smart card).
There are six LG washing machines at Clean. According to Cynthia, they've been selected for their energy and water efficiency, and offer only cold washes to further reduce their environmental footprint. ‘Our machines also send a text to our customers when the washing cycle is near completion, so they can go off and do their own things without worrying too much about time,’ she says.
The cafe is open from 8am to 5pm daily, while the laundromat is open round the clock to better serve the community.
When it comes to dividing up responsibilities, Cynthia is in charge of operations and marketing, while Bryan takes care of finances. They also have three other employees.
This article was first published in Courier issue 45, February/March 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.