BMT: Laundry

Hey, this may seem like a random BMT post, but wouldn’t you rather know the nitty-gritty random details?  I like to think they’re interesting, at least!  🙂

Laundry is an important matter at BMT.
Laundry > Clean Clothes > Rolling and Folding > Personal Area Inspection > Graduating
As a wife of a man who typically leaves me to do all of the laundries, I was excited about going away for the summer, thinking that I’d get a break.  Not so.  I soon found myself in my own personal laundry hell…
photo Laundry in BMT

Machine Laundering

At BMT, you have a laundry crew of approximately two to four trainees in your flight.  They’ll do everyone’s laundry for the next eight and a half weeks.  Everyones.  They’ll pretty much be doing laundry all day long, and competing with a number of other flights for the machines in the laundry room.
If you’re considering volunteering to be on the laundry crew, keep in mind these facts, both positive and negative:
  • You’ll spend most of your time in the laundry room.  Depending on the season, this could be a good or bad thing.
  • You’ll get a ton of time to study your BMTSG.  This will come in handy as it gets closer to your EOC (End of Course exam).
  • You’ll spend time with laundry crews from other flights.  This gives you an opportunity to take some advice from those just returning from BEAST.  It also gives you a chance to socialize with the opposite sex.  Be careful – you will get blasted by MTIs if they come in and find you chatting and not studying.
  • You’re most likely going to be right next to the squadron patio.  Don’t be stupid and think you can sneak out there to the vending machines and get away with it.  Not going to happen.
  • You’re going to have a hard time managing the laundry load and schedule in the beginning.  Trainees will be frustrated and angry with you.  You’ll hate your job, at least initially.
  • You’ll have to collect laundry right after PT.  That being said, your shower time will be limited, if you even get to dash in and out.
  • You’ll also be responsible for taking all of the linens down for linen exchange day.
  • You’ll be washing the cleaning rags.  You’ll hear it from your MTI if they’re not clean when it’s time to be cleaning the dorm.
  • You’ll do laundry at BEAST.  Mhmm.  Don’t even get a break there.
  • You’ll be doing all of the sandy, sweaty laundry upon return from BEAST.
  • You may miss non-mandatory classes or exercises if you have laundry to do.
  • You’ll have a 341 pulled if there’s a wet spot on the laundry bags, so you’ll have to ensure that you’ve always got a trash bag liner in there.

photo Laundry in Air Force BMT

All of the negative aside, you will get an opportunity to bond with your brother/sister flight’s laundry crew, since you’ll be spending a lot of time together.  Our laundry crew members became very close in the end.  Initially, it’s not an easy job.  My laundry crew was pissy and frustrated by how difficult the task was, and my MTI had a short fuse while they straightened themselves out.  Eventually, you’ll wisen up on how to make it work for your flight after you’ve set up a standardized system of how laundry is collected, stored, and passed out.

Laundry pass-out is another monumental task, given 50ish people in your flight.  All clothing items have a laundry mark, which is your last initial, and the last four of your social security number.  Smaller items are placed in mesh bags, which have your laundry mark on them.  We passed out laundry two different ways, with the second one being more successful for us.

  1. Laundry Train – This method was encouraged by our MTI team, but we were ended up straying away from it.  Flight members place a piece of notebook paper with their laundry mark at the end of their bed.  Laundry is dumped at the end of one of the bays.  The entire flight walks in a single file, grabs a few items, and starts making a big loop through the dorm, dropping items on the appropriate bed as they walk by.
  2. Day Room/SSN Piles – A small group of trainees dump the laundry out in the dayroom, and organize it into ten piles, based on the first number of your laundry mark.  After everything was sorted, we would call elements in, one at a time, to retrieve their laundry.  In a pinch, we could also pile the laundry up in the hallway, if it was after lights out and the day room was closed.  We ended up transitioning to this method, simply because a few trainees could organize the laundry, and then individuals were responsible for picking it up.  We could see right off the bat who wasn’t picking up their laundry.  Also, you learned to recognize the laundry marks of your wingmen, so you could help them out if they were occupied.  I passed out a lot of laundries as my trainees worked, especially near the end.  This allowed them to immediately start working in their areas, and usually, my wingman started on my rolling and folding.

Laundry gets lost at BMT, just like at home.  Between all of those people and mesh bags that burst open, it happens.  I lost a pair of my good spandex/compression shorts along the way.  Make sure you’ll always checking your laundry marks and darkening them as needed.

 air force bmt female laundry
“Living Out of the Laundry Bags” is a phrase I guarantee that you’ll hear at BMT.  It’s a strategy for playing the game smarter, in order to minimize inspection errors.  Your wall locker has to be organized in a very particular way, with clothing folded and rolled perfectly.  In their (rightful) minds, if they can’t trust you to put attention to detail into rolling a shirt, how can they trust you to work on a multi-million dollar aircraft?  Any errors will contribute to demerits.  If you get enough demerits, you’ll fail your inspection.  Fail the second inspection and you’ll have to prepare for an inspection by your section supervisor.  Fail that inspection and you’ll likely to get recycled.  It’s that big of a deal.  Living out of the laundry bags refers to a delicate balance of having items rolled and folded in your drawer that you never touch/use/wear, and alternating between two items.  One item is being worn, and the other is being washed.  You’ll cycle back and forth between those two items.  This is a very difficult synergy to achieve, and it hinges on having a strong laundry crew, as well as an effective method for passing out the laundry.  The perk of achieving this synergy is that you don’t have to roll and fold all of the time, and you don’t have to mess up any “inspection perfection” items in your drawer.

BMT provides you with six large jugs of laundry detergent when you arrive. For us, it was the All Free + Clear.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and trainees will need to start purchasing their own laundry detergent to contribute to the laundry crew.  Purex is the cheapest one available at the mini-mall.  You’ll also need to save a jug of that detergent to take to BEAST with you.  Your clothes will not smell of fresh laundry softener, like at home.  You may not notice a change in scent at all, even after clothes are washed.  Your whites will get dingy looking.  My white sports bras have still not recovered, even after being home and using bleach.  When you arrive at tech school, older Airmen will tease you about smelling “like Lackland.”  You’ll promptly wash all of your clothes to nix that.

photo BMT: Laundry

Dry Cleaning

There is a dry cleaner in every squadron, believe it or not, and you’ll use it.  The charges are reasonable, although they do add up quickly.  These folks take all methods of payment, including EZ Pay cards and your normal debit cards.

Despite the fact that your BMTSG will say not to dry clean your ABUs, you’ll take them there.  You’ll do this up until the point that someone runs out of their EZ Pay cash, then you may have people put them in the regular laundry.  In the same vein as living out of your laundry bag, we often had one pair of ABUs on our person, maybe one in the wall locker, and two at the dry cleaner (unless the MTI on CQ yelled for everyone to pick up their dry cleaning).  Once you bring dry cleaning back into the dorm, you’ll have to make sure it’s on the correct hanger (in order to be consistent with the rest of your flight), and you’ll have to clip loose threads.  That’s the biggest PITA – you literally have to go over every exterior seam and clip every thread so it’s not protruding.  It’s time-consuming, to say the least.  We’d sit down with tweezers, scissors from the sewing kit, and a lint roller, and go to town.  There were many late-night parties in the drying room off the shower, where we would sit on the bench and clip threads after lights out.  If you have a uniform in your locker, it needs to be clipped.  Every time a uniform comes back from the dry cleaner (or out of the washer), chance are you have a loose thread.

They’ll give you specific instructions as to how to prepare clothes to turn to the dry cleaner at a briefing on your first trip there.  Clothing will come back with orange tags affixed to every piece you dry clean.  Do yourself a favor and remove them either at the dry cleaner or immediately upon return to the dorm.  Our MTI used to tell us that they contributed to radiation poisoning, and therefore you needed to keep them out of the dorm.  Bottom line, if you don’t remove them right away you may forget, and they will count as a demerit during inspections.

The Dry Cleaners will clean your ABUs, which can be machine laundered in the end, they can do your hats, and they must do all of your blues.  You will not be machine laundering blues – trust me, you wouldn’t want to at BMT.  Eventually, the Dry Cleaner will sew on your stripes and send your lightweight blue jackets out for embroidery (if your flight decides on this option).

You’ll have a love/hate relationship with the dry cleaners.  They do lose items and items get ruined.  I had Sharpie marks show up on my ABUs that weren’t there when I turned them in.  They also lost one of my short-sleeved blue shirts.  They do have a rack of unclaimed clothes that are available for purchase for a cheap price if you should need to replace one of your items.  You’ll just have to line out the laundry mark and replace it with your own.  If you receive an item that is unserviceable, advocate for yourself, and bring it to the attention of the staff as soon as possible.  They’ll attempt to have it cleaned again, but it is again returned in unacceptable condition, make another complaint and ask for a replacement.  If the Dry Cleaners continue to hassle you, let your MTI know.

Huge post on laundry, am I right?!  And you thought this wouldn’t be interesting!



  • Erinsaid

    Yes, you probably do. 🙂 I was glad to clean all of my clothes at tech school, and wash them according to my preferences.

  • Nataliasaid

    Whoa! We had to do our own laundry on our own (very limited) time. There was a contract laundry service that we paid for (without a choice) but they often lost items, mixed them up or were late on delivery. I really need to backpost my adventures from BCT!

  • Franshesca Apontesaid

    So when you arrive back from pt you just plop your clothes in your mesh bag and go? And when will you get to shower? And last thing… Will you shower only once a day?

  • Erinsaid

    @Franchesca – Yes, after our laundry crew got the hang of things, that's what we did. We'd strip down, dump the mesh bags and laundry in the big laundry bags and went for a quick shower. You shower twice a day – once after PT and once at night. Note that I never washed my hair after PT. I put it up so that it was good to go throughout PT and my shower.

  • Franshesca Apontesaid

    Mk, and I would assume that if you leave your pt clothes on ur bed after pt you will be yelled at and also the laundry crew will wash your clothes every night? Cause u need ur pt clothes for the next morning. Or do you just wear it again. And also your daily uniforms. How often will you wash those?

  • Erinsaid

    @Franshesca – Yeah, that's a no-no. You can't leave anything out. The laundry crew washes during the day, and occasionally missing this as a result. You'll wear fresh PTs every day. Uniforms are dry cleaned. We would go at least 2 – 3 days before swapping out.

  • Franshesca Apontesaid

    ok 🙂 i was thinking about trying to go into bmt (wen i go) in the winter if it was possible. i rather work in the cold than in the heat. i know it probably wont be "that" cold but is that an option?

  • Anne Paynesaid

    All of this information is amazing. Thank you for posting! I wish we had known about your blog before my son left for BMT in Feb. He said his flight is really struggling with inspections, and that he is personally struggling with the clothing inspections. He's in 4 WOT right now so I guess it wouldn't do me much good to print your advice out and mail it to him, huh?

  • Erinsaid

    @Anne Payne – Thank you so much, glad to help! I wouldn't stress too much at this point – he's pretty much at the point where things will start to click for them as they get closer to graduation. Part of those failures is to force improvement – the MTIs will always make them feel as though they're doing worse than they really are. Good luck to you both, and enjoy that graduation!

  • Madison Wilkiesaid

    So I have tried every laundry detergent out there and everything but Tide makes me break out in hives. Do you know if they have Tide at the Bx? Or if I would be able to bring my own?