Cleanly, the Laundry App that Cuts Out the Dirty Work

By Olivia O'Mahony 6 Min Read

In this the age of the tech startup, new projects that boast the ability to imbue our lives with new conveniences are a dime a dozen – but when one has been glowingly featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fast Company, the Huffington Post, and Fox Business, it’s time to straighten up and start listening.

Called “the Uber of laundry” by, Cleanly is the world’s first laundry subscription service. Yes, really. Absurd as it sounds, it took the brains of our world until now to work out a system that frees us of the burden of dealing with bags of dirty clothes every week, or – let’s face it – every two weeks.

The innovators that we can thank for this are Cleanly co-founders Tom Harari, Itay Forer and Chen Atlas. Their journey began when Harari moved from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, New York. He was for the first time in his life without a washing machine in-building – and the change hit him hard.

“As I started {using laundromats}, I realized that there are all of these hassles involved,” Harari told Fast Company. “It was more headache than it was worth.” He was certain there had to be a less chaotic way to acquire clean underwear, and set out to find it, asking himself: “How come I can order a black limo from an iPhone app, but I can’t do my laundry?”

Cleanly was conceived as an alternative to the typical urban laundry and dry-cleaning service, aiming to nix the problematic laundromat variables of unclear pricing, confusing machine processes, and bad customer service, replacing the entire rigmarole with a simple three-step laundry process: tap a button, sit back, and bear witness to magic at work.

To achieve this, Harari knew exactly what they needed to be fixed. Rather than getting into the relatively simple business of washing people’s clothes, Cleanly’s main objective took the form of finding a seamless way to deliver the washing to and from the delivery service in a timely manner.

“We realized that to do this well, we’d have to take the delivery part away from the cleaners,” Harari said. “They’re good at the cleaning side of things – they’ve been doing it for 20, 25 years. The only reason they offer this delivery service is to stay competitive with all the other cleaners on the block. It’s an extra cost for them; they’re not good at it; and and they can’t do more than a few blocks’ radius around the cleaner.”

Harari took his ideas to Itay Forer, who was at the time working with global fashion brand Elie Tahari. Lacking the technical knowledge they needed to bring their clean-undie dream to fruition, they reached out to Atlas, a programmer who had spent time in the Israeli Defense Forces, building logistics technology systems. It was Atlas’s fresh perspectives that really got the Cleanly ball rolling: he challenged the others to use data to streamline their delivery idea, utilizing information about buzzers, elevators, and doormen to map out a process unparalleled in its efficiency.

Cleanly got off to a low-key start as a beta app, the main customers of which were the co-founders’ friends and family, whose laundry they would pick up and bring to their homes during their lunch breaks and time off work. Running around New York city with bags of laundry on their backs – and looking more than a little unhinged while they were at it – eventually paid off for the trio when, in May 2014, they had the means to quit their day jobs and commit to Cleanly full time.

By October, Cleanly had seen considerable expansion in New York, but to take it further, its team knew that higher levels of funding would be required, leading them to apply to Y Combinator in Silicon Valley. To their shock, they were welcomed in, and things only sped up from there: while the company’s goal at the beginning of Y Combinator was to increase their customer base by a seriously ambitious 10% per week, the rate quickly progressed to 25%. "Our growth chart was just insane," said Harari.

And that growth doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Cleanly recently branched out and began its operations in San Francisco, and as its success mounts, it’s clear that its creators have their pick of what city to bring the gift of on-demand fresh socks to next.

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