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Laundry Services and Domestic Help

by The Expatriate Lifestyle Editorial Team 3 Jun 2013
Laundry Services and Domestic Help


Laundry services in Malaysia are top-rate, enjoying an Asian ethic to keeping clothes clean and well maintained. You can find everything from local ladies who will clean articles of clothing for RM5-15 up to five-star hotel dry cleaning services which, while expensive (RM20 at the Ritz-Carlton, for example) are certainly cheaper than in the West.

However, most expats will opt for a laundry service, one that comes to their homes (unless you live in a condo with one on-site), picks up and drops off pieces, all at the convenience of a phone call (or in the case of, online).

These services are all bonded (but having said that get a contract for compensation should your clothes be damaged) and have clean trucks and smart staff to drive home the point of their professionalism.

If you’re the DIY type, you can certainly do your own clothes; there are good products on the market for hand-cleaning and washing. But be warned: the water in many buildings is substandard due to pipe rust. Make sure you have a filter in place before your washer (even better buildings are in denial) or hand wash tub.

Also, to keep your clothes from moulding, use the de-humidifier boxes that can be picked up in grocery stores. They have to be changed every few months but they’re worth it. Last but not least in this vein know that they don’t sell cedar balls; if you don’t have them already bring them from home on the next trip.

In the meantime you can get moth balls but better yet, source camphor balls. They don’t have as much stench, but are cheaper and do a great job.


Many expatriates are used to domestic help be they nannies when they were young or house staff that were employed as they grew up. Then again it’s surprising the reluctance of a large portion of international residents, especially ones from Europe, to hire domestic help.

“It’s just not in my DNA,” one expat said with a sigh when the subject came up. It’s time to put those egalitarian emotions aside: this is Asia and there’s nothing at all shameful in getting domestic help, in fact many locals will look at you askance if you don’t, akin to walking in the midday sun.

Almost every middle-class household to some variety either has live-in or hired help to cook and clean, especially families with children. You can either have a live-in person, someone who you provide room and board for, sign a contract with through an agency that adheres to a government programme set up for this purpose or simply hire a local cleaner to come at a schedule you determine.

In the former, you’ll need to seek out a government approved agency and recruit from their list, usually Filipino, Thai, Indonesia or Indian, and go through the bonding process. Prices are determined by country of origin (Indonesian maids run about RM350-450 per month; Filipinos RM950) and contracts are typically two years long.

In the latter situation with a live-out maid (called ‘Ah Mah’), it’s a word-of-mouth game; talk to friends (especially ones in your area) and get referenced help. Expect to guide them on your needs and pay them fairly (RM5-8 per hour is standard).

If you want more institutional help there are cleaning services available. But of course they are more expensive than an Ah mah cleaner and frankly, not as much of an experience as making a bond with a local.

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