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Found in the Sunnyland Neighborhood, both Brio Laundry and Brio Cleaners are shaking up the way Bellingham does laundry. These facilities offer a comfortable and environmentally conscious experience to take the chore out of cleaning.

“It was started with the idea to be a clean and safe place for the neighborhood to do laundry,” says owner Travis Unema, son of founder Colleen Unema. “We started with the highest tech equipment at that time, in 2013: high tech washers and dryers that are water efficient, gas efficient, and time efficient as well.” The machines do this in various ways: water fills faster, drains use less water, and the dryer exhaust is designed to dry very efficiently and use less gas.

Complementing the laundromat’s sustainable practices, Brio Cleaners offers wet cleaning: an eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning that uses water instead of hazardous solvents.

Brio Laundry is located just outside Trader Joe’s, while Brio Cleaners is just down the road next to Avenue Bread and Lucky Panda. Photo courtesy Brio Laundry

“Brio was built on three principles: there’s people, planet, and profit,” Unema says “The people aspect is taking care of the people; whether that’s the team that works here or people that come in and do laundry. And the way you do that is clean working machines, long wash cycles that actually clean the clothes, and taking care of a team that’s working together and being supportive of each other. The planet aspect comes with the equipment we chose and [using] biosafe soaps.”

People

Brio Laundry offers services for family laundry, including special options for pet beds and outdoor gear. At Brio Cleaners, clients can clean “dry clean only” items, such as professional and formal wear, with bulk options for businesses.

“We’ve also increased the pickup and delivery and drop off,” says Unema. “People can come here, do all their clothes and down comforters and tents, and family laundry. They can also drop it off and have us do it.” Since 2020, they have also offered pickup and delivery of laundry.

Brio started with Colleen Unema (right), who continues to speak at industry conferences, and is now under second-generation ownership with Travis Unema (left). Photo courtesy Brio Laundry

Combined, both facilities have an expert team with just over 20 people. And though both are all about cleaning clothes, the laundry team and the cleaners team are two different worlds.

“The laundry is very based on family laundry and how to clean it and stain treat it and work the machines,” Unema says. “The dry cleaners is a production facility, so there are no customers inside. It’s -team members] doing the work. Dress shirts and pants and blouses and all that comes in, and gets done individually, stain-treated and pressed and finished. It’s a lot more hands on.” Brio Cleaners is open fewer hours but has more people at work.

Planet

At Brio Laundry, all processes are designed for sustainability – from phosphate- and plastic-free soaps to the washers and dryers.

“Their drains are designed to use about 1.3 gallons less water than most other competitors per wash,” says Unema. “One gallon times 49 machines, every wash cycle multiple times a day over years — there’s thousands and thousands of gallons of water saved just by a piece of equipment. It’s more expensive and higher maintenance, but we’re willing to do that to conserve water and provide a better service.”

The Brio facilities offer both skilled teams and self-service options. Photo courtesy Brio Laundry

When Brio Cleaners moved into its location, the team removed 70 tons of contaminated soil from a previous dry cleaner.

“The cleaners before used solvents and chemicals that were like the equivalent of a gas station leaving,” Unema says. “It was very expensive and time-consuming to remove all that dirt and hazardous soil. We use water, soap, and steam and it’s all biodegradable, biosafe. It’s good for the clothes, good for the environment. And it’s more expensive, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Putting Profit Back Into the Community

Brio also sponsors and donates to community activities such as Ski to Sea, Common Threads Farm, and Sunnyland Stomp.

“We have a lot of relations with the businesses we do laundry for: hospitals and charter boats and oil tanker ships and schools, bands, where everyone has laundry and we get to see a little bit. Of everyone through the connection, through laundry, so that that’s the kind of way we’re part of the community is we’re there to provide a service that everyone uses.”

Colleen Unema, founder of Brio, has featured in several sustainability spotlights locally and beyond. The brand has set a wide-ranging example of reinvigorating a once-stagnant industry. Photo courtesy Brio Laundry

For returning customers who several loads of family laundry over weekends, Unema says, Brio is “a friendly face” that helps them better manage their work weeks conveniently.

“You can always give us a call and just talk or stop on by,” says Unema, who loves to give tours, answer questions people have, and show them they ways both businesses are eco-friendly. “I love talking about it, so stop on by.”

Brio Laundry
810 Alabama Street in Bellingham
360-634-3938

Brio Cleaners
2317 James Street in Bellingham
360-733-9301

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