For many in Porter Square, the Beacon St. Laundromat may be a better choice than the Showcase Coin-Op. (Photos: Marc Levy)

For many in Porter Square, the Beacon St. Laundromat may be a better choice than the Showcase Coin-Op. (Photos: Marc Levy)

How much is too much to pay for a load of laundry? It depends on the desperation of the wearer of the clothes, but Porter Square residents might not want to get too desperate.

That might induce them to use the Showcase Coin-Op Laundr-O-Mat in nearby Wilson Square, Somerville, and that would be a big mistake.

The minimum price for a load of laundry at the vexingly named Laundr-O-Mat is $5, which is a lot of quarters to wrangle. So it should make you feel better that its washers don’t accept quarters, only cards you can load up with cash value. That feeling goes away quickly when you realize you can buy those cards only there and that each one costs $3. You can recharge them, but don’t lose them.

That means your first load of laundry at Showcase will cost a minimum of $8.

The place is clean, but in a corporate way accompanied by a bland lack of personality and responsibility on the part of the employees, who shrug off questions and problems with unctuous smiles of the “We just work here; what do you want us to do about it?” variety.

A mere four minutes’ walk away — two-tenths of a mile, if that — is the Beacon St. Laundromat (358 Beacon St., Somerville), where the washers are $3 and there are no cards to mess with, just change machines. The amiable owner, Dominic Ruccio, is there to greet you, help you and answer your questions, and he’s set out fruit, magazines and local newspapers. There are power strips and free Wi-Fi for laptops.

While Showcase is next to a Subways and Starbucks, the Beacon St. Laundromat is next to Café Rustica, an almost universally beloved and lauded locally owned bistro with sandwiches, coffee, tea and backyard seating under a willow tree. Another four minutes’ walk away is the Oxford Spa gourmet sandwich shop, which happens to be partnered with its own laundromat — Oxford Laundry Dry Cleaning Coin-Op (104 Oxford St., Cambridge), the sign says — where a wash costs $3.75 and the book borrowing is free.

It’s true dryers are free at Showcase, but are you going to spend $2 drying each load of laundry on Beacon Street? At 25-cent increments, that’s more than an hour of industrial-strength drying.

Ruccio is the first to say Showcase’s card system may be better for those with tons of laundry, such as families, and the size and tone of the place — during the day it has televisions showing Dr. Phil and soap operas — may also have its fans. But it would be a dirty shame if desperation or ignorance kept people going there for their clothes cleaning when there are good alternatives nearby.