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A self-service laundry, coin laundry or coin wash is a facility where clothes are washed and dried. They are known in the United Kingdom as launderettes or laundrettes, and in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as laundromats (from the genericized trademark of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation) or washaterias. George Edward Pendray created the word "laundromat" for Westinghouse.
Some laundries employ staff to provide service for the customers. Minimal service centres may simply provide an attendant behind a counter to provide change, sell washing powder, and watch unattended machines for potential theft of clothing. Others allow customers to drop off clothing to be washed, dried, and folded. This is often referred to as Fluff & Fold, Wash-n-Fold, Drop Off, bachelor bundles, a service wash or full-service wash. Some staffed laundry facilities also provide dry cleaning pick-up and drop-off. There are over 35,000 laundries throughout the United States. Similar services exist in the United Kingdom where the terms service wash or full-service wash are also in use.
Fluff n Fold services
The evolution of self-serve laundry services have been seen in some "fluff n fold" services provided by various laundromats. These services provide the end user with wash, dry, and folding services on a per pound basis. Some services offer free pickup and delivery as well as complimentary laundry bags as part of their customer appreciation. Additionally, dry-cleaning services have been known to utilize the pickup and delivery as a means to help generate additional revenue.
Wash-A-Teria (United States)
Washateria is an alternate name for laundromat, especially in Texas. The first washateria so named was opened in 1936 in Fort Worth, Texas by Noah Brannen. Though steam-powered laundry machines were invented in the 19th century, their cost put them out of reach of many. Brennan and others began renting short-term use of their machines. Most laundromats and washaterias in the US are fully automated and coin-operated and generally unmanned, with many (but not all) operating 24 hours a day.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that there are 11,000 of this style of laundromats in the US, employing 39,000 people and generating over $3.4 billion every year.
Launderettes (United Kingdom)
The first UK launderette (alternative spelling: "laundrette") was opened on 9 May 1949 in Queensway (London). UK launderettes are mainly fully automated, coin-operated and are either manned or unmanned. Some may be manned during fewer hours than the operating time each week. They are generally found only in urban and suburban areas and have been common features of urban life since the 1960s. In the last two decades there has been a decline in the number of launderettes, to approximately 3000 nationally.
Rapidly rising utility charges, premises rent and a lower purchase cost of domestic machines have been noted as principal reasons for the recent decline. High initial launch costs, specifically for commercial washing machines and dryers, have also been commented on as reasons for fewer new entrants into the market. Furthermore, machine updates can be prohibitively expensive, which has held back premises investment.
Most UK households have bedding (such as duvets and comforters) which are far above the capacity of domestic machines, making launderettes the only means available for cleaning them.
Many of the manned operations in the UK have added value services such as ironing, dry cleaning and service washes, which prove popular to busy professionals, students, and senior citizens. Student accommodation blocks often have their own unmanned laundries, which are typically commercially run at a profit by the accommodation provider.
Local directories such as the Yellow Pages and Thomson only show those laundries that have chosen to pay for an entry in their directories, so trends are difficult to assess. However, cities such as Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds have significant numbers of launderettes, as do many coastal tourist areas.
The main manufacturers serving the UK in this market are Ipso Electrolux, Primus, and Maytag. Brands such as Speed Queen and Frigidaire are also regularly deployed, with most originating from Belgium and the USA.
Whilst the future of launderettes in the UK is not assured, domestic machine users experiencing breakdowns in the home, users of large bedding, and tourists are potential customers, thereby making the provision valuable to the community.
Australia shares a very similar pattern as that of the UK. Self Service Laundries are widely available and in use by a good percentage of the population. Due to its mild weather, Australia has a much smaller percentage of dryer owners, as the mild weather allows for hanging laundry outside for most of the year, with the exception of a few months. The brief Australian winter sees a surge in the usage of drying machines, usually easily found in Self Service Laundries.
Laundromats (New Zealand)
In New Zealand Self Service Laundries are available, but not widely used. The NZ culture tends to be reserved with in house laundry facilities, but with the rise in apartment dwellers this is slowing. Most houses also operate their own dryer as the temperate climate can have often unpredictable downpours. There is a rise in delivered laundry and ironing services as NZ's better off are starting to outsource in line with the value of their time.
In popular culture
- The 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette was set in a launderette in London.
- The television soap opera EastEnders has a launderette as one of its focal locations, with several important characters having served as employees.
- Nivea wrote Laundromat, a song depicting the girlfriend, Nivea, of a man talking of how he has cheated on Nivea.
- The first act of The Young Ones episode "Bambi" concerns the main characters making their first trip to the launderette in almost three years.
- The iconic Levi's launderette television advert (UK, 1985). 1950s style featuring a semi-naked Nick Kamen changing in a launderette. By Bartle Bogle Hegarty/Roger Lyons.
- Albert King signature blues album "Born Under a Bad Sign", released in 1967 for Stax Records, include a song called "Laundromat Blues".
- Livermore, Beth (1999). "The Way We Are – time capsules – Brief Article". Natural History. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- "Starting a Laundromat Business". Retrieved 2009-07-23.
- D'Costa, Krystal. "Spin Cycle: The Social Realm of the Laundromat". Scientific American. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
- "Brannen History "Genealogy" by Noah Quinton Brannen" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- "First Laundromat". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
- Khan, Yasmeen (August 13, 2010). "The rise and fall of the launderette". BBC News. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
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- Coin Laundry Association, a not-for-profit trade organization serving the self-service laundry industry