David Shulick is an Executive at an entrepreneurial vended laundry company in the vended laundry industry. In the following article, a discussion on the evolution of commercial laundry systems is explored.
Laundry is a chore that never seems to end. But the eternal cycle is nothing new. And the endless fussing over washing, sorting, drying, and ironing sparked an industry that’s worth about $40 billion today.
From humble beginnings to the intelligent vended laundry systems of the modern world, the commercial laundromat industry has been on quite a journey — with even more growth predicted in its future.
David Shulick on Vended Laundry’s Beginnings
David Shulick explains that the Romans were the first community to adopt commercial laundry services, thanks to their high regard for physical appearance and hygiene.
Formalizing a large-scale public clothes washing and drying system, the washers were dubbed “fullones,” and the local laundries were called “fulleries.”
Despite many beliefs, the Romans employed men to do the job (mainly due to the strenuous nature of the task). David Shulick says that this stark contrast to other cultures where women typically do the laundry gives commercial laundromats a unique beginning.
Then Came the Industrial Revolution
However, it’s safe to say vended laundry systems in ancient Rome looked nothing like those in today’s world! In fact, it wasn’t until the tail-end of the Industrial Revolution, in the 18th and 19th centuries, that the modern washing machine flooded the market.
David Shulick says that after hand-operated paddles or dollies mechanized the laundry process for the first time, it wasn’t long before electric clothes washers (a motor replaced the hand-operated nature). And the following 1900, commercial laundries sprang up across US cities.
Enter the World’s Largest Outdoor Commercial Laundromat
Interestingly, not every laundromat service in the world utilizes electric machines. Mumbai, India, boasts the globe’s largest open-air commercial laundry, Dhobi Ghat — a staple of the area, having been around since 1890.
Disregarding automatic machinery, this laundry system sees over 7,000 people hand-wash and air-dry their clothes at Dhobi Ghat every single day. It’s even earned a world record for the most people hand-washing clothes at a single location!
While it might be difficult for many Western cultures to imagine, modernization of all tried-and-tested methods isn’t on the top of everybody’s to-do list. And Dhobi Ghat serves as an excellent reminder of that simple fact says David Shulick.
The Growing Industrial Laundries Sector
The industrial sector has proved highly beneficial for the growth of the commercial laundry market. All kinds of businesses (e.g., restaurants, hospitals, clinics, spas, salons, assisted living centers, motels, hotels, etc.) depend on commercial washers and dryers for effective, efficient daily operations.
David Shulick says that large-capacity loads aren’t a luxury for such companies; they’re a necessity. And since hygiene is of the utmost importance in spas, restaurants, and hospitals, industrial laundry systems have increasingly leveraged high-grade germ-fighting solutions in the washing process.
The Origins of the Term “Laundromat”
Laundry facilities in the United States of America were once known as “wash-a-terias” or “washeries.” But how did the country go from that to “laundromat.”
David Shulick explains that it was a proprietary brand name for a washer model sold across the country in the 1940s — and it clearly stuck, even after the brand shut down and began focusing on coin-operated, self-service laundry services.
Moving On From Coin-Operated Machines
David Shulick says that of such services, laundromats were cash-only businesses for decades — too long, depending on who’s asked.
But thankfully, commercial washing machine manufacturers have realized that cashless payment systems are the way forward, making the entire ordeal much easier for consumers. Plus, it saves companies time, increases productivity, and boosts profits.
Since 2020, when the pandemic changed the general public’s opinion of cash, solely coin-operated laundromats risk driving themselves into the mud with no chance of freeing themselves.
COVID-19’s Impact on Laundromats
David Shulick says that the pandemic implicated the world in many ways, and a heightened focus on hygiene and cleanliness is now the norm. But this didn’t prove as beneficial for vended laundry providers as many believed.
The panic around the spread of the virus prevented people from heading to their local laundromat in fear that they’d catch coronavirus from an asymptomatic carrier. Thus, the industry didn’t have a very rosy 2020.
The Future of the Vended Laundry Industry
But the vended laundry industry is experiencing a rebound as people reintegrate into their pre-pandemic ways of living. While new techniques like discounts, loyalty programs, and mobile apps are necessary to keep customers returning, the sector has a brighter, continued future ahead of them.