As long as humans have been wearing clothes, they have been washing them as well. Although our early ancestors lacked the stringent laundry technologies we enjoy today, they surely appreciated the scent, feel, and look of freshly laundered clothing and linens. Launderers have been around for centuries and electric washers were invented in the early 1900s, but the first modern laundromat dates back to 1930s Texas. To better understand the role self-service laundries have played in American households over the decades, let’s explore the history of laundromats.
History of Laundromats
The first electric wringer clothes washer was developed in the early 1900s. This ancestor of modern washing machines was quite dangerous, because the motor rotated beneath the tub and could cause short circuits and shocks if water dripped onto it. This model was modified over the next few decades to improve its safety, convenience, and performance.
The true history of laundromats begins in Fort Worth, Texas during the Great Depression. The first laundromat, which was known at the time as a “Wash-a-teria,” opened here in the 1930s. Customers loved the self-service format of the store, and soon laundromats were exploding in popularity and popping up all over the country. Typically, customers paid by the hour to use the stores’ electric, coin-operated washing machines. They appreciated being able to use the machines for a low cost, because many families couldn’t afford to purchase personal washing machines at the time. Laundromats allowed people to experience a luxury they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.
1950s, 1960s, and 1970s
The public laundry concept really took off in the 1950s. However, as laundromats gained popularity, the stores became increasingly beat up and battered through customer neglect. Investors began to recognize the importance of a hands-on approach to laundromat management. They invested in equipment maintenance, janitorial services, and extra services (dry-cleaning, wash-dry-fold, tailoring). After a decline in interest in the late 1950s, the self-service laundry industry swelled back up again in the 1960s and 1970s.
Over the past few decades, laundry technology has improved dramatically. Energy-efficient, low-water washers are gaining in popularity, and dryers are much faster than they were in decades past. Although many machines still rely on coin-operated mechanisms, digital card-operated payment systems are also available. Because laundromats typically operate on a self-serve, automated system, their owners are able to step back and manage their stores from afar. Many laundromats include amenities like free Wi-Fi, TVs, vending machines, and children’s play areas. In addition, it isn’t unusual for laundromats to remain open 24/7, an extra convenience for customers with busy schedules.
Over 35,000 laundromats are in operation today in the United States, and they generate more than $5 billion in revenue each year. If you’re interested in opening a laundromat, be sure to check out Laundry Solutions Company, a full-service provider of premium vended, on-premises, and multi-housing commercial laundry equipment. Since 1976, we have been providing exceptional sales support, laundry design services, commercial laundry equipment (and leasing options), and laundry equipment service and parts. To learn more about our products and services, please give us a call at 800-383-9274 or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!