The history of laundering
Posted on Apr 12, 2019
In a time of technology and efficiency, it can be difficult to understand how everything was done before the introduction of the internet, telephones and even electricity. However, clothing and linen has been laundered, dried and ironed in homes and commercially since the 18th century. In celebration of National Laundry Day, 15 April, we have taken a look back at the history of laundering.
The very first washing machine was invented in 1782 by a Brit called H. Sidgier. Existing of just a barrel and cranking rod, the hand-powered machined enabled clothing to be washed and led to further inventions, including the hand-cranked dryer by Frenchman Ponchon. However, it wasn’t until 1908 that the first mass-marketed electric washing machine, named Thor, was released for household use.
The art of commercial dry-cleaning was developed and patented by Thomas L. Jennings in 1821, who was the first African-American inventor to receive a patent. Originally known as ‘dry scouring’, the process of cleaning textiles using a chemical solvent other than water is still widely used across the industry today.
The invention of dry cleaning was closely followed by the patenting of the first ironing board, which was created in 1858 by William Vanderburg and James Harvey.
Since we were founded in 1886, our mission has been to provide everyday excellence to both our customers and our employees. From our award-winning sustainability initiatives to our state-of-the-art laundries, we have been at the forefront of the industry for over 130 years.
Our seven favourite laundry facts:
- Emmett Lee Dickinson, self-proclaimed advocate for clean clothes and inventor of the laundry basket on wheels named 15 April, National Laundry Day.
- The largest outdoor laundry, Dhobi Ghat, is located in Mumbai, India.
- The term ‘laundry bag’ is also known as a parachute and is widely used phrase by the United States Air Force.
- An average of 285,000 pounds of laundry is washed in a single day at Walt Disney World, with nearly 32,000 garments dry cleaned. That’s a lot of character outfits.
- An old school domestic washing machine used close to 50 gallons of water per wash. Now, household machines use on average 13 gallons.
- Astronauts incinerate their linen and clothing by releasing them into outer space. With no washing machines onboard, clothing is usually worn a week before being removed from the shuttle.
- The first laundrette in Britain, Central Wash in London, didn’t open until 9 May 1949.