Thread Number: 72408  /  Tag: Irons and Mangles
Commercial Laundry Then And Now
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Post# 956879   9/10/2017 at 05:48 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Suffice to say things have changed since our great-grandparents or grandparents days.




And now today:

This post was last edited 09/10/2017 at 07:22

Post# 956881 , Reply# 1   9/10/2017 at 05:53 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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As you can see today's modern highly efficient laundries can process in an hour what places of old did in a week or maybe even a month.

Modern technology like tunnel (continuous batch) washers and other automated systems also allow modern laundries to process more goods with less employees, and using lower amounts of resources (water, energy, etc...).

There are large laundries here in the New York area that cover three or more states (Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and maybe even Connecticut).

On the downside many institutions that once had in-house laundries no longer do so; hospitals, hotels, spas, etc.. are far more likely these days to send their washing out to one of these commercial laundries.

Post# 956884 , Reply# 2   9/10/2017 at 06:48 by norgeway (mocksville n c )        
We still have

A laundry at the retirement community where I work, 3 big Milnors and one top load Speed Queen and 4 old Cissell dryers.

Post# 956915 , Reply# 3   9/10/2017 at 10:51 by brucelucenta (tulsa, oklahoma)        

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How nice, isn't it marvelous to have someone like Hyacinth to keep us in the know? Coming from the dry cleaning/laundry industry, I know there are great strides that have come along in the last part of the 20th century and in this one. It is amazing when you see how differently things are done today from even the 50's. Much of the new huge laundry capabilities are mind boggling and I find it interesting that the extraction process is done through pressing the water out of the fabric instead of a spin extraction now. Sort of like what the old Bendix machines with the rubber tub were attempting to do.

This post was last edited 09/10/2017 at 13:00
Post# 956935 , Reply# 4   9/10/2017 at 12:46 by parunner58 (Davenport, FL)        

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Thank you Laundress, nice hurricane watching videos. Easton Laundry was two blocks from where my wife grew up. It is now Circle Systems, they recondition football helmets for sports teams.

Question, in thier heyday, were these laundries for only the well to do families, or did everyone use them? did they send all thier laundry? growing up in the 60's forward, I only remember people taking stuff that needed to be dry cleaned and diaper service, and dress shirts.

Post# 956937 , Reply# 5   9/10/2017 at 13:10 by brucelucenta (tulsa, oklahoma)        

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I can only speak of what I know living here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Up until the 1970's and 1980's we had a couple of large laundries here. The last one to go was a dry cleaners/laundry that had been in existence since the 20's. They had a big laundry facility where they did sheets, clothing and would wash, dry and fold laundry too. There were still people who sent virtually everything they had to them to be dry cleaned or laundered. I actually knew an older couple who had never had a washer and dryer until that place closed and there was nowhere for them to send their laundry. I found that interesting, but they had the money to pay for some place to do that. This business used to pick up and deliver and made it very easy for the customer just to bundle everything up and let them do the sorting and take care of everything.

Post# 956945 , Reply# 6   9/10/2017 at 14:48 by Rolls_rapide (Scotland, UK)        
Interesting indeed

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I never imagined that laundry would be hydraulically pressed in that way though... think of the creasing! It definitely wouldn't be suitable for synthetics and delicates.

I suppose a similar analogy is ramming the wash load into the spinner on a twintub, and pressing it down firmly. I remember the creases from doing that.

Post# 956963 , Reply# 7   9/10/2017 at 17:49 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Continuous Batch Washers (tunnel washers) have been around for decades. But recent advances in technology have made them game changers. They are rapidly "taking over" the large industrial laundries as places seek to cut energy, labor and other costs.

CBWs basically are nothing more than a variation of the old way of washing laundry; that is separate washer and extractor.

In the old system goods went through several cycles with no extraction between, then moved to an extractor for final water removal. This you can see clearly from the videos of laundries from back in the days.

CBWs simply move the washing through a series of chambers (sluice/pre-wash, washing, disinfection, rinsing, conditioning and or pH neutralization, then finally extract. Since the process depends like the old "washer then extractor" of old highly upon dilution and or neutralization not everyone is sold on tunnel washer technology.

The gold standard for well over one hundred years in either domestic or commercial/industrial laundry has been to extract between changes of water. This got a bigger boost when in the 1950's commercial washers were invented that could wash and extract in same machine.

Using dilution for rinsing alone *can* work; but it requires all ducks being in a row. This is why domestic washers with "Permanent Press/Easy Cares" cycles (which normally do not spin between rinses), nearly always state loads should be about half rated capacity. That is you need high water levels in relation to load in order to assure things are rinsed properly.

All laundries have two main expenses; capital and operating. When you've got the capacity to process three, four or more tons of laundry per hour or whatever, you *need* three, four or more tons of laundry going through those machines to make them pay. Otherwise you're sitting with equipment you've either paid dearly for and or are still paying (if purchased on credit or leased), but they aren't making revenue. Hence you see these huge industrial laundries rapidly displacing many smaller and or in house laundries.

Post# 956968 , Reply# 8   9/10/2017 at 18:25 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Who Used Commercial Laundries?

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Well back in the day you had really only three choices; you either did the laundry yourself, hired a person or persons to do it in house (laundresses, laundry maids, washer women, etc...), or you sent it out. The latter could be to a private laundress/washer woman or to a commercial laundry of various sizes.

In doing some research was surprised to learn that the biggest battles washing machine makers had in the USA were against laundresses (in house or private employ/business), and commercial/steam laundries.

Housewives and others simply felt they were happy with current arrangements and saw no need to change. Those that employed servants often weren't particularly interested in *how* the work got done, long as they themselves weren't doing all that hard labor. Those who sent things out felt the same.

In large urban areas such as much of New York City where space in apartments didn't allow laundry equipment, service laundries held on longer than elsewhere. Otherwise by the 1960's and into the 1970's places began to close and or make the switch to other types of commercial laundry as the domestic market dried up.

Quotes from above linked article pretty much sums things up:

"Not so fast, says Arwen Mohun, a University of Delaware history professor and author of “Steam Laundries: Gender, Technology, and Work in the United States and Britain, 1880-1940.” The system sometimes broke down.

“A lot of people were very ambivalent about laundries,” she told Answer Man. “They had a tendency to lose things and also ruin your clothes. They used a lot of harsh chemicals and the machines sometimes tore apart items that were fragile.”


"The washing of clothes has undergone an interesting, boomerang-flight evolution, from drudge work done inside the house, to an efficient service made possible by the industrial revolution, to something that arrived back at home.

“The decline [of steam laundries] starts in the 1930s with the first viable electric washing machines,” said historian Arwen. “People’s reasoning is you get the labor for free, which you don’t really, but nobody thought women’s work was valuable.”

Advances in fabric made a difference, too. “No one in their right mind would iron a sheet now,” she said. “But that was sort of necessary in the age before things were permanent press. And a lot of the clothing we wear is knit, which doesn’t lend itself to commercial processes.”

Post# 956969 , Reply# 9   9/10/2017 at 18:41 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Hospital laundries

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As more and more hospitals are part of large healthcare networks they are finding it more economical to set up one large laundry that services the entire system.

OTHO you still have a few hospitals that still have their own in house laundry.

Someone mentioned extraction via compression and how it could be bad for certain materials.

Many laundries that rely mainly upon tunnel washers also have separate washer/extractors that handle things which cannot or should not go into the CBW. Very small items like children's clothing/laundry from a children's hospital often can give tunnel washers fits; so they are done in a washer/extractor instead.

You see from the Kannegiesser video above many CBW lines offer another method of extraction besides a press. Kannegiesser calls theirs "Power Spin". A laundry when planning a tunnel wash system decides which best suits needs. That and or they can have two or more tunnel washers but the extraction method (among other things) might differ.

Post# 956970 , Reply# 10   9/10/2017 at 18:58 by brucelucenta (tulsa, oklahoma)        

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Launderess, you truly post some very interesting and informative things here.

Post# 957065 , Reply# 11   9/11/2017 at 03:02 by tolivac (greenville nc)        

Very fascinating-Industrial laundry!Heavy equipment of another type.

Post# 957070 , Reply# 12   9/11/2017 at 03:28 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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TW, one does try to do our bit to keep the group interesting.

Post# 957121 , Reply# 13   9/11/2017 at 13:53 by brucelucenta (tulsa, oklahoma)        

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And you certainly do a wonderful job of that. This was all extremely interesting and informative. It is really amazing at how things have changed. When I have gone to the dry cleaners/laundry trade shows, I have seen equipment like some of this, but never had seen it in operation.

Post# 957196 , Reply# 14   9/12/2017 at 04:38 by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

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Finally found time to watch some of these great videos. Love the way the giant front-loaders in the first Kannegiesser video rotate upward for automatic loading, back to horizontal axis position to wash, then tip downward for automatic unloading.

These huge automated systems are somewhat mind-bending in scope.

Post# 957212 , Reply# 15   9/12/2017 at 07:07 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Many Manufactuers Of Industrial Laundry Equipment

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Offer tilting washing machines, dryers, and shuttle systems. The idea seems to be obtaining the labor savings of a CBW system, but still have the washing action of a more traditional washer.

This and obviously when you are talking about washers and dryers that hold several hundred pounds of laundry, there is an ease of loading and unloading that comes from tilting machines.

Then again some machines do not tilt at all:

Here is film from the 1950's showing a UK hospital seeking to "update" their laundry methods. And one should say so! What they were doing then would give accreditation bodies if not infection control doctors and nurses of today fits. Sluicing soiled linens on the floors and what not.

Post# 957474 , Reply# 16   9/14/2017 at 02:26 by mrsalvo (New Braunfels Texas)        

Launderess, Thank-you for posting a very informative and educational thread. Interesting that many workers in years past wore white uniforms. As time progressed the hospital workers decided it was a good idea to wear face masks and gloves, when watching the videos I thought "cross contamination" and infection in handling soiled articles.
I have to admit that handling laundry in regular households has improved, at least in the advances of the machines. One wonders if the germicide lamp in the washers in the 1950's were more sales hype than anything else or did they really think they worked. Was sanitation achieved through heat or chemicals? Also found it interesting dryers used gas, just never thought of it.

Thanks for posting.

Post# 957568 , Reply# 17   9/14/2017 at 17:27 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Laundry Workers Wearing Gowns, Masks, and Gloves

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If you look at the vintage footage laundry workers most always wore some sort of apron, pinafore, smock or whatever covering. Indeed this was normal for anyone doing any sort of house or whatever "work".

The gloves, masks, and or hospital type gowns are a direct result of the HIV/AIDS crisis of 1980's if memory serves.

When the epidemic first broke out no one knew what caused the disease and or how it was transmitted. Thus everyone from hospital staff on down to funeral directors were often loathe to go near anything that had been in contact with those diagnosed and or succumbed to the disease.

As more became known about HIV/AIDS including methods of infection one thing became clear, contact with certain bodily fluids was to be avoided, that and or being pricked by a needle/sharp or cut by any instrument that may itself have been contaminated.

OSHA and other professional bodies and or health agencies developed guidelines that covered the handling of *any* hospital/healthcare facility linen including that which is contaminated by bodily fluids. In sort most everything is treated a suspect.

Back in the day doctors and and assistants performed their various duties (drawing blood, cleaning patients after toileting or they had a BM, etc...) without wearing latex gloves. There was even a culture in nursing that felt wearing gloves whilst doing patient care was "hurtful" to patients because it implied something was "wrong" with them. That all changed after HIV/Aids.

Back in my time we threw bed and bath linen lightly or even heavily contaminated with gross filth (blood, feces, etc..) in same linen bags as everything else; that is largely no more as it must be separated for purposes of the laundry.

Truth to be told handling dirty laundry even just the plain old domestic sort was never fun. Think about having to mark and sort dirty undergarments from early in the last century when personal hygiene and or toileting habits were often *vastly* different than today. Oh and don't forget things like lice...

This is why one stated about the last UK hospital video that sluicing soiled linen on the floor/wards, and other things they were doing would give OSHA and other bodies fits today.

Post# 957595 , Reply# 18   9/14/2017 at 23:45 by mrsalvo (New Braunfels Texas)        

Thank-you for such a thoughtful reply. Yes, I remember the awful 80's and knew that much changed during that time, in regards to health care. It was traumatic!

I'll be posting my experiences in handling contaminated clothing in another thread. I hope it will be of value to anyone who may come into contact with infectious clothing and situations.

Again, thank-you Laundress.


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