Thread Number: 84826  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
One Of Few Remaining Hand Laundries In NYC Closes
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Post# 1092898   10/12/2020 at 00:17 (214 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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They once were everywhere, Chinese hand laundries. On every corner it seems, but slowly they've been vanishing for years. This article story is about local Chinatown/Little Italy Chinese hand laundry that is closing due to covid-19.

Besides age of owners, they pretty much have lost most of their customer base since March 2020 when covid-19 hit city, and all heck broke loose.

For record many dry cleaners and laundries have closed since last March, and more likely will by end of year.

Changes in fashions and household such as rise of more casual wear, and more homes having their own washing machines has meant less is sent out to laundries/dry cleaners. Many were barely hanging on before covid-19, but that was the last straw.

Post# 1092903 , Reply# 1   10/12/2020 at 01:14 (214 days old) by qsd-dan (West)        

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The world is radically changing and I can't say it's for the better, either.

Post# 1093303 , Reply# 2   10/15/2020 at 21:03 (210 days old) by fan-of-fans (Florida)        

I hate to say it, but this grinds my gears. It's the overreach that has done more harm than the virus, I just had to say it.

Post# 1093314 , Reply# 3   10/15/2020 at 23:25 (210 days old) by petek (Ontari ari ari O )        

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When I was a tot in the late 50s, early 60's, each, well many, Saturdays my dad would drive downtown with me in tow and we'd walk over to this old house intermixed in some downtown businesses where he'd go in the foyer where they'd built a counter and pick up his clean, pressed/folded and wrapped white shirts for work the following week. They were the only Chinese people in town at that time I think, possibly a restaurant as well, but other than them we lived in a wholly whitebread little city. Unsure why my mom didn't do them, we had an automatic Kenmore frog eye and dryer. There aren't many laundramats left or dry cleaners either, not at all like the 80s and prior.

Post# 1093317 , Reply# 4   10/16/2020 at 00:46 (210 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Shirts were one of the few things homes still sent out

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Even after they got a washing machines, and possibly a dryer.

Washing, starching and ironing seven or ten shirts per week was just not up every housewife's street. Single men were a different story, even if they did have access to washing machine, most didn't have a clue about starching and ironing. Military men excluded.....

For most households the small expense of sending shirts to "Chinese" hand laundries (who were cheaper than French hand laundries) was a better choice than doing them at home. Men are fussy about their shirts and many wives already had enough on their plates without bothering with His Nibbs shirts every week.

Even today at least in NYC every morning you see men or housewives dropping off bundles of shirts at local corner laundries. These are not exclusive operations per more like "Chinese family laundries". The stores are just drop places; everything is sent to wholesalers that do the actual washing and drying. Ironing OTOH when called for (shirts, sheets, etc...) is done either at the wholesaler, or at shop.

Here is a NYT article from three years ago about a Chinese laundry in Brooklyn just scrapping by:

Post# 1093338 , Reply# 5   10/16/2020 at 08:29 (210 days old) by dermacie (my forever home (Glenshaw, PA))        

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I sent out shirts for a long time myself. It wasn't expensive and they always looked a lot better.

Post# 1093365 , Reply# 6   10/16/2020 at 11:23 (210 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

Thank you, Launderess, for the link to the beautiful story. So does the "hand" laundry designation apply to the ironing by hand and not the whole washing process or is that a recent development? First generation children, thanks to our education system and their parents who knew the value of an education are finishing college. It is every immigrant's dream.  What a blessing.


The Chinese couple who ran the laundry/dry cleaners in our shopping center retired after many decades. They and their big white poodle were very friendly and they early adapted to using a type of dry cleaning solution that did not harm the environment.  There is a young Indian couple with a cleaning establishment in a nearby shopping center.

Post# 1093452 , Reply# 7   10/16/2020 at 18:54 (209 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
In grand tradition of laundries

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Pecking order was:

French Hand Laundries - Did most washing but all ironing by hand in house.

Chinese Laundries - Sent out washing to wholesalers but did ironing (by hand or machine) in house.

Family laundries/dry cleaners - Did all laundry by machine with perhaps some touch-up work by hand.

This pretty much sums things up nicely:

Post# 1093454 , Reply# 8   10/16/2020 at 19:04 (209 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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General rule for laundry businesses is you either do very little and charge higher prices, or volume at lower rates.

You can still find places that will wash, starch and iron shirts by hand; but it will cost you between $6 to nearly $30 per. OTOH you can drop off your shirts at local bang and bag them place for $1.25 - $2.00 each.

Going back to before WWI there were "family" or whatever laundry services all over Europe and USA. This service was an out growth of steam laundries that began popping up not long after industrial revolution was in full swing.

These places did a brisk business in many areas because homes lacked washing machines, and so much had to be washed and ironed weekly. Business got a boost during WWII (at least in USA) due to so many women working outside the home.

Post WWII especially in USA rise of automatic washing machine/dryer, introduction of man-made textiles and other factors shoved housewives back into laundry rooms.

You watch films or television shows from 1940's on ward and most common thing you hear about laundry wise is His Nibbs asking if the laundry sent back his shirts. Not so much about sheets and other things that likely by then were done at home.

Post# 1093455 , Reply# 9   10/16/2020 at 19:24 (209 days old) by ea56 (Cotati, Calif.)        

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My Dad was an attorney and his mom, my Grandma owned a dry cleaners where she took in  laundry and dry cleaning, sent it out to the plant for cleaning/washing/starching/pressing and they returned it to her shop where the customers came to pick it up.  She also did alterations in the shop, first with her old Singer Treadle machine, then her kids bought her a new electric Singer machine in about 1958. 


Anyway, my Dad’s white shirts were always sent to Grandma’s cleaner’s and came back wrapped with blue paper and tied with string.  Sometimes Grandma would bring the laundered  and starched shirts home with her and we’d go over there to pick them up and have dessert and coffee for the adults.  


I spent quite a bit of time in that dry cleaning shop after school in the years that we still lived in the East Bay Area before moving to the country.



This post was last edited 10/16/2020 at 20:19

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