Everybody’s Got a Blog So Here’s Mine

A Brief History of Laundry

10 September, 2018

By Stephanie Regan

It’s laundry day for me. Laundry is something I tend to put off. I’ve even gone out to buy socks to put off laundry for a few extra days.

I should probably appreciate what we have in our day and age. Before electricity became a household utility, laundry was a labor-intensive, time consuming chore and a full day of physical labour.

The demand for clean laundry grew out of the discovery in the 19th century of the link between dirt and disease. Clean clothes became a sign of social standing. The white shirt, with the challenge of keeping it pristine, in particular became a status symbol.

To wash one’s clothes, water had to be heated over a fire or wood-burning stove. Soap for washing clothes didn’t come in a brightly coloured box;  it was made at home from lye and leftover fireplace ashes.

The earliest washing machines were hand-cranked. Many of these were simply a wooden, tin or copper tub on legs, with a hand-operated mangle or wringer on top. Clothes were moved around in the drum using various mechanical means, not unlike a butter churn. A hand-cranked wringer was used after rinsing to squeeze out the bulk of the water.

The first clothes dryers were invented in England and France in the early 1800s. One common kind of early clothes dryer was the “ventilator,” a perforated metal drum that was turned by hand over a fire.

For city dwellers of the days of the industrial revolution, water shortages, and airborne pollutants such as coal dust that settled on drying clothes, laundry day was an even greater chore. Enterprising businessmen recognized a need. With the steam-powered technology at the ready, the steam laundry industry emerged in urban centers in North America and Europe in the 1880s.

Introducing the Steam Laundry

Steam laundries were industrial operations. These were large commercial laundry facilities that resembled factories, and employed dozens and even hundreds of workers.

The steam laundry service quickly became immensely popular. One of the most successful examples was the Parisian Steam Laundry which began in Detroit around 1870. Customers in the city and outlying small towns around the city and even Canada would take their dirty clothes to a local depot. The depot agent would bundle them up each day, and ship the parcel by train to Detroit. Laundry workers there would wash, bleach, iron and fold the laundry.  Once it was ready, the laundry was shipped back to the local agent for pick up. The Parisian Steam Laundry employed about 80 workers by the late 1870s. The operation handled about 20,000 pieces of laundry every day.

Electricity came to replace steam power starting a little after the turn of the century. The first electric-powered washing machine for the home was unveiled in 1908. All heavy-duty steel, the heavy-duty Thor promised to “make laundry a spare time task, instead of an all day’s job.”


Household Electricity Leaves Laundry Industry High and Dry

The steam laundries, at least for the public, lost out to the electric home washing machine and dryer. Starting in the 1930s the electric washing machine was promoted and advertised as a symbol of a genteel home. Industrial steam laundry services were mostly gone by the 1950s, replaced by home washing machines.

Steam, however, powered industrial laundry into the 1950s. Industrial laundry facilities such as those for hospitals and prisons used steam as late as the 1970s, such as the Yale Steam Laundry in New York City which operated until 1976. Institutional buildings with tall brick smoke stacks are a good indicator of an industrial laundry facility that once ran on steam power.

Today’s industrial laundry machines have evolved light-years from the hand-cranked agitator and wringer, and the ventilator drum that rotated over a fire. Today’s laundry machines offer precise, programmable touch-screen controls with multiple languages options. Industrial laundry equipment is now controlled with touch screen controls. Some of the latest industrial laundry equipment are is self-diagnosing, instantly reporting mechanical problems, limiting down time. Dryers can be programmed to optimum heating, level of moisture, basket rotation and airflow, taking out the guesswork, for less time and energy wasted.
Energy efficiency is a priority for laundry equipment manufacturers. Newer industrial laundry equipment offer emission control, through Low NOx burner technology.

Large scale laundry facilities can opt for almost total automation, with industrial laundry machines that automatically tilt and unload laundry onto a conveyor belt, and shuttle it down to the dryers, where the wet laundry is loaded into dryers. Dryers, similarly, tilt and self-unload.

Today’s industrial laundry equipment are massive, heavy-duty machines that can handle loads ranging from 250 pounds to 600 pounds and more; some of the largest machines on the market handle up to 1200 pound loads.

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Hiring a Second Set of Freelance Hands

Summer 2018

Hiring a professional isn’t a luxury; it’s almost always smart thinking. Just think about remodeling your bathroom on your own. Or do-it-yourself dentistry.

To be productive sometimes you need a second set of hands to free up your time and mental energy, so you can do what you do best.

Fortunately, the internet has made it easy to find the brilliant and talented freelancers who can help you, at affordable rates. You’ll wonder why you ever hesitated to hire some help.


What should you look for when you’re hiring a freelance writer or virtual assistant (VA)? Experience is a good start, but then again, there are lots of talented writers and VAs who are just starting out, so don’t weed out the newbies too quickly.

Ask for testimonials. Ask to see samples of work. Then talk to the freelancer about what you need. Can she do what you need done? Can she deliver on your timeline?

Craigslist is another great resource. You can post an ad for your project on Craigslist. Having said that,  as a writer perusing Craigslist for work, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

Give as much detail as you can about who you are, where you are, what you’re looking for, and what kind of compensation you can offer. I see ads posted every day that are vague, nonsensical, arrogant, and many more that are just plain sketchy. I don’t have the time or energy to guess what I might be getting into should I take the time to get in touch. The freelancer who does have the time to respond to something poorly posted may be available for all the wrong reasons.

Post a well-written, detailed job listing. Put a call-to-action at the very end. This is to see who reads to the end, and can follow instructions.  Ask the applicant to respond with a link to his or her work or some testimonials with contact information.

If you are a small business owner, you should be networking with other small business owners (if you aren’t, you should be – that’s a whole other blog post). Ask other entrepreneurs for recommendations. Where I live, in Durham region, we have active, robust networking organizations; some of my best clients have come from networking meetings.

Check out other small business websites. If they’re good, find out who built the site. Ask who wrote the copy on the site, or who did the graphic design.

Use LinkedIn and Facebook, where you can search up “writer” or “communication specialist” and “virtual assistant” in your extended network.

One amazing resource is the job website Indeed.ca. Resumes are searchable, by keyword. If you search “writer” or “administrative assistant” in your city, dozens of great resumes will pop up.  Pick out a few that look promising, and go on Facebook and LinkedIn to do some due diligence.

Connect with me on LinkedIn.