Laundry was first done in watercourses, letting the water carry away the materials which could cause stains and smells. Laundry is still done this way in some less industrialized areas and rural regions. Agitation helps remove the dirt, so the laundry is often rubbed, twisted, or slapped against flat rocks. Wooden bats or clubs could be used to help with beating the dirt out. These were often called washing beetles or bats and could be used by the waterside on a rock (a beetling-stone), on a block (battling-block), or on a board. They were once common across Europe and were also used by settlers in North America.
Various chemicals may be used to increase the solvent power of water, such as the compounds in soaproot or yucca-root used by Native American tribes. Soap, a compound made from lye (from wood-ash) and fat, is an ancient and very common laundry aid. However, modern washing machines typically use powdered or liquid laundry detergent in place of more traditional soap.
When no watercourses were available, laundry was done in water-tight vats or vessels. Sometimes large metal cauldrons were filled with fresh water and heated over a fire; boiling water was even more effective than cold in removing dirt. The washboard, a corrugated slab of a hard material such as metal, replaced rocks as a surface for loosening soil.
Once clean, the clothes were wrung out — twisted to remove most of the water. Then they were hung up on poles or clotheslines to air dry, or sometimes just spread out on clean grass.
The Industrial Revolution completely transformed laundry technology.
The mangle (wringer US) was developed in the 18th century — two long rollers in a frame and a crank to revolve them. A laundry-worker took sopping wet clothing and cranked it through the mangle, compressing the cloth and expelling the excess water. The mangle was much quicker than hand twisting. It was a variation on the box mangle used primarily for pressing and smoothing cloth.
Meanwhile 18th century inventors further mechanized the laundry process with various hand-operated washing machines. Most involved turning a handle to move paddles inside a tub. Then some early 20th century machines used an electrically powered agitator to replace tedious hand rubbing against a washboard. Many of these were simply a tub on legs, with a hand-operated mangle on top. Later the mangle too was electrically powered, then replaced by a perforated double tub, which spun out the excess water in a spin cycle.
Laundry drying was also mechanized, with clothes dryers. Dryers were also spinning perforated tubs, but they blew heated air rather than water.
In the United States and Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century, the occupation of laundry worker was heavily identified with Chinese Americans. Discrimination, lack of English-language skills, and lack of capital kept Chinese Americans out of most desirable careers. Around 1900, one in four ethnic Chinese men in the U.S. worked in a laundry, typically working 10 to 16 hours a day. 
New York City had an estimated 3,550 Chinese laundries at the beginning of the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1933, with even this looking to many people like a relatively desirable business, the city's Board of Aldermen passed a law clearly intended to drive the Chinese out of the business. Among other things, it limited ownership of laundries to U.S. citizens. The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association tried fruitlessly to fend this off, resulting in the formation of the openly leftist Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance (CHLA), which successfully challenged this provision of the law, allowing Chinese laundry workers to preserve their livelihoods.
In some parts of the world, including Europe and North America, apartment buildings and dormitories often have laundry rooms, where residents share washing machines and dryers. Usually the machines are set to run only when money is put in a coin slot. They turn on when the money in inserted and they run for as long as you pay.
In other parts of the world, apartment buildings with laundry rooms are uncommon, and each apartment may have its own washing machine. Those without a machine at home or the use of a laundry room must either wash their clothes by hand or visit a commercial laundromat.
Some organizations have been campaigning against legislation which has outlawed line-drying of clothing in public places, especially given the increased greenhouse gas emissions produced by clothes dryers.
Legislation making it possible for thousands of American families to start using a clothesline in communities where they were formerly banned was passed in Colorado in 2008. In 2009, clothesline legislation was debated in several states, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oregon, Virginia, and Vermont. Other states are considering similar bills. AOL listed the clothesline as one of the 20 things most likely to make a comeback in 2008 and again in 2009.
Although there are homeowners' associations and other communities in the United States that prohibit residents from using a clothesline outdoors, or limit its use to locations that are not visible from the street or to certain times of day, other communities expressly prohibit rules that prevent the use of clotheslines. Florida is the only state to expressly guarantee a right to dry, although Utah and Hawaii have passed solar rights legislation.
In Florida, a law states that "No deed restrictions, covenants, or similar binding agreements running with the land shall prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources from being installed on buildings erected on the lots or parcels covered by the deed restrictions, covenants, or binding agreements". No other state has such explicit legislation. Vermont considered a "Right to Dry" bill in 1999, but it was defeated in the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee. The language has been included in a 2007 voluntary energy conservation bill, introduced by Senator Dick McCormack. Similar measures are being introduced in some parts of Canada, including the province of Ontario, as well.
Novice users of modern laundry machines sometimes experience accidental shrinkage of garments, especially when applying heat. For wool garments, this is due to scales on the fibers which heat and agitation cause to stick together. Other fabrics are stretched by mechanical forces during production, and can shrink slightly when heated (though to a lesser degree than wool). Some clothes are "pre-shrunk" to avoid this problem.
Another common problem is color bleeding. For example, washing a red shirt with white underwear can result in embarrassingly pink underwear. Often only like colors are washed together to avoid this problem, which is lessened by cold water and repeated washings.
Laundry symbols are included on many clothes to help consumers avoid these problems.
This article is a travel topic.
The longer you travel, the more likely you'll need to wash your clothes. You can:
The cheapest way to do your laundry (albeit not the most thorough) is to do it yourself. If staying at a hotel, make sure this is not against the rules.
LAUNDRY, a place or establishment where soiled linen, &c., is washed. The word is a contraction of an earlier form lavendry, from Lat. lavanda, things to be washed, lavare, to wash. "Launder," a similar contraction of lavender, was one (of either sex) who washes linen; from its use as a verb came the form "launderer," employed as both masculine and feminine in America, and the feminine form "laundress," which is also applied to a female caretaker of chambers in the Inns of Court, London.
Laundry-work has become an important industry, organized on a scale which requires elaborate mechanical plant very different from the simple appliances that once sufficed for domestic needs. For the actual cleansing of the articles, instead of being rubbed by the hand or trodden by the foot of the washerwoman, or stirred and beaten with a "dolly" in the wash-tub, they are very commonly treated in rotary washing machines driven by power. These machines consist of an outer casing containing an inner horizontal cylindrical cage, in which the clothes are placed. By the rotation of this cage, which is reversed by automatic gearing every few turns, they are rubbed and tumbled on each other in the soap and water which is contained in the outer casing and enters the inner cylinder through perforations. The outer casing is provided with inlet valves for hot and cold water, and with discharge valves; and often also arrangements are made for the admission of steam under pressure, so that the contents can be boiled. Thus the operations of washing, boiling, rinsing and blueing (this last being the addition of a blue colouring matter to mask the yellow tint and thus give the linen the appearance of whiteness) can be performed without removing the articles from the machine. For drying, the old methods of wringing by hand, or by machines in which the clothes were squeezed between rollers of wood or india-rubber, have been largely superseded by "hydro-extractors" or "centrifugals." In these the wet garments are placed in a perforated cage or basket, supported on vertical bearings, which is rotated at a high speed (t000 to 1500 times a minute) and in a short time as much as 85% of the moisture may thus be removed. The drying is often completed in an apartment through which dry air is forced by fans. In the process of finishing linen the oldfashioned laundress made use of the mangle, about the only piece of mechanism at her disposal. In the box-mangle the articles were pressed on a flat surface by rollers which were weighted with a box full of stones, moved to and fro by a rack and pinion. In a later and less cumbrous form of the machine they were passed between wooden rollers or "bowls" held close together by weighted levers. An important advance was marked by the introduction of machines which not only smooth and press the linen like the mangle, but also give it the glazed finish obtained by hot ironing. Machines of this kind are essentially the same as the calenders used in paper and textile manufacture. They are made in a great variety of forms, to enable them to deal with articles of different shapes, but they may be described generally as consisting either of a polished metal roller, heated by steam or gas, which works against a blanketted or felted surface in the form of another roller or a flat table, or, as in the Decoudun type, of a felted metal roller rotating against a heated concave bed of polished metal. In cases where hand-ironing is resorted to, time is economized by the employment of irons which are continuously heated by gas or electricity.