Education and Training: None
Salary: Median—$8.28 per hour
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Laundry workers take part in the washing, drying, and ironing of clothes and other fabric items. Most laundry workers are employed by commercial laundries, which may be independent plants or parts of large institutions, such as hospitals or hotels. Some laundry workers are employed by firms that specialize in renting and cleaning uniforms, diapers, towels, or other linens. A few laundry workers have their own businesses.
There are several different kinds of jobs in the laundry business. Route workers pick up soiled clothing and linens at customers' homes. Sometimes they try to solicit new customers along their routes. They also deliver clean laundry, bill customers, and collect money. Counter clerks receive soiled linens and clothing from customers, give back clean laundry, and collect payments from customers. Markers or sorters tag and mark the soiled clothing and linens so that they can be returned to the appropriate customer. They usually remove loose buttons and mark items that need to be mended.
Machine washers weigh laundry and place it in huge washing machines. Machine washers control the machine settings for each kind of material. This includes setting the proper temperature, washing speed, and water and suds level and adding the right amount of bleaches and rinses. After the laundry is washed and rinsed, extractor operators place it in extractors, which spin most of the water out of it. The laundry then goes to tumbler operators who put it in drying machines that tumble it dry. Some items, such as blankets and rugs, may be hung in heated rooms to dry.
Finishers fold and press the clean, dry laundry. Some finishers specialize in flat-work, such as sheets and tablecloths. When requested, they press the flatwork using special ironing machines. They also may just fold and stack sheets, towels, diapers, or other flatwork. Other finishers work on shirts, ruffled curtains, blankets, or other items that require special pressing and finishing. To get professional results, they use forms designed for certain parts of clothing, such as shirt sleeves, shirt collars, or the bodies of skirts. They also use hand irons to finish certain items that cannot be done on the forms. The finished items are then folded or placed on hangers.
Inspectors check the finished laundry. If it needs rewashing or repressing, they send it back to the proper department. They send some pieces to menders, who do repairs by hand or machine. Assemblers collect all the items belonging to each customer. Finally, baggers or bundle wrappers place the laundry in bags or bundles and attach invoices, which indicate how much money the customer owes. Sometimes one person does more than one of these jobs. Other workers employed in the laundry industry include office workers, plant managers, mechanics, sales workers, and maintenance people.
Education and Training Requirements
In most cases there are no educational requirements for laundry workers though employers may require a high school diploma. Most workers learn on the job. Some jobs, such as flatwork folding, take only a few days to learn. It may take several weeks to learn to be a marker, inspector, or assembler. Some employers prefer high school graduates for jobs as managers and supervisors.
Getting the Job
Interested candidates can get a job by applying directly to a laundry. They can also check the classifieds in newspapers and Internet job banks. State and private employment agencies can also give job information.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Some laundry workers advance to better paying jobs that require more skill. They can learn new skills either on the job or by taking special courses organized by the International Fabricare Institute. These courses are designed to upgrade or expand a laundry worker's skills and last from a few days to a few weeks. Some laundry workers become supervisors or managers. A few start their own businesses. Some capital is needed to set up a small laundry, but loans are available to qualified people.
Employment in the laundry business is expected to decline through the year 2014. New methods and machinery will eliminate some jobs. However, there will be openings to replace laundry workers who leave the field.
Laundry workers generally work forty hours a week. Modern laundries are usually clean and well lighted, but they are generally noisy, hot, and humid. Laundry jobs tend to be repetitious and require workers to stand for long periods. There is some danger of injury from hot water, irons, presses, and from lifting heavy loads of laundry. Some workers belong to unions.
Where to Go for More Information
International Fabricare Institute
14700 Sweitzer Ln.
Laurel, MD 20707
Earnings and Benefits
Wages in this field vary depending on the type of work. Laundry workers who are not supervisors earn a median of $8.28 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with more experience may earn up to $10 per hour. Employers often offer benefits that include paid holidays and vacations.