This category includes firms that primarily operate mechanical laundries powered with steam or other means. Companies that primarily supply laundered work clothing on a contract or fee basis are classified in SIC 7218: Industrial Launderers.
Drycleaning and Laundry Services (Except Coin-Operated)
Based on U.S. Bureau of the Census statistics, there has been a decline in this industry from the late 1990s into the early 2000s, with 27,066 establishments remaining by 2002, down from a peak of 27,939 in 1997. Though the number of establishments dwindled, the industry had an increase in revenues, with $7.75 billion in 2002, up from just over $7 billion in 1997. The industry employed 188,538 workers in 2002, down from 203,777 in 1997, with a total annual payroll of $2.7 billion. Most of these businesses were sole proprietorships or family-operated.
The laundry industry grew steadily from 1990 to 1992 as it underwent significant change. New technology altered the way clothes were laundered, dried, and finished, and laundry automation made for greater speed, efficiency, and productivity. Two major industry areas getting attention in the mid-2000s were automation and environmental issues. The latter concerns the use of certain detergents deemed damaging to the environment, such as those containing phosphates, and the safe disposal of waste products. Phosphates, considered to be the most effective laundering compound, may accelerate algae growth in water while depriving the water of oxygen, so attempts were made to restrict their use. The impetus came from within and outside the industry. Some laundry managers turned to alternative products, anticipating future regulations against phosphates. One major development in this area came in 2002, as Southern California air quality officials approved a gradual phase out by 2020 of perchloroethylene (perc), the most commonly used dry cleaning solvent, that was speculated would set a national precedent. An advance that was beginning to be utilized in the early to mid-2000s was ozone systems for laundries, which were designed to reduce both hot water consumption and chemical consumption.
As power laundries grew more automated, industry observers anticipated a reduction in labor requirements. Despite a 7 percent surge in the labor force in 1992, a pattern of workforce reduction persisted into the early 2000s. Employment projections for the...