The first launderette is believed to have opened in 1936 in Fort Worth, Texas. Known as a Washateria (a conjunction of wash - and [caf]eteria) there was an early chain of shops in Texas with this name. The term 'laundromat' became widely used in the United States as it became a genericized trademark of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, who supplied equipment for many of the early stores.
The UK had to wait until May 9th, 1949 for the first launderette to open at 184, Queensway, London, which is still a thriving, busy shop although there was an earlier attempt in Liverpool using domestic machines. The sector grew steadily over the next three decades, peaking at around 12,500 in the early 1980's but the reduction in cost of domestic machines coupled with the almost universal 'necessity' of a home washing machine has lead to a reduction in numbers.
However, the launderette is still important for many, and vital for some, and every town can support at least one well-run shop to cater for students, those in rented accommodation with no machine provided, people with little time or inclination to launder at home and the elderly or disabled who are unable to manage it. Of course there are always items like duvets and bedspreads that are too large to fit in a domestic washer, and launderettes are a welcome saviour when the domestic machine breaks down.
In the 1951 the National Association of Launderette Owners (NALO) was established, but there were regional Associations as well including MALA (Manchester Area) and LOLA (London Owners). NALO was re-named NALI and incorporated in 1956. The regional Associations were gradually amalgamated into NALI along with NoLA (Northern Launderette Association) and is the premier representative body of the industry in the UK.
The original subscribers named on the Articles of Association on were:
Douglas F Weare,
L. H. S. Richardson,
M. K. Little,
H. A. Sharpe,
E. N. Fennell and
Stanley S. Bloom
The first UK Launderette