Laundry sector tries to iron out wrinkles caused by inflation

After the pandemic, many pressers in Tiruchi have seen their customer base shrinking.

After the pandemic, many pressers in Tiruchi have seen their customer base shrinking. | Photo Credit: Moorthy_M


Getting clothes washed and ironed in the city has become dearer thanks to the rising overheads and a pandemic-era customer base that doesn’t seem to want to use the laundry sector’s services as frequently as before.

“I lost most of my customers during the lockdown, especially since they started working from home and stopped needing formal office wear that needed to be pressed. Many people now prefer to iron clothes themselves rather than look for a dhobi,” Ravi, a second-generation laundryman in Crawford, told The Hindu.

After years of working with a coal-fuelled iron-box alongside his father, Mr. Ravi shifted to the electric version a decade ago. But while he finds it easier to iron clothes, his operating costs have grown. “I have to pay ₹5,000 as rent for my shop, and my electricity bill comes up to ₹4,500 per month. With customers staying away during lockdown, my savings have vanished,” he said. He takes on heavy-duty washing tasks at the Kollidam river only if the orders can earn him a profit.

The steady rise in LPG prices has hit automated laundries that have adapted innovations like gas-powered devices. “We used to iron up to 300 saris in our gas rolling press, but with the rates of commercial cylinders hitting ₹2,000, it will not be feasible to operate such machines profitably,” said the employee of a laundromat in Bikshandarkovil.

The cost of laundry essentials such as detergent, washing soda, bleach and starch powder have risen steadily since last year, as manufacturers have been hit by supply-chain disruptions. “We have been able to retain only those customers who do not mind paying more for our services. It is not possible to find workers to wash, starch and iron clothes like before,” said M. Ramamurthy, proprietor of Sun Dry Cleaners. He runs his business with the assistance of a relative, and charges approximately ₹80 for ironing cotton garments, and ₹300 for silk saris.

“Though there are cheaper options available, those who like the quality of our work will pay,” claimed Mr. Ramamurthy. “But the volume of my work has changed. I used to iron up to 100 garments per day earlier; now I can manage only around 30 pieces. I have to outsource the rest to other ironing men and this pushes up my costs,” he said.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 5:41:42 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/laundry-sector-tries-to-iron-out-wrinkles-caused-by-inflation/article65439392.ece