The occupation is typically urban in character. Though now-adays the ruralites sometimes clad themselves in white and
well-creased dress, it is but a transcultural trait as a result of contact with the urbanites. Only in cities, big towns and at taluka headquarters laundries are found. In rural areas where such establishments are absent, these services are rendered by dhobis, most of whom belong to the Hindu Parit Community. The dhobis or Parits used to serve the village people throughout the year. The system is now disappearing and even in a remote village the presence of a dhobi is felt. Generally in villages, dhobis collect clothes from house to house, wash them and deliver them to the customers. The occupation is hereditary. The dhobis as a class are poor, honest and painstaking. The return that they get at the time of the annual agricultural operations from the villagers is usually on a contract basis and consists of food-grains.
In cities and towns like Amravati, Achalpur, Morshi, etc., the laundry business has become a principal occupation of many. The equipment of a laundry consists of a standing or hanging cupboard to keep ironed clothes, one or two big tables with irons, a few small pots, big tubs and kadhai (iron pan) and a dry-cleaning machine if it provides dry-cleaning services. The equipment of a fairly big laundry costs Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,000 excluding the expenditure on the dry-cleaning machine amounting to Rs. 3,000. The equipment of a medium-sized laundry consists of a table, a cupboard, an iron and big utensils requiring an investment of about Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000 while the small laundries are run with a capital of Rs. 300 to Rs. 400. The owners usually raise their capital for the business from their own resources or from relatives or friends.
The accessories used in this occupation include washing-soda,
soap, bleaching-powder, starch, indigo and tinopal for the washing purposes, and charcoal and firewood as fuel. All these are locally available. The consumption of raw materials depends on the volume of turnover of the establishment. In a small-sized establishment it is Rs. 40 to Rs. 60 per month and in a big establishment it is worth Rs. 300 to Rs. 400.
Laundry services comprise washing and ironing of cotton
garments and dry-cleaning of woollen clothes. The charges
depend on the type of service required. For urgent washing and
ironing of clothes, special and starched washing, and dry-clean
ing the charges are higher. Throughout the year the business
is fairly brisk.
In addition to the expenditure on equipment, accessories, rent, lighting charges, etc., the establishments spend on wages of the employees, if any, and dhobis to whom usually clothes are given for washing on piece basis. Most of the establishments are managed by the owners and their family members. Very few
establishments have employees either on daily wages or monthly
payment as when outsiders are employed, they are paid a daily
wage of Rs. 1.50 to Rs. 2.00. The dhobis are paid between Rs. 6 and Rs. 10 for washing a hundred clothes. While the income of a big laundry in Amravati ranged from Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 per month in 1962, at tahsil headquarters it ranged from Rs. 150 to Rs. 200. The income of a small-sized laundry on the other hand varied between Rs. 100 and Rs. 125 per month.