Memos from Asia

Dhobi Ghat: 130-Year-Old Outdoor Laundry in Mumbai, India

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Dhobi Ghat: 130-Year-Old Outdoor Laundry in Mumbai, India

India’s commercial capital Mumbai holds several distinctions.

It houses three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the sixth most populous metropolitan area in the world, and the highest number of millionaires and billionaires among all cities in India are a few to name.

Yet, it will be interesting to know how over a century-old outdoor laundry at Mahalaxmi in the heart of the city grew as an attraction of visitors as well.

World’s largest open-air laundromat

Dhobi Ghat is a well known open air laundromat in Mumbai, India

Set up in 1890 during the British rule, Dhobi Ghat is the world’s largest open-air laundromat where thousands of washermen (dhobis in local language) wash thousands of clothes manually.

The washermen hand-wash clothes and linens that they collect from hotels and hospitals in Mumbai and its suburban areas.

Mumbai, India – January 12, 2016: Indian worker washing clothes at Dhobi Ghat, open air laundromat in downtown of Mumbai in Maharashtra State.

Apart from this, cloths from other local laundry units, garment dealers and wedding decoration units are also brought to Dhobi Ghat, which was set up in 1890 during the British rule.

About 7,000 people work here and over 100,000 clothes per day manually.

They regularly work up to 20 hours in different shifts daily.

The washermen flog, scrub, dye and bleach the clothes on concrete wash pens, dry them neatly on ropes and iron them before delivering the garments in different parts of the city.

Mumbai, India – October 27, 2011: Dhobi Ghat is a well known open air laundromat in Mumbai, India. The washers work in the open to wash the clothes from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals.

The annual turnover of Dhobi Ghat, which is also known as Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, is estimated to be about $14 million.

Though a few moneyed washermen have shifted to mechanized washing and drying, the majority of them still do the work manually.

Mumbai, India – January 12, 2016: Indian workers washing clothes at Dhobi Ghat, open air laundromat in downtown of Mumbai in Maharashtra State.

What more, Dhobi Ghat is also a favorite location for Bollywood movie makers, and several hit movies like Munna Bhai MBBS were shot in this open laundry.

Dhobi Kalyan & Audhyogik Vikas Cooperative Society, the umbrella body of the washermen, holds the Guinness Book of World Records for achieving the feat of ‘most people hand-washing clothes at a single location’ in 2011.

Spreading over 15-acre land in the heart of the city, Dhobi Ghat’s land value is worth millions of dollars. However, the heritage site sits on just nearly 3 acres of land. About 200 families of the washermen live in the laundry area.

Dhobi Ghat (Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat) was an open air laundromat (lavoir) in Mumbai, India. The washers, known as dhobis, work in the open to clean clothes and linens from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals.

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