Happy National Laundry Day! In this episode we learn the ins and outs of our clothes, and laundry. We’re celebrating this week with comedian and laundry aficionado Andrew Hall! (Instagram: andrewhallpass / Twitter: @andrewhallpass / Facebook: MidnightGardenersLeague / Twitter: 12amGardeners / Instagram: MidnightGardeners)

Show Notes

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History + fun facts about the holiday

  • According to Wikipedia, ‘laundry’ comes from the Middle English lavendry and refers to the washing of clothing and other textiles
    • 1799–French born man name M. Pochon invented a ventilated barrel that could be hand cranked over an open flame, thus was the first clothes dryer
    • The first washing machine was invented in 1782 by H. Sidgier of Great Britain–it consisted of a rod cage that could crank
    • 1908–Birth of the first electric-powered washing machine called The Thor was introduced by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, invented by Alva J. Fisher
    • Wikipedia: “Laundry has been part of history since humans began to wear clothes, so the methods by which different cultures have dealt with this universal human need are of interest to several branches of scholarship
      • Laundrywork has traditionally been highly gendered, with the responsibility in most cultures falling to women (laundresses or washerwomen)
    • Laundry, like cooking and child care, is done both at home and by commercial establishments outside the home
  • General history:
    • Laundry was first done in watercourses, letting the water carry away the materials which could cause stains and smells. This is still done in rural regions of poor countries
    • Then done in washhouses, where water was channelled from a stream or spring into a building, which typically contained two basins–one for washing and one for rinsing. They were a women-only space where they could discuss issues or chat/gossip
    • Laundry technology was transformed during the Industrial Revolution, with the introduction of the mangle–which consisted of two long rollers in a frame and a crank to revolve them, which compresses the cloth and expelled excess water–, various hand-operated washing machines, an electrically powered agitator, clothes dryers, and eventually washing machines as we now know them.
  • Fun facts!
    • From bosistos.com article “9 Mind Blowing Facts About Laundry”, dropps.com article “17 Mindblowing Historical Facts About Laundry”, Reader’s Digest article “9 Laundry Facts You Didn’t Know Until Now”, and thespruce.com article “Interesting Laundry Facts and Trivia”
      • 70% of dirt on your clothes is invisible
      • You perspire about 6 litres/1.6 gallons of sweat a day, half of that through our feet
        • Our bodies also produce salt, grease, sebum, dead skin–each load of laundry has about 53g/1.87oz of grime, “about the size and weight of a Snickers bar”
      • Fragrance sensitivities are on the rise–a study from U of Georgia found that over 30% of participants had headaches, breathing difficulties, or other issues when exposed to perfumes on others, 19% had issues with air fresheners, 10% were irritated by fragranced laundry products
      • Dryers have only been around 200 years and weren’t a household item until the 1960s due to being cost prohibitive–in 1950 they cost about $1600 in present-day money
      • The average American family does 8-10 loads of laundry each week. A single load of laundry, from wash to dry, takes an hour and twenty-seven minutes to complete on average
      • 21.2% of American households use a clothesline
      • Laundry accounts for 21% of indoor water usage. 41% for flushing the toilet
      • Ironing as a practice was introduced in Ancient China 1000 years. The first ironing board was invented in NY in 1858
      • In Ancient Rome, there was an entire job description for the collection of urine, heating it with water, then stomping on soaked clothes. This was mostly men’s work
      • Before the 1800s, people wore the same things for a week, then soaked their clothes in ashes and urine as part of a lye mixture
      • In 19th Century Britain, Mondays were typically reserved for the weekly wash
      • Astronauts incinerate their underwear! After first re-using them for up to a week, then burnt and send off to a space grave
      • Soapmaking dates back to 2800BC, rendered from ashes and fats
      • Early sea voyagers used to “wash their wearable wares” by throwing them in a tethered bag and tossing them overboard to drag behind their ships
      • Clothing lines were used as a sneaky signalling device during the Revolutionary War
        • Those loyal to George Washington, or the “spymaster,” formed the Culper Spy Ring and would tip off other members about overheard intel by arranging their clothesline in such ways as to communicate in code
      • Civil War washerwomen earned more money than soldiers. The salary of the laundress was paid by the Army by deducting the fees from soldiers’ pay. Each enlisted man had $.50 withheld monthly, unmarried officers $1-2 monthly, and married officers $4 monthly. Each laundress was responsible for 20-30 men. Union officers earned an average of $13-16/month
      • Detergent was invented due to a soap shortage during WWI. There was a chronic shortage of fats to make soap, which lead to the creation of synthetic detergents. First went on sale in 1933 as ‘Dreft’
      • WWII submariners had to be strategic about sleeping arrangements because laundry machines weren’t an option–uniforms were stowed under mattresses, which were also zipped in plastic, turned over, and inside outwards to make quadruple, pseudo-sanitary use of the items
      • During the Northern Ireland conflict, the British used a laundromat as a front for counter intelligence information collection, specifically to determine who was making bombs and where. They built a laundromat and staffed it with locals and a few British soldiers. The laundry would send out “color coded” special discount tickets: “get two loads for the price of one.” The color coding was matched to specific streets and when someone brought in their laundry, their general location could be determined.
  • While the laundry was being washed/pressed/dry cleaned, an additional cycle was added. Every item was sent through an analyzer that checked for bomb-making residue. Within a few weeks, multiple positives of bomb residue had shown up.
  • To narrow the target list, they sent out more specific numbered coupons to all houses in the suspected area, then swooped down on the identified homes, arresting multiple personnel and confiscating bombs, weapons, and ingredients
  • No one was injured or killed during the operation
  • Disney World employees used to have to wear company-issued underwear that was shared within the laundry system–in 2001, a deal was signed to give workers their own undergarments to take home, which came after a major outbreak of lice and scabies
  • If you wash and dry one load of laundry every day for the next 44 years, you’ll clean as much as staff at Disney World do in a day. An average of 285K pounds of laundry are washed daily, while 30-32K garments are dry-cleaned daily
  • Laundry dream analysisIf you dream you’re doing you’re laundry, it suggests that you are cleaning up your act or changing your image because you are concerned about how you appear to others
  • If you dream that you’re having someone else do your laundry, you’ve been gossiping. Someone’s dirty laundry is out there
  • If you dream about sorting the laundry, it indicates that you are trying to understand our own feelings and sorting out your attitudes
  • History of National Laundry DayWe discovered National Laundry Day via nationaltoday.com. Whatnationaldayisit.com first detected mention of the day on April 16th, 2015.
  • From marketingmag.ca: for National Laundry Day 2016, GE (General Electric) Appliances Canada executed an integrated marketing campaign in support of its GE Designer Line of laundry appliances that included broadcast partnerships, giveaways, and a Twitter partyLyndon Madden, the director of marketing at GE Appliances Canada in Burlington, Ont., stated, “Believe it or not, there are people out there that are crazy interested in laundry–laundraholics I might call them.”
  • The day included TV appearances on several morning shows in Montreal and Vancouver, with each show holding Designer Line laundry pair giveaways, worth around $2K each
  • The NLD events drew 22.8 million impressions, and #nationallaundryday was trending in Canada
  • According to National Today, “Laundry” is derived from two Welsh words: “lloon” or crazy and “dyrte” or dirtyThe Welsh jokingly called the English “Lloon dyrtes” and it eventually morphed into “laundered”
  • NT and thedickinson.net are the only search results with this claim and the phrase, both referring to National Laundry Day
  • These words do not appear to have any connection to the Welsh language
  • Looking up the pronunciation for that phrase lead me to a huge discovery
  • According to National Today, Emmett Lee Dickinson:Created the laundry basket on wheels
  • Self-proclaimed advocate for clean clothes
  • Founded National Laundry Day in the 1800s
  • Has a laundromat in Pennsylvania dedicated to his memory
  • All of these claims seem to originate from… thedickinson.net.
  • thedickinson.net is a site entirely dedicated to “Emmett Lee Dickinson,” the supposed third cousin, twice removed (at her request) to Emily Dickinson. The site proclaims that Emmett is perhaps America’s greatest poet, and that his works greatly influenced his third cousin, as well as every American poet ever since.It apparently represents the Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum, which is allegedly located above the coin-op Laundromat on Dickinson Boulevard in Washerst, Pennsylvania, which is dedicated to preserving Dickinson’s work and promoting his lifeThe site claims that the museum is one of the top museums in Washerst, along with the National Traffic Light and Traffic Sign Museum, and the Washerst Newel Post Museum, and that it provides ongoing and special exhibits dedicated to “the man who should be recognized as more than the “Salieri” to his third cousin Emily’s “Mozart”
  • The site includes a floor plan of the museum (which has its own IMAX theater), admission prices, calendar of events, links to poet dating sites, a history of Washerst, and a list of snack bar items including swedish meatballs on a stick, refried corndogs, and cajun nachos
  • thedickinson.net also claims to have received “all three of the Internet’s top awards for truthfulness and accuracy” including the American Library Association’s Seal of Correctitude and Bona Fide Authenticity; the distinguished “VIP” Webby Award for Verity, Integrity, and Probity; and the Blue Ribbon of Excellence from the President’s Commission for Internet Veracity and Online Quality
  • Sadly, the Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum burned to the ground in January 2016, as evidenced by the article included on the home page of the website (included in the show notes)
  • The whole thing is the brainchild of one [Jim Asher], a principal at a middle school in Charlottesville, VA. He actually reworked poems by Emily Dickinson into two volumes called Great American Poems–Repoemed: A New Look at Classic Poems of Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, & Robert Frost, and Great American Poems–Repoemed Volume 2: A New Look at Classic Poems of Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, and Robert Frost…respectivelyThese books can both be found and purchased on goodreads.com. The first volume has a 3.5/5 star rating
  • “Dickinson came up with the idea for a national day dedicated to the task of doing laundry after he wrote his now-classic poem, “The vastest earthly day’s.” The poem then allegedly inspired his third cousin Emily Dickinson to pen her poem “The vastest earthly Day.”Emily Dickinson:The vastest earthy day/ is shrunken small/ by one defaulting face/ behind a pall
  • Emmett Lee DickinsonThe vastest earthly day’s/ not shrunken small/ by agitating wash/ which does enthrall
  • Site also includes blog archives  from nearly every month from May 2013-March 2019
  • He also created adverts with unique themes for each Laundry Day since 2014In 2018, the theme referenced the $22trillion national debt with the catchphrase “Let’s let the kids do the laundry!”
  • For this year, Donald Trump, “the spokesperson for 2019’s National Laundry Day, came up with this year’s theme: ‘Be sure to keep your whites separate!’”
  • One of the first things that gave me the impression that the site might not be on the up-and-up were the list of contributors to the site, which included such names as “Angstrom Dickinson,” “Verla Burrell-Bordelon,” “Emerson Nettles,” and “Qwerty Lee Dickinson”
  • The process to submit a new holiday to National Today is to fill out an electronic application with: your own name; organization name; phone number; email address; website; suggested holiday name, date, and type; a paragraph on why the holiday should be included; 3 reasons you love the holiday; 3 ways to celebrate the holiday; the origin story of the holiday; any mass or social media coverage there’s been, including any links; and any additional comments. I have no idea what their editorial process is, or how much they attempt to corroborate the content of the submissions, but National Today does have a team of 13, including a publisher, two editors, and a staff writer.

Activities to celebrate

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  • From National Today:
    • Copy your files to an external hard drive: set aside 15 minutes to an hour to back up all of the existing files on your desktop, laptop or pc. Simply purchase a hard drive of your liking – we recommend 1TB drives or more – and copy your files to the drive
    • Play in the cloud: Can’t buy a hard drive in time? No worries! There are plenty of companies that specialize in storing your documents online. Do your research and figure out which service works best for you. We recommend the Google Cloud, WMware Storage or Barracuda Cloud Storage, but they are all great!
    • Back that thing up party: Invite all the employees on your team to back up their files with one of the methods above. This will create a safer culture among your staff and prevent any projects from slipping through the crack. The last thing you need is a client asking for a file that was wrongfully discarded.
  • Lifewire provides a ranked, updated list of online backup services reviews, along with prices, as well as links to free online backup services and cloud storage services


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