When living in South Africa I associated the word weekend with relaxation. In New York, we don’t have the luxury of domestic labor, so I now associate the weekend with household chores.
We’ve automated cleaning as much as we can. Our Roomba does the floors – although it needs a little help occasionally, like when it catches an errant cable or shoelace and wastes half it’s battery life dragging a shoe around the apartment.
The dishwasher saves some time, although it would be great if it could actually wash the stuff that is a real pain to wash, such as greasy pans.
Laundry is however the most unbelievably manual process considering it’s the year 2010. Why do we still have to check every label on every piece of clothing before throwing it in the washing machine or dryer? Why must we manually separate different colors and new clothes? Never mind the impossible choices, like when washing a dark green shirt, do you choose bright colors, whites or delicates?
It’s clear that the world of laundry needs a revolution, so here’s what I’m thinking:
Every garment needs a unique RFID tag embedded in it. (Many manufacturers are doing this anyway.) The tag would contain washing, drying and ironing instructions, and a link to a database of the garment’s washing history, so we know if colors are likely to run, and the garment’s owner, for when more than one person’s clothes are in the same load.
Clothing companies would either sell new clothes with the tags already embedded, or we’d be able to purchase tags separately and attach them.
At the laundromat, we’d simply open a door and throw everything in. The machine would tug gently to separate garments, read their tags and sort them into internal buckets for each combination of color and temperature setting. Garments with invalid or missing tags would be rejected.
It doesn’t really matter if your clothes end up being washed with someone else’s. Economies of scale is what would pay off the cost of these machines over time. Your clothes would be tagged, so they’d always be returned to you in the end.
In a few more years, this stuff could all be commoditized at your local laundromat. Imagine returning an hour after dropping off your laundry to find everything ironed and pressed exactly as the manufacturer intended. Even your missing socks might be accounted for. You never know.