Uber for laundry is a catchy slogan. but picking up dirty clothes and returning clean ones to customers is a low-margin business with high set-up costs.scaling is expensive and mix-ups cause havoc. no wonder apps offering to outsource chores hit a snag withclothes washing, despite the initial enthusiasm of venture capitalists.

A lost pizza delivery is merely irritating. losing half your clothes is a reason to never outsource the service again.

On-demand laundry service washio folded in 2016 after raising more than $16m. flycleaners laid off more than 100 employees last year. cleanly, a new york-based laundry service with its own app, recently merged with dry cleaning company nextcleaners. in europe two of the largest on-demand laundry startups laundrapp and zipjet have also merged.

Charts showing global laundry methods

Cash-intensive startups have struggled to satisfy the growing focus of backers on profitability. this year, coronavirus has also shuttered laundromats.

Closed offices means less demand for dry cleaning. grand view research estimates theglobal dry-cleaning and laundry services market willdecline from $106bn last year to $104bn in 2020, before recovering to reach $118bn by 2023.

Chart showing number of laundromats in the us vs population

In the uk, 93 per cent of homes have washing machines, according to statista. in the us only 80 per cent of homes have one. launderettes remain popular, but their prevalence is shrinking. ten years ago there were 74 for every million americans now there are 62.

With no national brand of laundromats to spoil their fun, online laundry apps have the best chance of success in the us.

Coronavirus is accelerating the division of labour into well-paid professionals and insecure gig workers. that raises issues of inequality. but it could also give new impetus to apps deploying the latter to relieve the former of time-consuming chores like laundry.

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