Very first coin-operated launderettes opened in Denmark in the beginning 1950 together with so many other phenomena from the Western culture. In Denmark, launderettes typically ran in premises where earlier had been a space for dairy product sales. The industry experienced a massive expansion in the 1960s and in the early 1970s, and in 1976 there were approximately 400 coin-operated laundries only in Copenhagen. Today this number is actively declining; at the national level, there are currently around 325 (2003 data).

Most coin-operated laundries resembling each other with their rows of washing machines tumble dryers and centrifuges. Payment/control panel is usually also the same type from place to place, as you can find work tables almost everywhere, where customers can put clothes together into a basket on wheels that conveniently transport clothes around a laundrette. And there is a bench and a pair of loose plastic chairs (usually marked VASK with a stencil – in Danish stands for laundrette in short) around the room. However, there are also variations in those automated spaces. For example, some laundry facilities have an option to even roll one’s clothes. Some laundries have hand painted decorations on the walls: floral or fairy-tale/cartoon motives, another a photo wallpaper with an image of a very distant seashore or a mountain stream. Small variations are also traceable in actual layout of public laundrettes. The bench by the window is designed exactly to fit the individual window shade. Various signs are instructing customers in different circumstances regarding behaviour in a laundry; they are not the same but often have same messages.

In most cases a coin operated laundrette facilities are equipped with a large facade sign, where there it simply saying Møntvask, Møntvaskeri or simply just Vask, but a number of Copenhagen laundries have more or less unique names like Vascomat on Njalsgade, Vascotheque on Godthåbsvej and Wascator on Refnæsgade.

A coin-operated laundrette has also been a favourite backdrop for several film directors who have made unforgettable romantic meetings, funny confusion scenes and murderous attacks with neon lights, polished washing machines, dryers and soap dispensers as a picturesque background.

With this project, I was aiming to gather visual data from the bigger majority remaining coin-operated laundrettes in Copenhagen during 2014 in order to create an analysis of automated spaces created for a specific purpose. Space, where boredom is a typical companion, where time is dragging in a slow pace beside spinning centrifuges, where small talks are becoming rare echoes in those environments. It is where humans come to date machines, to wash away their past from clothes or bed sheets.

Danes now have either their own washing machine or access to a common machine in properties where they live. Now, the welfare society with its higher and higher wages combined with cheaper and cheaper washing machines is slowly eliminating this particular type of business. Those spaces are being converted to serve other economic purposes and simply washing away by tumbling time from the streets of Copenhagen…