Dhobi Ghat is 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. It was constructed in 1890.
At first, Dhobi Ghat presents a chaotic scene. However, a closer look brings out the order in the chaos. Lines and lines of washed clothes are hung out to dry in a manner that optimizes both time and space. This is a labor-intensive process, and the washermen, also called dhobis, have a system in place that takes care of washing, sorting, and ironing.
Behind the Scenes at Mumbai’s 140-Year-Old Dhobi Ghat
“I use a dhobi,” explained our guide Freni Avari. “His father used to work for my mother. We are continuing. It’s like family.”
She described how the dhobi system works. “He comes to the house once a week. Every household has a dhobi bag or container where all the clothes are kept. He doesn’t write down what he takes. He just knows,” said Freni. “He wraps them up in a bundle and takes them.”
Dhobi Ghats, the Outdoor Laundries of Mumbai