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Does the word 'laundered' when referring to garments that have been cleaned in some way always imply washing with water (and perhaps some kind of detergent)?


  • I think the basic meaning applied to bed-linen and covered not only washing but bleaching, starching and ironing. The primary meaning in the OED is

    To wash and ‘get up’ (linen).

    With difficulty I located their definition of get up in this sense:

    To make (linen or other clothing) ready for wearing. Now rare (chiefly hist.).

    This is possibly the idea behind this use of the noun get up:

    A style or arrangement of dress, especially an elaborate or unusual one.

    As I understand the word nowadays, it can still mean 'processed in a laundry', but it can also mean more generally (of clothes) 'washed by somebody else'. If I washed something myself, I would call it washed, not laundered.

    Also, I think the sense of 'make ready for wearing' survives. I don't think we'd describe anything as 'laundered' if it was still wet, or so badly creased as to need ironing, or if it needed minor sewing repairs.

    I can't think of any context in which I'd refer to something dry-cleaned as 'laundered'.

    The only catch-all word I can think of is valeted, but this is more often used of cars than clothing. I think I'd used the phrase washed or cleaned.

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