Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This Is the Way We Wash Our Clothes . . .

Hate to do the laundry?
Well, compared to the Victorians, we have it easy. We separate our clothes by whites and colors, dark and light, then throw them into the washing machine, add soap, and the machine takes over. Afterward, we toss them into the dryer. The rest is folding--a few things may need ironing, but most can just be put away.
In the Victorian home, wash was usually done once a week and took up the entire day. Before 1880 when the first washing machine became generally available, the day started with fetching water. If the woman didn't have a well to draw water from, she'd have to lug it from a nearby stream. Some women used yokes so their back could take the brunt of the weight.
The soap used was homemade from water, wood ash and lard.
The water had to be heated in the hearth. The clothes were separated, much as we do today. Very dirty or heavy clothes were soaked in lye, then boiled. Lighter clothes were hand washed in cold or lukewarm water. Most women used a washtub or basin.
A variety of methods were used, just as today, to get out stubborn stains. The washboard was only used for the dirtiest garments. A long wooden stick with pins attached called a dolly was used to agitate the clothes in the washtub.
Once the clothes were rinsed in clear water, they had to be wrung out. This was either done by hand or with a press. This was a contraption with rollers. The clothes were rolled through it to wring out the excess wetness.
With no clothes dryer, the only option for drying clothes was either to lay them in the sun, hang them on a bush, or a clothesline outside or in the attic. Women often waited until the clothes were nearly dry to hang them outside to protect them from being splattered with mud.
The ironing was often left for the next day, but the wash area (if not done outdoors) had to be mopped or swept and the tub or basin had to be cleaned.
Here are a few links with further information and pictures:

1 comment:

NicoleMcCaffrey said...

I'm tired just from reading about it!