Washing clothes and household linen: 1800s laundry methods and equipment
The data here follows on from
a webpage concerning the earlier good reputation for laundry.
Both parts offer an introduction to the way in which clothes and household linen were washed
in Europe, The United States, and also the British-speaking world, and are generally helpful tips for
another laundry history pages on this web site. The hyperlinks get you to more in depth
information and much more pictures.
A tub of warm water, a washboard inside a wooden
frame with somewhere to relax the bar of laundry soap in pauses from scrubbing –
this can be a familiar picture of how our great-grandmothers washed the laundry. It’s
not wrong, but it is only area of the picture. Factory-made washboards with metal
or glass scrubbing surfaces certainly spread across the world within the 19th and early
20th centuries, and bars of soap were cheap and plentiful through the late 1800s, but
there have been different ways of tackling the laundry too.
Within the idealised pictures of early advertising or today’s nostalgia products, the
washtub is on the stand near a vibrant, breezy clothesline,
though the truth is it might have been inside a cramped kitchen or dark tenement courtyard,
or with a tumbledown shack. Other options to a classic washboard and tub incorporated
dolly tubs (photo left) combined with a dolly stick
(also known as peggy or maiden) within the United kingdom and areas of northern Europe. They were tall tubs,
also known as possing- or maidening-tubs, by which large products were stirred and beaten with dollies or perhaps a plunger on the lengthy handle.
Water might be heated inside a large metal boiler or copper on the stove. A large pot boiling
over an outside fire suited a lot of rural America. In cities there have been public
laundries: some with warm water and modern equipment, some much easier and older,
such as the communal open-air sinks having a supply of water in Italian metropolitan areas. There have been
automatic washers of the kind, although not many homes had them. Ideas from inventors working
on automatic washers helped improve the style of simple washboards and dollies.
An ordinary wringer was the most typical bit of home laundry machinery
There have been huge alterations in domestic existence between 1800 and 1900. Soap,
starch, along with other aids to washing in your own home grew to become more abundant and much more
varied. Washing once per week on Monday or "washday"
grew to become the established norm. Because the Civilized world prospered, chemists, factory-proprietors
and advertisers invented and offered more laundry ingredients to more homes. British-speaking
countries saw riverside washing,
laundry bats, intermittent "great washes", and using
ashes and lye tail away. Later
Victorians thought these techniques were old-fashioned or quaint. British vacationers
sometimes described "foreign" laundry routines as very inferior towards the "new" ones
they expected of the servants in your own home.
An 1864 sketch (right) in the American Civil War shows two soldiers working hard, with
equipment new and old. The first is utilizing a bat on the washing bench, a nearly-forgotten
way in which was hardly utilized by generation x in the united states and United kingdom, although it
survived longer in certain areas of Europe, together with communal washing by rivers and
in washhouses. Another soldier’s
tub and washboard, though, remained popular for years to come. Washboards were
also used with no tub they may be transported towards the riverside.
It might appear odd to state that
using soap generously would be a modern, "advanced" method of tackling dirty laundry, but
in 1800 soap was utilized economically. It had been mixed into warm water for that primary wash,
and additional may be employed for place stain treatment, but everyday linen may still
be cleansed with ash lye. A few of the poorer individuals Europe ongoing to clean
their "ordinary" things without any soap or minimal soap. Laundry soap was frequently the
cheap, soft, dark soap which was simple enough to combine into warm water. Prior to the 19th
century hard soap might be made in your own home by individuals who’d lots of ashes and fat,
with warm, dry weather and salt to create the soap. Should you got it, you’d buy
a bit cut from the large block.
Through the finish from the century there have been lots of wrapped bars of business, branded
laundry soap offered at moderate prices. To combine up a lather, you can grate flakes
from the bar of soap, or perhaps buy ready-made soap flakes inside a box. Soap powder had
been noted for a couple of decades, and from about 1880 it had been quite broadly available.
Developments in science, industry and commerce were built with a significant effect on household
In the mid-nineteenth century, a general rise in demand was among the effects
of rising living standards. An increasing concern for cleanliness, connected with health
with fashion by means of whiteness for clothing products and linen, easily converted
into prevalent consumption, even while the reduced price of soap, starch, and blue enabled
their definition both as household requirements so that as inputs for an expanding laundry
Roy Church and Christine Clark, Product of Branded, Packaged Household
Goods in great britan, 1870–1914, Enterprise & Society (Sep 2001)
Other changes throughout a lifetime incorporated factory-made metal tubs beginning
to exchange wooden ones. Mass-created tongs were less expensive and more prone to replace
sticks for lifting wet washing. Clotheslines, pegs, and pins grew to become more prevalent.
Home-made clothes pegs and indoor drying racks
were copied and/or improved by manufacturers offering hardware stores. Enhancements
in starch production brought to a variety of products with small variations, packaged
differently, and targeted at different users. Laundry blue
wasn’t any longer only component in "blue starch". Through the 1870s it had been created in
a range of different formats with various packaging gimmicks: wrapped squares,
balls, distinctive bags or bottles of liquid bluing. Tinted starches, dyes, and merchandise
for restoring faded black clothes when you laundered them were on purchase at prices
individuals with modest incomes can afford. Borax and washing soda were packaged under
various names. Borax being utilized as a product for soaps and starches, and promoted
like a miracle all-purpose cleaning product.
There have been laundry services targeted at the "middling" people too. As the upper
classes continued employing washerwomen and/or general
servants, there have been various cheaper "send-out" laundry services within the
later 1800s and early 20th, including laundries that introduced both domestic laundry and linen from hotels etc. to some "hand-finished" standard. The easiest were wet wash
(US) and bag wash (United kingdom) plans in which you sent off a lot of money of dirty laundry
to become washed elsewhere. Ironing
ended in your own home only at that bottom finish from the market. Occasionally a
mangle lady having a box mangle would charge pennies for pressing household
linen and everyday clothing.
Laundry history before 1800
Good reputation for Ironing
Sitemap with full listing of laundry articles
If you wish to learn about a particular place and time, you may want to do more
detailed research, but hopefully there are plenty of knowledge on this website to help you get
30 Sep 2010
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