Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dirty Laundry

Maytag vintage advertisement
approx. 1950
My mother did not get an automatic washer in the farmhouse until the late 1960s. Until that time, she used a wringer washing machine, not a Magtag, but similar to the one pictured at the top of the advertisement. The washer was kept in a corner of the porch and rolled out on laundry day. A small bench was placed behind the washer. A large copper boiler for the rinse water sat on this bench.

Hot water (boiled on the stove) for the washer and copper boiler were hauled from the kitchen to the porch.

The clothes were sorted and piled on the kitchen floor in the order they would be washed. Sheets, whites, colors, and finally coveralls and jeans.

The washer had a lever on the side that started the agitator. When the clothes were clean, they were "fished" out of the washer, run through the wringer and then placed in the hot water of the copper boiler for rinsing. Then the clothes were run through the wringer once more and taken outside to be hung on the clothesline, even in the Winter.

In Winter the clothes would freeze and at the end of the day were brought into the house and draped over chairs until they thawed. Sometimes, the frozen jeans actually stood by themselves, until they thawed.

The washer had a hose on the side that which allowed the water in the tub to be pumped out. Some days, the water in the tub was changed once or twice, depending on how dirty the clothes were that particular day.

Getting an automatic washer and dryer made laundry day a lot less work.

Do you have special memories of laundry day?


  1. I don't think Mom had and automatic washer until the folks moved to Glenrock in '71. Growing up the wringer washer was in the basement. Luckily was able to run a hose from the water taps to the washing machine and the double deep rinse tubs. Even after getting a dryer she preferred hanging the wash outside. Do you remember the fun of getting an item unwound from the wringers?

  2. My grandmother had a similar setup. I remember she always wore a sunbonnet that she had sewn herself when she was outside washing clothes or hanging them on the line. In the winter she would sometimes take the wet clothes to a public laundry and use their coin operated dryers.

  3. We had an old wringer washer in the side yard of the house. I well remember using our old wash tubs to save the water...then when it was properly used, it drained to a place under the apricot tree. The fishing worms were the best from that spot! A huge event was when we got an electric wringer washer...my big brother promptly got his hand and arm stuck in there and most the hide came off his arm! Big scars to this day...we never did have a dryer, just the clothes line...I remember the smell of linens off the line, the smell was wonderful. I remember also...everything, everything, everything was ironed...even the pillowcases and sheets!!

  4. I don't. My mom always had a modern washer and dryer. But, I'm sure the neighbor to us could tell stories --- into the late 1960s, she still had a wringer washer. For our suburban Philadelphia neighborhood, THAT was an antique. LOL

    I DO remember my grandma using "blueing" in her laundry. That was something my mom didn't do.

  5. What a fun post, Nancy. Laundry day used to be quite an operation! I remember my grandma's wringer washing machine, but my mom had a modern one from the time I can recall. I do remember hanging out wash on the line, though. Part of my job was to help her. I handed her a lot of clothespins!

  6. Golly your poor mum having to do the wasing outside in winter. Her hands must have ached!
    Imagine a modern young housewife today fitting all that into her day? I think not!


  7. We had a wringer washer too, you had to be careful of the wringer. We had a piece of wood perhaps a broom handle that we fished the clothes out with...it got all funny looking and feeling from the hot water and soap. We dried on the line too, when my brothers and sister were little diapers were hung on the line at least twice a week. Laundry was lots of work back then. Before electricity there were gas operated wringer washers...before that the wringers were made to go round and round by hand.

    On a side note: One time at a Circus performance in Iowa, I must have been about eight years old, a clown went through a wringer...and came out flat. Of course I thought it was real..not sure how they did it but it sticks out in my mind everytime someone mentions a wringer washer.

  8. I remember the wringer washer diapers wrapped around the wringer,If it does, an article of the wash may
    wrap several times around a roller before it is noticed; unwinding such a
    piece is often difficult, sometimes impossible without removing a roller .
    Its you're already happened?

  9. My mother got an electric washer in the early 60s, but we still had the old wringer washer in the porch and she used it for some things. The other laundry thing I remember are the wire pant stretchers she used. My dad's work pants went onto those and then hung on the clothes line. Came out with a sharp crease like they had been ironed. I hated those things - a wrestling match trying to get those pants straight on them.

  10. Yes! come to think of it. My Nana lived with us, the IRish one, and she was an ironing wizard. She ironed half the day. We had 6 kids and my father wore a suit every day to work. She ironed table cloths , our uniform shirts, and all the things we needed to look pressed and impressive.

  11. Yep, my mom had a wringer washer also in the basement, and I remember she once got her arm caught in it and fainted.I only remember hearing about it and don't know who rescued her. Sheets and pillowcases were ironed also, and I remember stuff freezing on the clothes line. I do remember "helping" once by putting the pants on the pant stretchers the wrong way which made Mom laugh. Laundry (and everything else?) is way easier now!

  12. Oh Nancy...that brought back such memories!... My mom WOULD NOT get an automatic washer. She used her wringer washer until she was not able to do her own wash!! And Sunday night...all the clothes sorted like you said where out on the basement floor and Monday morning she would wash them. She had a double tub for two rinses!! She did get dryer in the 60's...but she still hung most clothes on the line...even in the winter!!

  13. I remember my aunt's house wasn't originally built to have a washer, so when she got one, it was placed in her kitchen. She didn't have the drain hose, so they ran it out the window to drain water outside to water the grass. I think it's still that way to this day.

  14. I could have written this.. well.. I sort of did.... laundry day


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