Is it ever not laundry day at your house?
It seems that every day for me, is laundry day. Whether it be tackling the overflowing dirty laundry basket, or folding clean laundry, or ironing, or putting it all away.
With it being such a daunting task, I feel that the best way to get around this with a smile on your face, is to make laundry a chore that makes you smile, instead of grimace. To do that all it takes is some cute vintage inspiration, maybe hanging some vintage looking laundry on a shelf.
Or buying yourself one of the old vintage scrubbing boards. I want one so very badly and have been on the lookout for the perfect one for my laundry room.
But I think for me, the thing that makes me smile the most while doing laundry, aside from the clean wonderful scent of Homemade Laundry Detergent, is the fact that I constantly remind myself that I have it pretty easy compared to how women had to wash their clothes many many years ago.
There were no such things as washing machines and dryers. It all came down to elbow grease and a full day or two devoted to getting the family's clothes all clean.
And just to give you an example of how wash day would have gone, here is something I found on the internet. Advice to a 1900's bride.
ADVICE TO A 1912 BRIDE
Years ago a Kentucky grandmother gave a bride the following recipe for washing clothes (misspelled words and all) :
- Bild fire in back yard to heet kettle of rainwater.
- Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is pert.
- Shave one hole cake lie soap in boilin water.
- Sort things, make three piles. 1 pile white. 1 pile cullord. 1 pile work britches and rags.
- To make starch stur flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with boilin water.
- Rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, then boil. Rub cullord but don’t boil — just rench and starch.
- Take white things out of kettle with broom stick handle then rench, blew and starch.
- Spred tee towels on grass.
- Hang old rags on fence.
- Pour rench water in flower bed.
- Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
- Turn tubs upside down.
- Go put on cleen dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tee — set and rest a spell and count your blessins.
A whole day's work, indeed.
So how exactly did the day go on Wash Day???? Let's take a detailed look shall we? This is an account of what wash day was like, given from the point of view of a young girl during the early 1900's.
Hope you have a cup of coffee nearby, this may be a bit of a long read, but it's fascinating...well, at least to me it is :)
Washday was once a week, always on a Monday, and it took the whole day, starting between five and six o'clock in the morning. There was no time for much else, including preparing meals.
Before breakfast, the copper in the scullery was lit to heat the water. Filling it took about six bucketfuls, all drawn from the single brass cold water tap over the sink. There was of course no running hot water.
The whites (sheets, tablecloths and handkerchiefs) were separated because they had to be treated differently: the whites for boiling and the coloureds for soaking and then washing.
Once the water in the copper was hot, some of it was baled out into a wooden tub.
The coloureds were put into that to soak. The whites were put into the rest of the water in the copper and set to boil with soap and soda added.
It was while the whites were boiling and the coloureds were being soaked that my mother gave us breakfast.
After breakfast the coloureds were washed in the wooden tub.
Depending on the wash load, some of the coloureds were washed by forcing them up and down onto a washboard, a corrugated metal or glass sheet in a wooden frame. My mother had to stand to do this in order to get enough pressure to force the clothes onto the ridges in order to get the dirt out, and it was very hard, hot, steamy work.
Alternatively or additionally the washing was poked and agitated around in the hot soapy water with a wooden contraption called a dolly. There were some quite sophisticated ones with handles and 'stumpy 'legs' but it was quite common just to use a wooden stick.
All the washing had to be rinsed several times. The wooden stick or dolly served to lift it out of the water, although wooden tongs were also used for lifting.
The baths for rinsing were oval galvanised ones, commonly known as 'tin baths'. They came in various sizes, all with handles at each end so that they could be hung up on the wall in the yard outside when not in use.
The women had to be strong to lift sheets and tablecloths in and out of the various baths because wet washing was much heavier than a dry load.
The washing was put through the mangle to get rid of as much dirty water as possible, and then it was let drop into a bath of cold rinsing water. It had to be mangled again after each rinse.
The final rinse of the whites was in blue water from a bluebag which was a small muslin cloth tied round a small cube of blue substance and kept in a bowl of water.
It was important to be sure that the bag never leaked because otherwise little particles of blue would come out and leave small blue dots on the washing. (The blue bag was also used to dab on bites and stings to ease the pain.)
After rinsing, as much water as possible had to be removed before the clothes dried. Small items were wrung out but most things had to be put through the mangle again.
The tablecloths were starched. Starch was bought in granules, looking rather like dry stem ginger, and it had to be made up specially every time it was used, It was first mixed with a little cold water, and then boiling water was quickly poured onto it. If the water was not hot enough, the starch would not thicken, and if the stirring wasn't rapid enough, the starch would go lumpy. The process was rather like making custard or sauce.
The washing had to be dried: outside in good weather and indoors in bad weather. Then began the cleaning up.
I don't know about you, but this puts it all into perspective and it definitely makes me think twice next time I want to whine about the laundry. :)
All images credit: Google