50 Years of Journeys: Laundry When There Were No Washers and Dryers
The Journey of Laundry Day
50 years of reflections by Annie McBurrows
We lived in the country, our water supply was an open hand dug well featuring a galvanized water bucket and chain. We would draw water to fill three No. 3 tin tubs and a big black wash pot for laundry day. The clothes were sorted into piles of white, colors and denim pants.
Winters were rough and when the water had set over night it was so cold it felt like our hands were freezing.
A bar of home made lye soap, a scrub board, and hours of rubbing the clothing with soap then on the rubbing board was required to complete the task. When all the hand washing was done a fire was started around the was pot and a half cup of lye and bleach was added to the pot of water along with the clothing.
Around the big black wash pot, clothing were boiled and as they boiled, an old ax handle was used to push them down into the boiling water, making sure each piece of laundry got equal boiling. The old stick was used to transfer clothing into the first tub of clean water. Clothes were rinsed through three tubs. The rub board was in the first tub to rub stains from the end of sleeves and the bottom parts of pants.
The ladies would spend all day washing and hanging out the wash on the clothes lines and the fences that surrounded the garden. When dry, all clothes would have to be resorted and placed in the owner’s box. Flour starch was used to starch clothes. The ladies ironed all day on Saturday and as soon as the sheets were dry on wash day, they were put back on the bed from which they came.
Now 50 years later, a twist of a button on an automatic washer and a setting on the automatic dryer and Horray the laundry is done. What a difference 50 years have made.