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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How Laundry Has Changed

I’ll admit it.  I complain – a lot – when I have mounds of laundry to do.  It’s just so hard putting it in the washing machine, waiting an hour, putting it in the dryer, waiting another 30 minutes, folding it, and then finally putting it away.  Seriously, other than pushing some buttons, bending over a little bit, and walking the clean clothes to the appropriate rooms, home laundry isn’t that hard of work.

Before electricity, however, doing laundry was a back-breaking job.  Ancient civilizations used to haul their clothes down to a local stream or river, beat them against rocks, dip them in the water a few times, and hand wring them to remove excess water.  Oldandinteresting.com reports that ‘even in prosperous parts of the world – riverside washing went on well into the 19th century, or longer in rural areas.’  If you think about it, wash houses (buildings where water was routed in from a river or spring for doing laundry) could be considered luxurious at the time because at least you could stand up to work instead of being down on your hands and knees.  Plus you also could do laundry even in inclement weather.  Could you imagine trying to do your laundry in a frozen stream?

The Industrial Revolution and the invention of the wringer washer helped transform the world of laundry.  Even still, it’s not like they could throw it in a machine and go do something else.  Perhaps it wasn’t as back-breaking, but it still required a chunk of time and some muscle.  I still remember my grandmother’s wringer washer.  Hers was electric – and considered state-of-the-art when she got it…..but perhaps not in 1976, when I remember her still using it.  My first washing machine was a Cadillac compared to her wringer washer, though it seems bare-bones compared to the front-load, HE machine I have now.  These days you can opt for a base model or buy one with all kinds of bells and whistles – cycle options, various sensors, steam, LCD displays, and even WI-FI.

My how laundry has changed – from a stream to a tub of hot water and a washboard with a bar of soap to manual wringer washers and electric wringer washers to today.  Goodness, today manufacturers have created washing machines that will all but iron and put the clothes away for you.  Better than even that, you’ve got a family-owned dry cleaning operation right down the street that will not only clean your clothes but press them too.  Then all you have to do is hang them in your closet. 

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