How They Did Laundry Back Then

How They Did Laundry Back Then

Once upon a time it was a metal washboard alongside a bar of hard soap in a tub of hot water. Now that’s what we call now as old-fashioned laundering. So how did they do laundry in the good ol’ days?

People washed clothed by the river, though this is still being practiced in less developed parts of the world. Riverside washing was even done during winter when the river was frozen. It lasted up until the 19th century, the rural areas took longer than that. Stains were treated at home. People brought instruments with them such as washing bats and beetles. This was used to beating the dirt out of their clothes. Traditional laundry the old way were often based in techniques used by weavers. It was seen as a ‘waste’ of time to be washing because most people back then had to do more important things such as planting, livestock and farming.

Soaking laundry in lye was back then the best way to tackle white clothes. The mixture also contained ashes and urine since this helps remove stains and acted as good de-greasing agents. Then there was bucking which required long soaking and because of this, it was a luxury to have your clothes washed constantly. Soap was mostly made out of ash, lye and animal fat. ¬†While starch and bluing was for better quality clothing.¬†Soap was rarely used during the medieval times but by the 18th century, it’s usage had become widespread.

The Grand Wash

The Grand Wash was their version of spring cleaning back then. They soaked fabrics in bucking tubs with lye. Sunshine was their version of a bleaching agent. There were some towns and areas back then that had an empty area which acted as their bleaching ground and where clothing could be spread on grass in daylight. Early settlers had their own communal washing area for this purpose. Both washing and drying was a public and group activity then. Some dried their clothes by spreading them on bushes, hedgerows, etc. Despite seeing clothesline depictions in paintings during the 16th century, most people were used to seeing laundry on hedges. Clothes pegs/pins seemed to have not been widely used yet before the 18th century.

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