Saturday, April 4, 2015

Washing Day in the 1800's




Being a full time writer affords me the convenience of being home on a daily basis and one would assume the house work would be easily accomplished. That's not the case. Like most everyone else, its still a chore. Nothing like it was one hundred years ago, thankfully. Stuffing a load of laundry into a machine to wash is easy compared to the job it was in the 1800's. Take a look at the following excerpt from the book The Easiest Way In Housekeeping and Cleaning by Helen Stuart Campbell, 1893.


The advantages of washing on Tuesday are, that it allows Monday for setting in order after the necessary rest of Sunday, gives opportunity to collect and put in soak all the soiled clothing, and so does away with the objection felt by many good people to performing this operation Sunday night.
To avoid such sin, bed-clothing is often changed on Saturday; but it seems only part of the freshness and sweetness which ought always to make Sunday the white-day of the week, that such change should be made on that morning, while the few minutes required for sorting the clothes, and putting them in water, are quite as legitimate as any needed operation.
If Monday be the day, then, Saturday night may be chosen for filling the tubs, supposing the kitchen to be unfurnished with stationary tubs. Sunday night enough hot water can be added to make the whole just warm—not hot. Now put in one tub all fine things,—collars and cuffs, shirts and fine underwear. Bed-linen may be added, or soaked in a separate tub; but table-linen must of course be kept apart. Last, let the coarsest and most soiled articles have another. Do not add soap, as if there is any stain it is likely to set it. If the water is hard, a little borax may be added. And see that the clothes are pressed down, and well covered with water.
Monday morning, and the earlier the better (the morning sun drying and sweetening clothes better than the later), have the boiler full of clean warm suds. Soft soap may be used, or a bar of hard dissolved in hot water, and used like soft soap. All the water in which the clothes have soaked should be drained off, and the hot suds poured on. Begin with the cleanest articles, which when washed carefully are wrung out, and put in a tub of warm water. Rinse out from this; rub soap on all the parts which are most soiled, these parts being bands and sleeves, and put them in the boiler with cold water enough to cover them. 
To boil up once will be sufficient for fine clothes. Then take them out into a tub of clean cold water; rinse them in this, and then in a tub of water made very slightly blue with the indigo-bag or liquid indigo. 
From this water they must be wrung out very dry, and hung out, always out of doors if possible. A wringer is much better than wringing by hand, as the latter is more unequal, and also often twists off buttons.  The lines must be perfectly clean. A galvanized-iron wire is best of all; as it never rusts, and needs only to be wiped off each week. If rope is used, never leave it exposed to weather, but bring it in after each washing. A dirty, weather-stained line will often ruin a nice garment. Leave clothes on the line till perfectly dry.
If any fruit-stains are on napkins or table-cloths, lay the stained part over a bowl, and pour on boiling water till they disappear. Ink can be taken out if the spot is washed while fresh, in cold water, or milk and water; and a little salt will help in taking out wine-stains. Machine-oil must have a little lard or butter rubbed on the spot, which is then to be washed in warm suds. Never rub soap directly on any stain, as it sets it. For iron-rust, spread the garment in the sun, and cover the spot with salt; then squeeze on lemon-juice enough to wet it. This is much safer and quite as sure as the acids sold for this purpose. In bright sunshine the spot will disappear in a few hours.


I can imagine wash day filled with many back breaking hours, made even more uncomfortable when you factor in women of that time wore long dresses every day. I'll never enjoy doing laundry but I certainly won't complain about how easy I have it compared to my ancestors.



About Lily Graison

USA TODAY  bestselling author Lily Graison writes historical western romances and dabbles in contemporary and paranormal romance. First published in 2005, Lily has written over a dozen romance novels that range from sweet to spicy.

She lives in Hickory, North Carolina with her husband, three high-strung Yorkies and more cats than she can count and is mother of two and grandmother of three. On occasion, she can be found at her sewing machine creating 1800’s period clothing or participating in civil war reenactments and area living history events. When not portraying a southern belle, you can find her at a nearby store feeding her obsession for all things resembling office supplies.

To see the dresses Lily has created, visit her Pinterest page.

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3 comments:

  1. Egads. (That's the first word that came to me.) But I watched my grandmother do this and thought it looked like so much fun! This is why...in my recent WIP...I am allowing my couple to move to town where living is much easier.
    Thanks for this--the reasons for doing this or that on a certain day is very entertaining.

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  2. Wow... not something to look forward to. Thx for sharing

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  3. Wow, who knew washing clothes could be so complicated. My maternal grandmother used to wash clothes with this old ringer washer thing on the back porch every Monday. All her housework was very structured. I was a kid, so I didn't pay attention to any of the preparation work. Lordy, am I glad life is much easier these days. Women would have never been able to have a job outside the home--but, they did, at least in my family they did. I don't think I have that much energy.
    Great blog, Lily, and a great reminder of what we might want to have graditude for these days.

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