Category Archives: Cleaning

Wash Day Miracle

Washing on the Li River, Yangshuo

We don’t think much about washing clothes. Which is to say most of us don’t think it’s an enjoyable occupation. This is true whether we take our washing to the laundromat, or have the luxury of a home machine. For some bizarre reason, every time I use the washing machine, I think it’s some kind of miracle. Dirty clothes in; clean clothes out. I don’t have to take my clothes to the river or haul water to boil over a fire. Less than one hundred years ago, women in rural America, lacking both electricity and running water, did this every Monday.

Robert Caro, famous for his multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, wrote about wash day in Texas during the 1930s. First, pump water from the well. Next, cut wood and lay a fire outside. Boil vat of water. Now, it’s time to do the laundry.

Scrub clothes in a tub with lye soap. Move the clothes around with a paddle. Shift soapy wash to a rinse tub. An average tub held about eight gallons of water.




Another method, illustrated here usedBailey_Wringing_Machine_Co._ a smaller tub. But clothes still had to be scrubbed on a washboard and eventually drawn through a wringer to remove as much water as possible before hanging the wet laundry on a line.



THOR-32 washing machine


In 1933 women with access to piped water and electricity could utilize the THOR-32 electric washing machine. It had a revolving, reversing cylinder to “lift and dip the clothes through active, soapy water.” And it featured a “wonderful metal swinging wringer.”

In the 21st century, we take washing machines for granted. Mine adds the soap, washes, rinses, spins and produces clothes that are practically dry already. And, yes, I do have a dryer to complete the process, as well as a clothesline.

This amazing machine rewards us with the gift of time. It also uses energy produced by electricity or gas. Both affect our environment. It’s a trade off.

One of my loyal readers is an economics professor. Last week he sent me a link to a talk Hans Rosling presented at TEDWomen2010. From an analytic perspective, Rosling explains the impact such a simple machine has had on our world and points out the thousands of people, like the woman in the first photo, who still lack even this labor saving device. The video is nine minutes long and well worth your time.

Hans Rosling. “The Magic Washing Machine.”

Here’s the link.


Photo of woman washing on banks of the Li River, Yanghshuo, China by Author.

Remaining illustrations in Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

REA Woman Works Washboard.

Bailey Wringing Machine.

THOR 32 Electric Washer, 1933.

Clay Coppedge.”LBJ and the Sad Irons.”

Is There a “Perfect” Closet?

Is There a “Perfect” Closet?

  Spring officially begins in about a month. Some people think of bunnies and chicks. Some wonder if they should clean something. I dream of organizing my closet. There’s nothing really wrong with my closet. It has a rack and top shelf on either side. One side has a dresser with room to stand the… Continue Reading

“Spring-Clean” is a Verb

“Spring-Clean” is a Verb

Until today, I didn’t know “spring-clean” is a verb. So the ladies in our featured image may not be sweeping the floor. They could be spring-cleaning it. If so, I’m sure they’ll remember to clean their brooms afterwards. When used as a noun, a spring clean is a thorough cleaning of a house, often undertaken… Continue Reading

Make Laundry Day a Happy Day

Make Laundry Day a Happy Day

Throughout history, there has been laundry. As proof I submit today’s featured image of women in ancient Greece filling a wash tub. And, as long as there has been laundry, people — usually women — have complained about having to do it. But the truth is, washing clothes today isn’t nearly the chore that it… Continue Reading


    Some of my Twitter followers know I recently cleaned out my closet (because I couldn’t find anything to wear) and rediscovered “the collection room” floor (I knew it had to be there somewhere). When Matthew Wright (no relation), member of the  #myWANA hashtag group on Twitter, realized I’d inadvertently begun cleaning my closet,… Continue Reading

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