I threw some clothes in the wash, added some detergent, switched on the machine and walked away. I’ll go back later and take out the cleaned clothes, hang some on an airer and put some in the drier because it’s not nice enough to hang the laundry out today… later I’ll switch on the iron and watch TV while I do the ironing. Mundane but simple chores.

When I was small we lived in a new purpose-built flat and our water heated through something called an Ascot. I’m not sure what it was but it was gas-fired and would roar into life when the hot water was on. I don’t remember when I was a baby, obviously, but I am guessing my mum would wash most things by hand, and have some sort of boiler to do whites and nappies (no disposables then! Most of the fabrics would have been of natural fibres, heavy cottons, wools and linen; I’m not sure when nylon became widely available but I remembered the delight people had with shirts which hardly needed ironing, and sheets which were light-weight and easy to wash. I’m sure in those early days my mum had a mangle, I’m fairly sure I remember one. Clothes would have had to go out on the line, or draped on a clothes horse round the fire – no central heating then!

Irons were by my early years electric, but they were heavy old things, and ironing would have been hard work without the modern easy-iron fabrics we have now. It wasn’t long however, before mum got a washing machine, not a built-in one, but one which had to be filled and the water heated. It was a hugely labour-saving device though! Then joy – a spin dryer, a little round tub of a thing which would spin the water out of clothes. Eventually we did get a twin tub – a single machine with a washer and beside it a spinner.

As the years progressed, not only did the technology of the washing machines and irons improve, but the technology of the fabrics did too; better synthetics, easy-iron fabrics, lighter weights, washable wool, easy-care… and no, how easy wash-day is – if there is such a thing as wash day; now we can wash and dry whenever we want, programming our machines to work while we sleep, half-loads, economy-loads, low-temperature washes… oh and the light-weight irons, easy-iron sprays, central heating to air ironed clothes…

What a world away it is from my childhood, let alone that of my parents when they were children and a copper boiler would have to be lit and the clothes boiled and pummelled with a dolly-peg!

6 thoughts on “Wash day

    • Wasn’t it such hard work? My grandparents had a pub with a wash house and they would heat up the water on a Monday and then the kids would turn the mangle if they were home… my dad once put his Christening spoon through the mangle… he was a naughty little kid!

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  1. Here’s the joke: I write this aware that the washing machine downstairs has stopped churning, and it’s time for me to go rescue the clothes! This post brought back memories of early childhood years, when my mum would put clothes out on the line. In winter, they’d dry but also freeze, which meant that sheets (which had been slung over the line) came back inside tent-shaped. My mum would stand them on the floor, until they thawed, crumpled to the floor and could be folded and put away.

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