Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday is Wash Day

Remembering today that in the “old days,” Monday was clothes washing day for generations that preceded us.

Credit: Credit:
It was a day-long affair: sorting the clothes; filling the wringer washer and the twin rinsing tubs with water; scrubbing the badly stained items on a wash board.


These are much sought after plant containers for the garden these days! Wish I had the one my mother used. Wonder what happened to it? Probably wore out from all the use it got!

I can picture in my mind that old wringer washer that sat on the little back porch behind our kitchen. Come rain, shine or the coldest of winter days, Monday was still wash day.

Once the clothes were scrubbed, washed, rinsed and sent through the wringer, it was time for the starch tub – powered starch mixed with boiling water and stirred until smooth (I remember how good it smelled). Through the wringer again and ready for the clothesline.


This is the image that accompanied the poem that went around the Internet. This lady bears a striking resemblance to one of my aunts!

And I can't forget the clothespin bag, which the lady in the above image is wearing They were whipped up on the sewing machine and were a handy aid in hanging out the wash.
There were some basic clothesline rules which went something like this:

  • Socks were hung by the toes... NOT the top.
  • Pants were hung by BOTTOM/cuffs... NOT the waistbands.
  • The clothesline(s) were cleaned before hanging any clothes. You would walk the entire length of each line, damp cloth in hand, removing the dust.
  • Clothes were hung in a certain order; "whites" with "whites," and hang them first.
  • Shirt were hung by the shoulders – never by the tail! What would the neighbors think?
  • Wash day was Monday! NEVER hang clothes on the weekend, or on Sunday, for Heaven's sake!
  • Sheets and towels were hung on the OUTSIDE lines so you could hide your "unmentionables" in the middle.
  • It didn't matter if it was sub-zero weather... clothes would "freeze-dry."
  • Clothespins were ALWAYS gathered when taking down dry clothes! Pins left on the lines were "tacky" and besides, they would mold!
  • Clothes were lined up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item.
  • Clothes were taken off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket. The starched items were sprinkled down and placed in a large plastic bag, ready for ironing. During very hot weather, my mother placed the bag in the refrigerator if there was space; if not, in the freezer! This was to prevent mildew.
  • IRONING. An entire day’s work performed on Tuesday.

Here’s a poem going around the Internet about wash day which insprired this blog about wash day:

 (Author unknown)
A clothesline was a news forecast,
To neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep,
When clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link,
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by,
To spend a night or two.
For then you'd see the "fancy sheets",
And towels upon the line;
You'd see the "company table cloths",
With intricate designs.
The line announced a baby's birth,
From folks who lived inside,
As brand new infant clothes were hung,
So carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could,
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed,
You'd know how much they'd grown!
It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe too,
Haphazardly were strung.

It also said, "On vacation now",
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, "We're back!" when full lines sagged,
With not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon,
If wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past,
For dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home,
Is anybody's guess!
I really miss that way of life,
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best...
By what hung out on that line.

My mother actually thought she was lucky to have a wringer washer; she remembered the days of building a wood fire under an iron pot in the backyard and washing clothes there with a bar of lye soap. This is something she had to do in the early years of her marriage, during World War II, when it was impossible to buy a washing machine.

But she, like others, welcomed the day when she got her first "automatic washing machine."

We take a lot for granted these days, don't we? Wash any day of the week, any time of the night or day. And clothes drying on a line are rarely seen anymore. 

But the clothes dried there smell so good!


  1. my mother had a regular modern washing machine, but for the longest time she didn't have a dryer. i remember being taught the etiquette of hanging out clothes on the line. she didn't hang them outside in the winter, though. we had clothesline strung in the attic for larger items. smaller items were hung on wooden racks and placed over the floor furnace to dry.

    i've heard clothes lines are actually forbidden in some communities. it looks like we'd be moving back to that as "green" technology gets more attention.

    1. You are correct; clotheslines are forbidden in some of the exclusive neighborhoods. All the cookie cutter McMansions must abide by the rules or be fined.

  2. I do remember how wringer washer! Was renting a flat up in Darwin way back when I was in my early to mid twenties. They had one of these and I just HATED it as everytime I tried to wind my sheets through they would start winding around the top part and hitting the lever to stop it wouldn't work so by the time I did get it to stop I had one big mess and would take me ages to unwind it as it was wound around so tight.
    and put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes and I ruined a couple of shirts
    And you had the clothes you déjas caught in the wringer? or ruined a couple of shirts?

    1. Lucky it was only the clothes that got caught in the wringer. One of my mother's sisters got her arm caught it it once. Oh I can't even imagine the pain that inflicted!

  3. I remember a wringer washer from way back. The thing I remember most though was being in about the 6th grade and bringing a few friends home with me from school. Among the group were boys. We went into the backyard and there, right THERE were my undies hanging on the clothesline. I blush thinking about it all these years later.


    1. HAHA. I can totally identify with your embarrassment! Those were the good old days when children/all people were modest about such things.

  4. Don´t remember if Monday was the laundry day at my childhood home, but " doing the laundry " was a BIG thing.
    My grandmother did it, with the assistance of our maid. The maid did the ironing. My grandmother tended her garden, where she spent the summer days.
    In the winter, a hole was made through the ice of the lake and the laundry was rinsed in the ice cold water, yikes!
    I remember washing my tennis shoes on the jetty. The tennis shoes had to be as white as possible, hahaa.

    1. Did you use 'blanco'a whitening paste on your tennis shoes? Horrid stuff,but they sure made the shoes sparkle.

    2. Oh, I can't even imagine placing ones hands in that hole in the ice to rinse clothes. Perhaps they had some sort of instrument to use for the dipping?

      Oh, the white shoes had to be really white didn't they. Ida, don't think I ever heard of blanco whitening paste.

  5. Always line dry my clothes if weather allows,that fresh smell on linen MMMMMM,we still tend to line dry our clothes here.

    My G/parents had staff to do chores,but remember it was on a Monday,also they used 'blue dollies'a small blue tab in muslin which was supposed to whiten clothes the washing was done in a special wash house that had a large stone sink,and 3 large mangles,which suddenly disappeared and modern items took over.

    1. Congratulations that the people there still have the good sense to dry clothes on the line! In the novels set in the UK I've read, "pegging" out the laundry is how what we call handing out the clothes is described. Like that colorful term!

      Do tell: what is a mangle? rinsing tub? I also remember the blueing used after the rinse. Oh, staff. Sigh. Remnants of a bygone era.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...