Laundry Care in the 1920's

Laundry Care in the 1920's

By Inez Haythorn

Wash day was much different in the 1920's from what it is now. Of course, housework was harder because there were no modern conveniences.
My grandmother lived in a small town in West Virginia. When my mother and her brother were very young, they lived in a four room house. The laundry was done in the kitchen during the winter, and outside on the back porch in summertime.

Grandma washed clothes with a washboard. She had two laundry tubs which she set on a wash bench. She used a bar of soap which she cut into pieces and boiled to make a lather. Sometimes, she would just rub the soap on the clothes.

Here is how she washed her clothes. She used the washboard to wash the clothes in the first tub. Then she would wring out the clothes before she put them in the rinse tub. Grandma used a hand wringer. It had rollers and a hand crank to turn it. Then she put the clothes into the second tub to rinse. Usually, she rinsed twice, just to make sure they were soap-free.

Meanwhile, Grandma would have starch cooking on the stove. It would be diluted with water. After the second rinse and wringing of the clothes, she would dip the clothes into the starch solution. Then she would wring them out one last time and hang them up. In the winter, she would either hang them on lines in the kitchen, or outside to freeze-dry. In the summertime, she hung the clothes outside on lines.

The next day, she would take the clothes down, dampen them, and roll them up to be ironed. Of course, there was no permanent press back then, so everything had to be ironed.

Grandma used what they called a sad iron. The handle was detachable. She usually had two irons to make the job go faster. Grandma would heat the irons on the stove burner. When one was hot, she clipped the handle on to it and took it off the stove to be used.

She then ran the iron over a waxy substance before ironing. The ironing board had a little stand on it just to set the iron on. When that iron started to get cool, she would get the other one off the burner and continue. The first iron would go back on the burner to heat again.

My grandfather was a very capable man, and he built her a nice ironing board, which lasted probably over fifty years. It even had folding legs on it. But, many women did not have a regular ironing board. They just laid a board across a couple of chairs and ironed on that.

We've come a long way ladies!

Copyright 2003 Inez Haythorn All Rights Reserved

About the Author

Inez Haythorn is a Christian wife, mother, elementary school teacher, pianist, and freelance writer. Her main writing interests are Christian writing, and writing about lifestyles and memoirs of the past. Her goal is to glorify and honor God, and bless and help others.


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