How Clothes Were Washed in the Past

In the time before washing machines, people did their laundry by hand, using special tools to agitate the clothes in running water and smooth out the fabric during drying. The clothes were then hung to dry, usually on a clothesline tied between two buildings or trees. They were also left to air dry on the grass.

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Soaps made from animal fat and ash were common. However, they were not used widely in medieval times and were sometimes reserved for finer clothing. In the 17th century, soap was used extensively and was especially helpful for delicate fabrics. Eventually, soaps were made from olive oil and algae ash, and washing processes began to use the aid of a rigid washing board.

Although wealthy families could afford to hire a laundress, many poor families did their own laundry. In the early 1800s, washing clothes in a river was still an important activity for people. Women also carried wooden bats called beetles or paddles to wash clothes. These wooden bats were used to agitate the dirt and grease from the cloth. Before washing, women would first soak the clothes in detergent. Thankfully now laundry is a much simpler process. Take a look at the Bosch WKD28542GB Integrated Washing Machine by going to a site like

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Then, the clothes were rinsed to remove the soap from them. They were then squeezed by hand or with a wringer. Housewives had several different kinds of wringers to choose from. Some even had a wringer that was attached to a bathtub. The clothes would then be air dried or hung on the laundry line to dry.