Looking Back


Monday was Wash Day

Fifty or sixty years ago, if you drove around the village of Onoway or through the countryside on a Monday, you could be sure that you'd see the laundry flapping on the clothesline in almost every yard.


clothesline rulesMonday was laundry day. It was a full day's work, starting with hauling in the water and putting it on the stove to heat. Sheets, clothes, etc. were swished around in hot soapy water in a galvanized tub then came the hard work rubbing the different pieces up and down against the washboard. The corrugated surface of the washboard may have been metal or glass but, either way, it demanded vigorous rubbing to force the dirt out.


Wash BoardThen the pieces, heavy with water, were twisted by hand to remove as much of the water as possible before being dumped into another tub of (cold) water for a rinse. If you were lucky enough to have a mangle (or wringer) attached between the two tubs, you could turn a crank and ease the garment between two rollers to squeeze out the water. Swish the pieces around to get rid of the soap and dirty water, then wring them out again.


For the whites (shirts, tablecloths, etc.) there might be another rinse with bluing to help make the whites look whiter. And after that, a dip in starch to be sure that the piece would iron out crisply. Then a basket full of laundry is taken outside to be hung on the clothesline with wooden clothes pegs.


BluingIn the days before electric washing machines and dryers, in the days when fabrics in general were far heavier than today (synthetic fibres began appearing in the mid-1950s although nylon stockings were very hot in the late1940s) wash day was a tough job, and inescapable! Granted, underwear was not washed as frequently as it is today (it was changed once a week) and sheets were rotated (the top sheet becomes the bottom sheet and the bottom sheet is washed).


Cleaning products evolved along with the equipment. Rinso was the first soap powder, Dreft the first detergent (for delicate fabrics) and in 1946, Tide was the first all purpose laundry detergent.


SoapBy the late 20th century, many women were working outside the home. They didn't have a lot of time to spend doing laundry. Besides they wanted their clothes looking newer, longer. So the expense of an automatic washing machine and dryer (in a specially built laundry room) became a given.


Progress. Right?

Wooden clothes pins held laundry tight on the clothesline
Sock stretchers kept hand-knit woolen socks from shrinking

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 Last updated: May 31, 2015