Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Energy News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

100 years later, laundry may be easier but have we saved any time?

always time for a reality check...
by Staff Writers
Chicago (AFP) Oct 21, 2007
A century after the first electric washing machines promised to take the work out of laundry, it doesn't seem like today's multi-cycle magicians are saving us much time.

Sure we don't have to boil the water and lug it by hand over to big metal tubs. Nor do we have to strain our arms running sopping wet clothes through a wringer thanks the advent of the spin cycle.

But, somehow, the pile of washing has managed to grow ever larger with every seemingly time-saving advance.

"It used to be that people used to let their clothes get really dirty before they washed them," said Susan Strasser, author of "Never Done: a history of American housework."

"Now, we use a towel once and we throw it in the wash."

Laundry was always the most dreaded household chore and the first to be offloaded whenever women had enough extra money to send it out.

It took hours to haul the water from a well, heat it on a stove, soak and scrub the clothes, and then wring them out with hands that became raw and chapped from the hot water and caustic cleaning agents like lye and lime.

Then the clothes and linens had to be hung on a line and pressed with an iron heated on the stove or fire.

While laundry tools are nearly as old as the chore itself, H. Sidgier of Great Britain is credited with inventing the first washing machine in 1782: a cage of wooden rods with a handle for turning.

But the scrub board, invented in 1797, proved far more popular until machines with drums and clothes wringers emerged about 50 to 60 years later.

By the turn of the 19th century, hundreds of companies were selling washing machines with ad campaigns promising to eliminate the drudgery of "blue Mondays."

The Nineteen Hundred Washer Company, which later became Whirlpool, even stamped "Save Women's Lives" on the side of their machines.

"They said they were guaranteed to prevent farm women from committing suicide," said Lee Maxwell, a retired engineering professor who runs a museum in Colorado with over 1,000 antique washing machines.

"The ads would try to get at the emotions of the man ... because the work of farm women was unbearable."

But laundry was still exhausting, and dangerous, work.

Water still had to be heated, hauled and drained, the crank was still turned by hand and women often got their fingers or hair caught in the wringer.

Ads for electric washing machines first started emerging in 1906, cutting down on the muscle power needed to agitate the clothes. An electric wringer soon followed, as did water pumps and heaters.

They were of little use for most people until the 1920's and 1930's when running water and electricity reached the American masses.

In 1922, Maytag introduced the first finned agitator which forced water through the clothes rather than dragging the clothes through the water.

A popular innovation, the company is now the oldest America washing machine brand and celebrates its 100th anniversary this month.

But even so, washing machines ended up making more work for a lot of women, rather than less.

"Obviously it made housework easier, but it meant commercial laundries stopped being used so it brought the work back to the household," said Strasser, who is a history professor at the University of Delaware.

In 1937, Bendix introduced the first automatic washing machine which could wash, rinse and spin dry in one cycle.

By the 1950s washing machines were ubiquitous, and available in a range of colors from pastels to gold and coffee tones.

About 95 percent of US households now own at least one washing machine and growing number are installing a second unit in the closets of master bedrooms, according to Appliance magazine.

Increased energy efficiency and new functions such as larger-capacity front loaders and quieter cycles has also spurred sales, with nearly 9.5 million washers and eight million dryers shipped to US stores last year.

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Powering The World in the 21st Century at

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

China's Africa push: Who stands to benefit?
Johannesburg (AFP) Oct 21, 2007
China's push into Africa is prompting growing interest over Beijing's motives in the world's poorest continent with opinion divided over who stands to benefit most.

  • Seminole Adds 22 MW Of Renewable Capacity To Its Florida Portfolio
  • China rejects Japanese blame over East China Sea talks
  • 100 years later, laundry may be easier but have we saved any time?
  • Control Of Oil Reserves Among Iraq War Goals - Putin

  • India's coalition to meet on stalled US nuke deal
  • Belarus To Hold Tender In 2008 To Build Nuclear Power Plant
  • Indian PM still hopeful of nuclear deal with US
  • US nuclear deal on, says India ruling party

  • Giant Atmospheric Waves Over Iowa
  • Global warming driving up humidity levels, says study
  • Ocean Oxidation Preceded First Great Rise In Atmospheric Oxygen
  • Argon Provides Atmospheric Clues

  • Biodiversity said to be key to healthy forests: study
  • Chinese loggers stripping Myanmar's ancient forests
  • Greenpeace aims to expose Indonesian forest destruction
  • France to help rehabilitate burnt Greek farms, forests

  • Drought, demand push up food prices in Australia: report
  • China to import more Japanese rice soon: official
  • Fossilized Cashew Nuts Reveal Europe Was Important Route Between Africa And South America
  • Satellites Help Ensure Efficient Use Of Pesticides

  • Japanese carmakers vie to be greenest
  • Zippy new electric car looks like a three wheeled shoehorn
  • Computer Simulator Allows Visually Impaired To Drive
  • For Japanese automakers, the future's green and groovy

  • Airbus US boss demands end to WTO "histrionics"
  • MEPs seek limits on aircraft emissions by 2010
  • New Delft Material Concept For Aircraft Wings Could Save Billions
  • Aircraft And Automobiles Thrive In Hurricane-Force Winds At Lockheed Martin

  • Nuclear Power In Space - Part 2
  • Nuclear Power In Space
  • Outside View: Nuclear future in space
  • Could NASA Get To Pluto Faster? Space Expert Says Yes - By Thinking Nuclear

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement