W is for Wringer Washer

This is how we did the washing when I was a kid at home and for quite a few years after I got married, too. Notice, I did not say laundry. I never heard that word until I was an adult, and even then I thought it only applied to that place in town. Folks took laundry to the laundromat, but at home, we just did the washing.

You couldn’t fit the washing in between other tasks. It was a job that took your full attention and energy for several hours, maybe even all day.

As a trip down memory lane for some and maybe an eye-opener for the lucky young ones who never had to to it – here is –

A step-by-step guide to doin’ the washin’.

  1. Take a galvanized bucket out to the well in the back yard. Pump the handle on the cistern til the bucket is full. Carry it back into the house, pour it into your biggest pan and put it on the stove to heat. Repeat. Many times. It takes a lot of water to do a washing. Some women heated water in a metal lard tin, or even in a tub.
  2. Fill the washing machine and at least two tubs. Set aside two smaller tubs of water – one for bleach water, and one for starch.
  3. As soon as the machine is full, put in your first load of whites. Let the clothes agitate for 10 or 15 minutes.
  4. Flip the release on the wringer and position it between the washing machine and the first tub. Turn off the agitator.  Tighten down the wringer. Reach down in the machine and grab a sheet, or a towel, or a pair of drawers. Feed the clothes slowly into the wringer, one at a time. Make sure any buttons or zippers are folded to the inside so the wringer doesn’t break them.
  5. Turn the agitator back on and put your next load of clothes into the machine. Position the wringer between the two tubs and run the clothes, one at a time through to the second rinse.
  6. Set an empty clothes basket on the floor beside the second tub. Swing the wringer around to position it between the tub and the basket. Run the clothes through the wringer into the basket.
  7. Carry the basket outside and hang up the clothes on the clothesline. If the wet clothes pull the line down too low, use a long prop pole to push the line higher.
  8. Repeat steps 3 – 7 until all the clothes have been washed. Your last load will be the dirtiest jeans and overalls. If the water gets too gross along the way, (it will) repeat steps 1 and 2.
  9. Drain the wash water into your bucket and carry it outside. Repeat til machine is empty. Dip water out of the tubs, carry it out, too. Push the machine back in the corner, hang up your tubs.
  10. Before the end of the day, go out and gather in the clothes. In the summer, with a good breeze blowing, they’ll be dry in an hour or two.  It doesn’t take long in the coldest days of winter, either. If you start early in the day, your clothes will freeze dry before supper.

Speaking of supper, don’t forget to fix lunch for the kids and have a good meal ready when your husband gets home.

We won’t talk about the ironing. That’s tomorrow’s job.


This entry was posted in A to Z April Challenge, History, Memoir and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to W is for Wringer Washer

  1. Lydia says:

    Ah yes, I’ve used a ringer-washer. In fact, there were lots of times I used it during a certain period in my childhood, and I’m only twenty-four now. 🙂

    Visiting from the A to Z Challenge. See my “W” post here: https://lydiahowe.com/2017/04/27/w-is-for-water-and-no-tea-atozchallenge/

  2. Linda Curry says:

    The one thing you didn’t mention was throw the buckets of washing water over the lemon tree. It seemed to remove all the pests and resulted in lovely unblemished fruit.

  3. Carmel says:

    Snap! I wrote about washing day too but have edited mine to redirect folks to your post as this so accurately reflects what happened at our place. The only difference was a large copper tub was built into the corner of the laundry where the water was heated. https://earlieryears.blogspot.com.au/2017/04/waiting-and-washing.html

  4. My mother would suggest that you toss the used water over the flower beds or on a tree, since she grew up in 1930s Kansas during the droughts of that time.

  5. Deborah says:

    I remember my grandmom ,mom , aunts and me all had wringer washers. I remember the small of the soap and the sound of the washer. Boy wringer washers sure can wash clothes good. I had a wringer washer until 20 years ago .Then I got a regular washer and dryer . I loved the smell of clothes hanging outside drying in the air. No fabric softener can take the place of cloths dried in the fresh air.

  6. Fran says:

    We used the water on Mum’s roses. Apparently it kept the aphid population down. My most memorable thing was the constant instruction to not get your fingers caught as they would get squashed and broken as it dragged you in and up your hand and arm.

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