“This Is the Way We Wash Our Clothes. . .”
IN MANY lands those words are familiar to generations of children who have enthusiastically sung and danced to this famous nursery rhyme. But if the thought of doing laundry hardly makes you jump for joy, consider: After a shower or bath, is it not refreshing to dry off with a fluffy, freshly laundered towel? What man does not feel more neat and comfortable wearing clean clothes? Why, even children seem to enjoy wearing clothes that are clean and sweet smelling—even if ever so briefly!
Washing our clothing is thus far more important to our life and well-being than we often realize. However, the way we wash our clothes may depend upon where we live in the world.
Washing without Washing Machines
In many affluent lands, the word “washing” has become inseparably linked to the word “machine.” In poorer lands, though, washing is often still done by hand, and with surprisingly good results! Take, for example, those hard-to-clean white clothes. In countries with a hot, dry climate, women take advantage of the sun.
The procedure is simple. A basin is filled with water and a generous quantity of soap or detergent. The whites are submerged, and the hands of the industrious laundress vigorously agitate the water, squeezing the sudsy water through the fabric. If commercial bleaches are not available, some use other time-honored whiteners, such as coconut vinegar. Then, after a quick rinse, the wet clothes are draped over convenient shrubs or fences and sun-bleached to impeccable whiteness. Now, back to the tub for many rinsing and a second drying under the hot tropical sun. The result? Whites that fairly blaze with cheerful cleanness!
A housewife who lives near a river or stream may try a slightly different method. First she chooses a good spot, such as where the bank slopes gently toward the water. If the river is fast-moving, though, she is careful to choose a quiet inlet where there is little danger of her clothing being swept away by the current. Is there a large rock nearby? Good. The housewife now uses a wooden pallet to beat the wet clothing against the rock. The dirt is literally driven from the material.
Washing Machines—Past and Present
In affluent lands machine washing has all but eliminated hand laundering. But washing machines go further back in time than you may realize. During the Middle Ages in Europe, the washtub was the popular means of laundering clothes until it was gradually replaced by the steam boiler. Later, in the 19th century, there appeared a washing machine that resembled its modern-day counterpart. In 1830 an English laundry used a rotating cylinder that tossed the clothes in hot soapy water. This basic method has remained unchanged to this day.
However, the washing machine was slow to catch on. Users found the hand-turned crank to be hard on both the clothing and the person turning the crank. So by the end of the 19th century, the corrugated washboard, tub, and hand-driven wringer were the equipment of choice for many housewives.
The washing machine, though, made resurgence in 1910 with the appearance of the first electrically powered machine. Twelve years later, the first agitator-type machine came on the scene. Since then, countless improvements and adjustments have been made on washing machines. Some companies have even begun marketing computer-controlled machines that at the touch of a button will “determine how dirty your clothes are and then select the optimum detergent and washing method.”—Popular Science, July 1990.
Tips on Using Automatic Washers
The standard automatic washer is common in many Western homes. “Automatic,” however, does not mean that it can be used without careful thought. For example, in top-loading washers, an unbalanced load of laundry can cause the machine to move along the floor during spin cycles, wreaking all manner of havoc upon your laundry room. Hazardous fumes can be formed if you use chlorine bleach with ammonia. So follow basic safety procedures. Do not put your hands into the machine until all motion stops. Unplug it before attempting to service it. And do not let your children operate or play with your washer.
But how can you be sure of getting satisfactory results when you do a load of laundry? Here are a few basic suggestions:
□ Empty all pockets, turning them inside out.
□ Turn down cuffs, and brush away loose dirt.
□ Tie strings and sashes so they don’t tangle.
□ Close zippers, snaps, and hooks so they do not snag other items.
□ Treat spots and stains before laundering.
□ Don’t overload. This can result in poor cleaning, increase wrinkling, cause more lint, and wear out your clothing.
Admittedly, many must still do their laundry the old-fashioned way—by hand. But whether your washing machine is a metal tub, a rushing stream, or a computerized mechanical marvel, the results can make your labors worthwhile—clean, sparkling clothing for yourself and your family, as well as the satisfaction of a job well done!