How to Hand Wash Clothes

Learn how to hand wash clothes the old-fashioned way, in a wash tub on laundry day.
Submitted by an anonymous reader
Fall 2014
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Before the modern washing machines, laundry day meant hand washing clothes.
Photo by iStockphoto/ideeone

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Several years ago, a grandmother in Alabama gave a new bride a recipe for how to hand wash clothes she found in an old scrapbook. Here is the recipe, printed as it originally appeared — misspellings and all.

Warshing Clothes

Build fire in backyard to heat kettle of rainwater.

Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is pert.

Shave one hole cake of lie soap in boilin’ water.

Sort things, make 3 piles – 1 pile white, 1 pile colored, 1 pile work britches and rags.

To make starch, stir flour in cool water to smooth, then thin down with boilin’ water.

Take white things, rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, and boil, then rub colored; don’t boil just wrench and starch.

Take things out of kettle with broom stick handle, wrench and starch.

Hang old rags on fence.

Spread tea towels on grass.

Pour wrench water in flower bed.

Scrub porch with hot soapy water.

Turn tubs upside down.

Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs.

Brew cup of tea, sit, rock a spell, and count yore blessins. 

NOTE: For non-Southerners, wrench means rinse. 

Post a comment below.


Rita Lyons
9/27/2014 10:26:41 AM
This makes me smile. I grew up hearing (and using) "wrench" and "warsh". (And I am only 43.) I miss the old dialect. For those who comment that they are from the south, but haven't used "wrench" I wonder if it is because it is more of an Appalachian dialect not southern? The two overlap, but are not always the same.

8/1/2014 5:10:00 PM
I hear my grandmother's voice in this, and I don't think I ever saw her hand wash clothes, but I have fond memories of helping her hang the "warshin."

8/1/2014 10:59:18 AM
I wasn't born until after my Grandmother got a ringer washer, but she still had the galvanized wash tubs. I'm thankful for my electric Washing Machine. Makes life easier. Also, I was born and raised in the South (Georgia) but I never said "wrench". It was "rinse" I enjoy you e-mails. Thanks for sending them.

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