Monday – Washing Day

When I was growing up Monday was always the day when the household’s washing was done. This was right across the country, not just where I lived, so I decided to look into the reasons for Monday being the chosen day.

Monday as washday is a very old tradition, based on pure practicality. Before there were automatic washing machines, doing laundry was an all-day task. Then drying and ironing might take most of the week (depending on the climate) and the whole thing had to be out of the way by Sunday, the official day of rest.

The precursor of the electric washing machine – a single tub which boiled water for washing laundry, especially large items such as bed sheets. My mum had a pair of wooden tongs exactly like that for fishing water out of boiling hot water,

After being washed in the sink, a boiler like the above, or the bath, clothes were wrung out using a free-standing mangle or wringer like this which was often outside.

My mum’s very first washing machine was like this. It combined the two items above but as it was electric you didn’t have to turn a heavy handle on a mangle. It was wheeled into position in front of the kitchen sink then filled with a hose from the tap. After being heated and swirled around for a while the wringer was turned on and the clothes fed through (watching your fingers as it wouldn’t stop if they got caught) and they went into a sink of clean water for rinsing. Then the wringer was swung around 90 degrees and the washed, rinsed clothes were fed through and landed on the draining board ready for being pegged out. We thought it was SO modern and sophisticated!

Most households had these airers positioned above an open fire or range. The clothes were aired here after drying on the line outside.

This stuff was added to a whites wash to make them extra white. I also remember my grandmother using one on me when I was stung by a wasp!

The wooden clothes horse for airing clothes before they were ironed and put away. Ours was exactly like this one with the same white fabric hinges. We also used it for making dens. On rainy days wet washing could be dried from wet on one of these in a shed or outhouse. or in the house if there wasn’t an outhouse – making for a very steamy house!

The washing powders I remember are Daz (which my mum favoured), Tide, Surf and OMO. Whilst researching for this post I learned that OMO stands for Old Mother Owl! I also remember my grandmother using a bar of carbolic soap to wash clothes.

Credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia.

As always I make every effort not to infringe copyright. However, if anyone objects to my use of any imafe, please contact me and it will be removed.

21 thoughts on “Monday – Washing Day

  1. Before washing powder was common folk used a big bar of green washing soap. It had to be grated to ensure it dissolved but dad’s shirt collars were dampened and rubbed with the bar before being washed. In 1954 we moved to a new council house, which had a boiler like the one illustrated but it used gas. Our first washing machine was bought at the same time. It was a Scales Fairy and the mangle was manual. Mam also bought her first electric iron and eventually an Electrolux vacuum cleaner.
    Before that we’d lived in a privately rented house with no hot water and had a poss tub in the back yard. I don’t remember exactly but the water was probably heated on the range in the kitchen. And of course we had a wooden clothes-horse and a clothes airer above the range and the flat irons were heated on the gas stove.
    When I left home in 1964 I shared for a while with a girl from Glasgow who was puzzled because she couldn’t find washing soap in the shops. Her mother hadn’t made the transition to powder and she didn’t know what it was.
    I’d hate to have to go back to living like that!

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  2. The world has changed so much! We forget how much harder all these chores were before our modern appliances. My mother always hung the laundry out to dry when I was little and the clothes always smelled so fresh…like the smell of the outdoors and the open sky. I can’t remember if she washed the clothes on Mondays. I do know that I helped her to fold the sheets and make the beds. There was an order to everything and many things were ironed. The sheets and towels were folded ‘just so’, and they always looked lovely.

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      • In so many ways, these chores were actually a blessing! Now that I no longer have my mother, I am still so grateful for all the things she taught me. We did all these ‘chores’ together…washing the ‘good’ dishes by hand, polishing the silver, bringing flowers into the house from the garden. My mother even put my dandelions in little vases in the windowsill. 🙂

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      • We were blessed and that is the thing to remember. My mother taught me that there is dignity in work and keeping your home in order was important work because it made a house a home. She was so right! I still bring in flowers from the garden and wash the ‘good dishes’ by hand!!! 🙂 The little details really do count. Spring cleaning does make the house seem so much nicer and the routine is a gift in itself…you usher in a new season and start anew!

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  3. I remember laundry day being Monday as well. My mother hung the laundry on the clothesline outside. In the winter, she would hang the wet sheets on lines strung across the porch, with the clothes on drying racks in the house. The sheets would frequently freeze on the porch in the winter.

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  4. The copper boiler we had ran on, I believe, gas – as did the stove and the light in the bathroom.

    We also had a mangle and once, on Nov 6th, the day after Bonfire Night, I decided to gather up all the dead fireworks and run them through the mangle. Why? I have no idea. My brother thought it a “wizard wheeze” but did not participate.

    Well, the mixture of wet paper and gunpowder left an unholy mess on the rollers so I made myself scarce.

    Strangely, I heard nothing about it afterwards. My long-suffering mother must have just shrugged and got rid of the mess.

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  5. Great stuff. It chimes so well with the memories I’ve tried to convey on pages 10-12 of my book about growing up in the ’50s and ’60s. I also refer to the little bags blue dye added to the washing but I’d forgotten about their alternative use as a treatment for wasp stings – so thanks for the reminder. I can now clearly remember having one being applied to my arm following a wasp attack.

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  6. Thanks for making contact. The book details are: ‘Slate Days and Bottled Pyramids’ by David R Roberts, published by The Book Guild. It should be available through any High Street or online bookstore, but if you have any difficulty, please get back to me.

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  7. Thank you for this! I’m a child of the 60’s and still searching for a particular washing powder my mother used for hairbrushes for soaking. I’m Canadian so chances are perhaps it was only available here.

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