Monday Wash Day Back Then

Back in the nineteen forties, Monday was the traditional wash day. Each week, an average family of four like ours created quite a pile of clothing, bath towels, dish towels, cleaning rags, throw rugs and window curtains.

Why was there so much dirty laundry week after week? In winter, we heated with coal so the ashes needed to be removed from the stove and coal loaded into the furnace. In summer, the family had a big garden to keep. Dad worked in a factory. We kids played outside in the dirt. There was no home air conditioning so we perspired a lot.

There was also the issue of how different fabrics were back then; they were simple cottons and wools that seemed to attract and hold dirt. Modern fabrics are fiber blends created to repel dirt and resist wrinkles.

How did my mother do the wash? (I say mother because laundry was what women did then.)

First, she filled both sides of the stationary tub with water. The dirty clothes and scrub board went into one side. With lye soap in her hand, she scrubbed each item and then placed into the rinse water half of the tub. Once rinsed, each item was removed and hand- cranked through a ringer. Still heavy and wet, they went into a bushel basket to be hung on the clothesline (outside on most days but in the basement on bad weather days). After drying they were taken down, sprinkled with a little water and ironed. Almost every item from shirts to bed sheets needed to be ironed because no wrinkle-free fabrics had yet been created. 

I can still “see” my mother doing the wash that way and understand why she called Monday wash DAY.  I was six years old and the year was 1948.

About authorbillramsey

During his forty-year professional career, Bill Ramsey wrote magazine articles and business newsletters. Now retired in the mountains of western North Carolina, he writes a blog and has published four books. Bill's 2015 collection of concise, real-life essays is titled "What Do YOU Think?" He has also written "Me Now - Who Next? (The Inspiring Story of a Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery)" and "Now That I Think About It. Bill's books and are available from and on all e-readers. See Follow Bill on Facebook at
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3 Responses to Monday Wash Day Back Then

  1. Celia Miles says:

    I can relate to this “wash day” drudgery–that my mother did. Luckily by the time I was grown and gone, I never had to scrub and rub.


    • Nothing came easy back then. There were no automatic dishwashers, snow blowers, microwave ovens or lawn mowers. When the garden “came in” there were fruits and vegetables to can; hundreds of quarts. It sure was fun back then.


  2. I, too, remember wash day. At one time I think our first washing machine had a wringer-type arrangement on top with two rollers that squeezed the water out of the clothes. I remember bringing a little rubber squeeze bottle to college to sprinkle water when I ironed. Everything was much more labor intensive in those “good old days.”

    Liked by 1 person

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