In the Laundry – Washday

This is the fifth and final article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 31, 1905, and is a “practical talk” on laundry and washday. There are some very interesting tidbits of information on preparing laundry, for instance I had to Google “javelle water” which I leaned is a mixture of sodium hypochlorite used as a disinfectant or bleaching agent. I’m also perplexed at the idea of pouring keresone into wash water or rubbing butter into mechanical grease stains!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

In the Laundry – Washday

Number One of a Series of Practical Talks

Said a Down East woman to me, with energy that was almost vicious:

“I hev’ washed and I hev’ ironed, but, as I tell my husband – ther’s one thing I won’t never do, and that is keep a boa’din’ house!”

Unless I am mistaken in my estimate of the makeup of our constituency, a majority of my readers would reverse the order in which she set the least desirable branches of a woman’s work.

A wit of the eighteenth century declared that washday was instituted in commemoration of the day on which Job was born, the date of which he said: “Let it perish; let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year!”


A latter-day writer has given us gloomy statistics as to the proportion of human life spent in cleansing the house, clothing, and person, in fouling which the remaining time has been employed.

Our optimistic housewife does not waste time and lower her spirit-level in bemoaning the inexorable fact that clothes get dirty and must be cleansed. She bring to the tasks that fail to Job’s birthday cheerful philosophy and such knowledge of the best methods of doing the work as will achieve satisfactory results with the least expenditure of time and labor.

Let us reason together today concerning some of these.

The best excuse I know of for the appointment of Monday as washday is that mind and body have been reinvigorated by Sunday’s rest and comparative freedom from worldly cares. If our housemother be truly wise, she will forecast the morrow’s duties, so far as to put the “clothes” (all-embracing term!) in soak over night. In one household, at least, the bulk of this preparatory task is done on Saturday night, leaving only the body linen, laid aside on Sunday, to be added that evening.

Sort the various articles in making ready for soaking. Put table and bed linen in separate tubs, and keep soiled undergarments apart from both. You will save yourself much subsequent worry if you would “treat” stains before washing. Fruit, ink, coffee, chocolate, and tea stains may be wet with javelle water, or with a weak infusion of chloride of lime; left in this for five minutes and then rinse in pure water. Rub chalk upon grease spots and butter upon stains left by machine oil or axle grease, washing out the butter half an hour later with warm suds. When all are ready, put into the tubs and cover with tepid water – never hot – but just lukewarm. If the water be hard, stir a handful of powdered borax into each tubful.

On the morrow draw off the soaking water, wring each article hard; return each kind to its respective tub, and wash in warm suds, made with plenty of really good soap. Unless the water be soft, add borax again. It is perfectly harmless, softens the water, and tends to whiten the clothes.

Avoid Soda.

Abjure washing soda and all its works! The average laundress is so wedded to it that, if it be denied to her by employers, she will bring surreptitious parcels of the drastic destroyer into the laundry and add secretly. The owner of the maltreated linen never suspects the outrage until she finds it eaten into tiny holes, as if peppered with birdshot. There are other laundresses’ allies and housekeepers’ foes which have the same effect. They save the muscles of one class, rasp the sensibilities and deplete the pockets of the other. Borax is safe and efficient. One pound (powdered) will soften twenty gallons of water.

Clean at Last.

When the clothes are clean – the soiled places rubbed out, and all of uniform whiteness – rinse in clean, hot water, and put into a boiler half filled with tepid water, to which you have added shredded soap and a tablespoonful of kerosene, stirred in well before the clothes are put int. Never forget that boiling water “sets” dirt, and that dirt will make the contents of your boiler hopelessly dingy. Do not have the boiler so full that the water, in heating, cannot bubble freely between the clothes. Boil gently for an hour, lift out the wet linen with a wooden clothes stick, upon a wooden tray, or into a clean tub; again half fill the boiler, as before, and put in a second supply of clothes. Wash table linen first, and, as in soaking, do not mix it with bed or body linen. Be scrupulously particular in this separation, even after both kinds seem to be clean. Now comes the final rinsing. Have an abundance of clean, warm water, souse each article several times, shake hard, twist with a pair of strong hands, and put through the wringer. If there are buttons upon any article, turn them inside with a fold or two over them, that they may not be broken or torn off in the wringer.

A Cup of Tea
Freshen Up School Frocks in the In-Between Season
Is $4.00 a Week Enough?
Ring Tail Wild Cat Caught
Some Useful Recipes

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