Welcome to Laundry and Dishwasher info. The home of Laundry and dishwasher information.

I hope to give a taster of how washing machines and dishwashers, have developed over the years, and what drove those developments to get to the sophisticated, electronically controlled machines of today. Frequently asked questions on laundry and dishwashing

The History-of-Laundry, design and production of washing machines from the 1890’s.
When the first Laundry machine was a converted butter churn with a handle that turned a paddle to create the wash action.

With a corrugated metal wash board attached to get the stubborn stains out was the height of sophistication and mechanical excellence!

All these machines were a basic wash tub made by a cooper or barrel maker, in wood with metal bits added on made by blacksmiths until eventually they became massed produced on a production line.

Continuous improvement meant pressed metal sheets using large presses were replacing the wooden tubs, which each machine had been unique; as opposed to exact copies of the original machine as in today’s washing machines.

An artists impression of antique washing machines from the 1890’s

Laundry machines history

It took many years to get to the microprocessor machines of today

 
Before laundry machines, the working housewife slaved in hot and steamy wash rooms and kitchens, with coal fired boilers, wash boards, blue bags, large mangles, with wooden rollers turned by hand, and coal fired cooking ranges.

As Laundry Machines improved with electric motors and the clockwork timer to control the wash programmes, they became the most important means for the liberation of women.

If you would like to read an account of what it was like in the days of “The Steamy” there is a Biography of Clarice Cliff by the author Lynn Knight with a fulsome description of what is was like at the time.

Clarice was the Girl from the potteries who worked in the paint shop doing hand painting on pottery prior to firing, until it was discovered that she had a natural talent for design.

Her mother used to start the wash day at 04:00 hrs to get the fires lit for the boilers for the hot water before they could start the weeks wash. Check out the My Laundry book Page As the labour saving laundry machines improved and became more affordable for the ordinary working family. With onset of mass production, more research into the laundry process brought us the micro-processor controlled, fast spin, laundry machines of today.

These innovations were driven by the working women, because the rich had no interest in how the laundry was processed as long as it was done by their staff.

The onset of the first washing machines for the ordinary person meant that female members of the family were released from the drudgery and slavery of laundry rooms and kitchens.

Women were now able to educate themselves and cast off the apron strings (or chains) that had tied them to the house for 24hours a day.

History-of-Laundry,Until quite recently Monday was the main laundry day for many a working family, with all the female members and pre-school age children involved in the long and arduous task of washing the weeks laundry.

Those were the days when you changed your shirt once a week whether you needed to or not! And a bath was something of a weekly luxury at best, and the bath water was shared by all the family.

This was only the start, then came Electric Steam Irons, Dishwashers, Tumble Dryers, Micro-Wave Ovens and the Vacuum Cleaners, now all used every day by men as well!!

Who’d a’ thought it?

History-of-Laundry,

Early mass produced washing machines.

History-of-Laundry.The early mass produced washing machines, such as the Hoover twin tub, which used a form of smooth rotor blade to create the agitation in the wash tub, which was mounted on the side of the drum.
This rotor caused the washing to tumble over in a large knot in the wash suds, which had to be filled to the top with hot water and a large amount of detergent.

Then there were the top loaders with a counter rotating paddle which again caused the washing to spin round in a knot in the drum.

These machines were not suitable for woollens or delicates as the mechanical action would wrench fibres from the fabrics during the wash process.

These had to be filtered out by various patented methods.

All of which were pretty useless, as the washing machines used large amounts of hot water and detergents, and still had to be overseen by the operator.

It was not until it was discovered that by turning the drum on its side and turning the drum within the wash tub that more control over the wash action was possible.

One of the earliest automatic machines was the Hoover Keymatic which had a plastic key with notches in it, this was then inserted into a slot to give the desired flow of program sections.

Also with the front loader, the spin could be accommodated within the same drum, as opposed to the twin tub which had the spinner bolted on the side, hence the term twin tub.

This was before the clockwork and electric timer motors, which were then brought in to move the program through its wash sequences of, rinses and spin.

These were the first truly liberating machines which could be left to get on with the wash, whilst Mum could do other things such as ” all parto of the History-of-Laundry Work at Home Mothers on the Net. ” running their own businesses and enjoying more leisure and education with their children.

History-of-Laundry-and-Dishwashing.

Then the manufacturers started to improve the programmes to give a really safe woollen and delicate wash.

Things like delayed start to make use of cheap off-peak electricity, high speed spin to get the water out mechanically without the machine becoming unbalanced and lurching off into the next county.

Using oil filled shock absorbers/dampers to allow faster spins with no noise being transferred into the property or street!!

Also accurate temperature controls and thermostats for disinfection control. We were now building machines with 20 years of life expectancy as opposed to the early machines with the built in obsolescence that lasted a couple of years if your were lucky.

Cheaper chips meant better washing machines.

One of the benefits of the computer industry and the proliferation of the desk top PC, meant that millions of micro-processor computer chips, which did not reach the high standards required for the faster and faster speeds of the modern computer, were now coming on to the secondary market place.
Suddenly chips were in toys, Christmas lights, motor cars, and of course the washing machine, dishwasher, microwave oven, and even vacuum cleaners are now controlled by a computer chip.

These highly reliable pieces of electronic equipment were getting cheaper by the day and adding value and control with “Fuzzy Logic” for washing machines and tumble dryers as well as a host of other domestic machines.

The programs could be updated when new wash parameters were required, so that machines could be kept up to date and keep their value longer. Check out the Miele site where you will see the type of machine that is available on the market today, which will never go out of date as long as it keeps going, which is projected to be in the region of 20 odd years.

I recently replaced our machine at home after more than twenty years hard labour mainly because we wanted to update our utility room it still worked OK and is still running with one of the children.

Large washing machines over 35/50 kilos in weight of wash load

History-of-LaundryLoading and unloading a small domestic washing machine of 5/6 kilos dry weight is no problem, but once you get beyond 10/14 kilos, a laundry basket preferably on wheels will be required to transport the laundry from one end of the laundry room to the other, into the tumble dryer etc.
Then when the laundry weight is over 35/50 kilos automatic mechanical handling devices are required, which consist of laundry bags of the desired capacity being transported around the laundry room on a system of overhead rails and coveyor belts.

If you ever saw the new film of “The Fugitive” the final scene takes place in a large hotel where the whole of the fifth floor was taken up with a laundry operation, with washing bags of sheets and towels hanging from ceiling rails,which delivered the washing to the various stages of the process.

This hotel was still using a range of front loading machines of about 50/100Kg.

When you wish to go on up to a further stage there is the tunnel washer or batch washer, with 100Kg pockets in a tube similar to an aircraft body. These batch machines have different stages or pockets for washing and rinsing, until the laundry is deposited into a large press to remove the excess water before either finishing in a tumble dryer, for the towels or finishing on a rotary Iron or callender/mangle for the sheets and pillowcases.

The problem with a tunnel washer is that the paddles, which lift the washing to create the mechanical action are so big and abrasive that there is a fair amount of wear & tear, which means they are used mainly in the hospital, hotel or contract laundry world where a certain amount of loss is acceptable.

If you have a small hotel, restaurant, or nursing home, where the products being washed are valuable then a front loading washing machine, tumble dryer and with a hand fed Rotary Iron is the best option, because the fabrics will last much longer in these machines.

One of the companies which are capable of handling these large loads is
Electrolux Laundry Systems Or Girbau Laundry Machines, which have a whole range of machines to choose from, they also provide a complete turn key operation of planning and installation take a look at Girbau Laundry Equipment UK Then come back here soon for more pearls of wisdom from the History-of-Laundry, where you can find pages of interesting bits and pieces about the laundry and dish-washing business.

Early Dishwashers the History-of-Laundry-and-Dishwashing

History-of-Laundry
The early dishwashers consisted of a drum with racks or baskets to hold the crockery, and the water was driven round the inside by a spinning paddle.

These were very crude and very similar to the top loading washing machine.They needed to be filled with large amounts of hot water and did not get the crocks very clean.

Also there was a degree of damage due to the mechanical action of the wash being a bit over the top.

That was until someone had the bright idea of pumping the water round with a high pressure pump with various arrangements of arms and jets to produce the mechanical action that could be controlled more easily.

From my experience the rotary arms and the stationary dishes has the edge over the the stationary jets lined up along the sides inside the wash cabinet.

Although this system is used to quite good effect in the modern conveyor system where the dishes are continuously moving along a moving conveyor belt during the wash and rinses.

I hope to bring you the dates of the introduction of various innovations as they were introduced to the public. For information on Dishwashers an overview of the machines available and what they will do.
Choosing a washing machine a quick guide.
Clean Room Laundry machines

Or if you would like to know the why’s and wherefore’s of washing glassware click the link to My washing glassware page

I hope to bring you new bits on the History-of-Laundry as the weeks and months go by.

If you have any old photos of washing machines or dishwashers let me know. You may like to send them to me by contacting me on my Good news page at