Saturday, October 30, 2010

Warshing clothes

A reader sent this.

Years ago an Alabama grandmother gave a new bride the following recipe: this is an exact copy as written and found in an old scrapbook - with spelling errors and all.

Warshing Clothes
Build fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water. Set tubs so smoke wont 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 boiling 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, then wrench, and starch.

Hang old rags on fence.

Spread tea towels on grass.

Pore 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 and rock a spell and count your blessings.

Paste this over your washer and dryer next time when you think things are bleak, read it again, kiss that washing machine and dryer, and give thanks. First thing each morning you should run and hug your washer and dryer, also your toilet – those two-holers used to get mighty cold!

(For you non-southerners – “wrench” means “rinse.”)


  1. (For you non-southerners – “wrench” means “rinse.”)

    No, I think they had it right. How many blue jeans, over-alls and long dresses have you had to wring out by hand lately? It 'wrench'es my back just to think about it

    It does make me think about the differences between Southern and other dialects. I read a book about Daniel Boone once that included a story about a bear hunt he had in west Tennessee. The quote said "we kilt 3 bear and skint them out. Then we drove up four forks and hung up the hides." In a footnote at the bottom of the page the authors noted "We searched through all the maps and records available for this area and have found no record of any place called Four Forks" I laugh about that to this day, intellectuals are so much fun sometimes. I thought about writing them and asking where they sent the nails when they were building a house. Country humor I guess. Thanks for the great article.


  2. I used to help my mother do the laundry in the 40's. She had a wringer washer but the agitator was powered so she didn't do laundry entirely by hand. I once caught my hand in the wringer but my mother hit the release and freed my hand before any harm was done. But she had a great way to make laundry soap: She put the small pieces of bath soap in a mason jar full of water. At any one time there might have been 10-20 little pieces of soap in their soaking. Then when she did a load of laundry she would pour off a half cup of the syrupy liquid into the wash water and turn on the agitator. After a few minutes there would be 6"-12" of suds on the top and it was ready to wash. She would often use the same wash water from the white to do the colored clothes. Then after washing everything fresh water and a rinse cycle. The greatest thing about those old washing machines was that if you had something really dirty you could just let the machine run and run until it did it's job.

  3. What a great post! I washed clothes by hand for MANY years (yup, in urban California!), and keep an old washboard as decoration on the bathroom wall. My daughter, who is in charge of laundry, grumbled once when she was about 10 yrs old about all the work, and I generously handed her the washboard for comparison on how much "work" it truly is with a washing machine. She didn't grumble again.


  4. It took me about 2/3 of the way through to get that wrench=rinse. At first I thought wrench=wring only with more force! Boy am I glad for my new-fangled warshing machine.

  5. gonna borry (more country-talk ;-)) this one and put it on my blog - love it!

  6. I am going to preface this with I just turned 35 a couple months ago. While I was growing up I washed clothes in a ringer washer (as well as the bathtub and a actual washer when my parents had one which was not often) and I hung our clothes over the railings on our front porch. It horrified our neighbors; mostly because we lived in the historic district of town. I can't tell you had happy I am to own a washer and dryer.

    Ouida Gabriel

  7. Washer and dryer have been duly hugged and kissed. Now I'm going to do the same to the refrigerator/freezer, range, garage door opener, shower, double sink, hot water heater, microwave, recliner, forced air heater, and electric lights.

    I draw the line at hugging the toilet, though. My college days saw enough of that. I appreciate my toilet, but I hope to never hug it again.

    Anonymous Patriot

  8. Yeah I hear that. I will NOT hug my wonderfully reliable toilet!

  9. ahhhh yes, the good old days...and they were good too if that was all you had in the way of laundering the clothes. beats going to the creek and beating the clothes on a wet rock..speaking of which-when bleached acid washed jeans were the rage we would run a rope through the belt loops of our jeans, throw them in a river where there is a good bit of whitewater, and tie the other end of the rope to a tree...leave the jeans for a few days to a week and wow...the softest jeans you will ever wear!

  10. Thank you all for the many laughs! When I was a kid, my mom had a wringer and a washboard, too. She washed all our clothes in the bathtub until my dad finally bought her a washing machine. It had a wringer on it, but boy, did it beat cleaning clothes in the tub! One of my chores growing up was washing the clothes. I actually enjoyed it!

  11. Growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, my mother would tell me to "worsh 'em dishes, and wrench 'em good."

    Just try saying that in New England!