Old "Washing Clothes" Recipe

Imagine having a recipe for this! Years ago, an Alabama grandmother gave the new bride the following recipe:

This is an exact copy as written and found in an old scrapbook - with spelling errors and all.

Washing 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.

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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. ;)

Source: no particular source. Came by it while reading.

By Mary from Cocoa, FL

April 8, 20080 found this helpful

I love this RECIPE. I collect old cookbooks and often find a handwritten message relating to everyday life. I will never complain about laundry again! I will also stop complaining about emptying the dishwasher.

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April 8, 20080 found this helpful

This is wonderful! As a native Tennessean I grew up hearing people talk about wrenching things. Thanks for the trek down memory lane!!

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April 8, 20080 found this helpful

That is just too cute. My ex MIL use to say warsh for wash.

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April 8, 20080 found this helpful

Loved it. My grandmother 1879-1967 told of a "battlin tree". They soaped the clothes then put them on a tree stump and beat them with a stick. She said they didn't change clothes as often as we did because they would wear them out washing them.

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April 8, 20080 found this helpful

How cute is this!!! I'm going to print it out on parchment and frame it for my laundry room. What a nice way to remember to count our blessings. Thank you for this.

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April 8, 20080 found this helpful

My husband's great-grandma "took in" laundry for other people to make money for her family. Can you imagine washing clothes for a living using methods like this? We should count our blessings....thanks so much for the reminder. In today's world we easily forget what our ancestors did to survive...and we whine when the electricity goes out in a storm...yikes!

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April 9, 20080 found this helpful

Years ago our next-door neighbor used to tell us stories about living on a farm. They had a windmill for water and newspaper for insulation in the house walls. They got paid once a year when Pa took the crops to market. The rest of the year they lived off their garden, their wits and any credit they could get. No offense, but she would not have found this recipe cute. It was the way they lived back then.

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April 9, 20080 found this helpful

Don,t know how wrenching,came about but I do remember standing at my grandmas trough bluing the clothes cause i was to small to wrench the clothes,

Funny how things come back to you, didnt think ever in my Lifetiem to be talking about wrencing again to anyone.but sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

By the way dont know how wrenching came to our shores but i am from south australia nd my gran was from germany

And i hope one day that i can do something with my granddaughter apart from say no no dear its this button.

don't have the same effect as watch your fingers girl, that wringer ain't got no soul.

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April 10, 20080 found this helpful

This reminds me of the grandmother who asked her grandaughter which of her modern things in the kitchen she most appreciated. The grandaughter couldn't decide between the self-cleaning oven or microwave or dishwasher. The grandmother smiled and said, "That's funny, I would have chosen running water." Puts us in our place doesn't it?

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April 10, 20080 found this helpful

I CAN REMEMBER MY MOM TELLING ME STORIES LIKE THIS, AND WATCHING HER THRILL WHEN SHE HERSELF GOT A NEW WRINGER WASHER. AND WAS ABLE TO HANG OUT RUNG OUT CLOTHES..SCARED ME TO WATCH HER, BECAUSE I THOUGHT HER HAND WOULD GET CAUGHT. THEN SHE HUNG CLOTHES OUT IN THE FREZZING COLD, AND NEVER COMPLAINED..I WILL HUG MY WASHER TONIGHT, AND FEEL BLESSED TO HAVE WHAT I TOOK FOR GRANTED..KATIE

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July 15, 20080 found this helpful

How I remember watching my grandmother wash her laundry outside in a big ol' tub then she got a wringer washer. Well as a very curious child, I decided to help her. I got my arm stuck in the wringer. I also remember hanging out clothes on the clothesline in the freezing weather. I will now go hug my washer and thanks to technology it does all the work. I love the "recipe".

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August 27, 20080 found this helpful

Yep, I was "helping" my MIL and caught my hair in the wringer...She wouldn't let me help anymore. She took in washings And ironings,sometimes had 3-4 families clothes hanging in their livingroom at once.

The first washing machine hubby bought me was a (very ) used one that had a spinner wringer. Needless to say we didn't have it long. My MIL used it for a flower planter in her back yard after it croaked.

Ah, memories....GG vi

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February 7, 20090 found this helpful

At 16 I used an old wringer washer. Similar routine, only indoors. In Africa, we hung whites on green bushes; the effect of sunlight on chlorophyll in leaves has a bleaching action on the fabric. Worked great. I used to buy boxed starch and make my own. I wonder if it's sold anymore?

My sis in law, her mom, my bro, and myself made 17 batches of lye laundry soap in 2006. You make it less fatty (find recipes on web)than face soap, pour in boxes, let it dry some weeks and pulverize with food processor in small amounts to make laundry soap. Or could break up with a mallet. Only need 1/4 to 1/3 cup for a load of laundry and don't need fabric softener at all. Best of all, no perfume. I am so sick of everything reeking with one artificial smell or another. Of course I don't know that hanging out doors would smell as sweet as it used to, and HOA's certainly wouldn't approve. Let them wait another year, and they will tolerate garden boxes.

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