Old Fashioned White Laundry

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I remember the days when we used a big black 3-legged wash pot over an open fire to wash clothes. If there's anything I learned and remember best, is how to get and keep white clothes clean and the whitest possible.


Of course, with today's seemingly unlimited types of man-made fibers and exotic fabrics, boiling them might just cause them to be totally unusable at all. So this tip is for white cotton linens, towels and wash clothes and even men's or women's white cotton long or short sleeved blouses and shirts including T-Shirts.

A big white enamel pot works best on your kitchen stove, but I'm sure stainless steel would work just as well.

Add about 3 Tablespoons of laundry soap and the same amount of baking soda, the clothing and fill the pot with clean cold water. If there were stains on the fabric, they should have been treated first individually, but then just boil the clothes for at least half an hour. Keep them punched down so that the water covers them, and boil gently. Allow to cool, wring them out and toss them into the washing machine to rinse and spin out, then dry as usual.


One other little trick is to treat whites with sunlight. There is still nothing as good as Old Father Sun for bleaching out white clothing to their whitest. My Mother often would put a sheet down on the ground, and then the shirt or whatever else she was drying and allow it to dry right there on the ground.

I can remember my snow-white pinafores and her aprons carefully dried, then ironed to pristine perfection. I can't tell you how long it's been since I even saw someone ironing. Most of our clothing today is "Wash & Wear" and while I am enjoying the freedom, I do miss the beauty of lovely white crisp blouses, tea-towels and bed linens.

This sounds old-fashioned, I realize, but once in a while, we run across things which are just better done the old-fashioned way if we want good old-fashioned results.


Happy Day to Everyone

By Pookarina /Julia from Boca Raton, FL

March 12, 20100 found this helpful

I am also a big believer in sunlight being probably the best all-natural whitener ( and bacteria-killer, too!) Having a couple of people in the family who are allergic to bleach, having a septic system ( which doesn't take kindly to chlorine bleach--that interferes with the bacterial action needed there for it to do its job) and using cold water for all my wash to save energy and cash. I line dry and let the sun do the bleaching. Great post!

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March 12, 20100 found this helpful

Even as a child, I loved to do the laundry. I began with a wringer washer and the twin stationary tubs. I grew up in Ohio and everyone hung the clothes out to dry. My mother told me that she boiled the diapers to prevent diaper rash.

I never did use any disposable diapers, either. I used bleach and borax powder in the water. Thanks for speaking out about white clothes. Good to see that there are other "old fashioned" people out there!

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March 12, 20100 found this helpful

While I recall my mother using a wringer type washing machine when i a little girl. I am so thankful for a regular washing machine! I have a dryer, but prefer to hang clothes on a line weather permitting. The thought of "cooking" my clothes on the stove to get them clean makes me cringe. Some thing about the good old days are best left in the past. LOL

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March 12, 20100 found this helpful

I had a Baby Burco boiler and use to boil my babies nappies. It was lovely to see a line of white nappies drying in the sun.It's what everyone did, No disposable ones then!

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March 13, 20100 found this helpful

I just want to thank PupperMom, Megan8 and Lanky Liz for sharing their experiences with wash day tips. I was also happy to see that I'm not the only one who resorts to some of the old-fashioned ways of getting our white clothes white as well as really enjoying some of the benefits of accomplishing that in the same ways I do.

I also graduated from the big, black 3-legged cast iron wash pot over an open fire to the wringer type Maytag washer and using double tubs for rinsing. My children loved to play in those tubs of water after all the clothes were done, and I still have some pictures to prove it.

I was another one of those moms using birdseye or curity diapers which had to be washed and boiled every day along with gowns, little shirts and dresses. I took such pride in hanging all the various garments as well as the diapers all together. Each gown hung alongside all the other gowns, and each little diaper shirt with all the other little shirts, all socks together, and of course, the lines full of snowy white diapers all in a row. I think mothers had a kind of competition going on back then to see that their laundry looked as good as or better than any other mother's. Above all, every bib had to be perfectly clean...no stains anywhere or back in the pot it went.

I feel sorry sometimes for all the mothers today who really don't have the time to do laundry the way we did it back then. It may be a lot easier today to just toss everything into a washing machine, then a dryer, but they miss a lot too.

When I was growing up, I helped my mother with everything and all the time I was helping, I was learning. I have thought a million times or more how fortunate I was to have a mother who was always at home, cooking, cleaning, and teaching my sister and me all the ways to do things easier and better.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have had a stay-at-home mom were without a doubt the luckiest children in the world. Even when I do things today using all the new appliances and easier-quicker prepared foods, I'm so glad that I could do it just as well the old-fashioned way, and would expect the end result to be even better.

I taught my 3 daughters and one son all the old -fashioned ways...just in case they ever got caught and had to do them that way. Several times, they've come to me and thanked me for teaching them those things which they have had to use more than once already.

Wash days to me were also fun days. That was the day the back porch had everything moved off it and the wooden floors and steps scrubbed with a broom and the water from the washing machine. Now, how many people ever did that?

They were such simple pleasures,but more fun that sitting in front of a TV or a computer clicking on game things. We had radio programs to look forward to though, but all the chores came first. I hope I'm not so old that I'm the only one who remembers all these related things for wash day.

Thank you all for the lovely feedback. Julia in Boca Raton...proud mother of Sir Catty Kit

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Anonymous Flag
May 16, 20160 found this helpful

Oh, my goodness. My memories are the same.

My mother did all of those things. No washing machine. A very large galvanized tub in the back yard with a scrub board to facilitate the washing, a free standing wringer and another large tub to rinse.

She hung out on the line even in the coldest of winter. I used to help her do all of these. I thought I was so grown up.

My first washing was with an old-purchased washing machine that had two tubs, one for washing and the second for spinning. I rinsed in one of the double laundry tubs, then put them back into the spinner. I graduated to a regular wringer washer (sadly not a Maytag, the most prized washer at that time). Now I use the automatic washing machines.

You are correct ---- all of the mothers were competing as to who not only had the whitest clothes but as to who got the clothes on the line first.

I still hang clothes on the line. I wish they still had diaper pails so I could purchase another to carry my wet clothes out to hang. I quit using a clothes basket (do not own one) when I was in my twenties due to back problems. Carrying the diaper pail was easier on my back then using a laundry basket carrying it in front of me. I miss buying LaFrance. Can still find Boraxo. There are some products other than bleach that were in stores to help whiten or were gentle on my clothing. Not around anymore. Not everyone wears just 'wash and wear' clothing. I buy cotton whenever available. Less problems to my skin.

Have enjoyed reading all of the blogs.

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March 13, 20100 found this helpful

I am a waitress and wear a white blouse to work. I don't boil my shirts but I do hang the out on the clothes line (I hang everything out,even in the winter) I have never had any stains on my shirts.

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March 13, 20100 found this helpful

The boiling method sounds awesome! I have a baby bird that I am still hand feeding, and of course he makes a mess!! The bird formula dries into a crust onto towels and whatever I am wearing, so I am always looking for ways to pre-treat towels and clothes before throwing them into the washer. I will try the boiling method on the towels and wash cloths!

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March 13, 20100 found this helpful

The white sheets blowing in the wind on the line & my gram pulling in the line. Off with the clothespins one at a time. What a great memory, & they smelled so fresh & clean, & they got softer & softer the more they were washed. Thanks for the post.;)

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March 14, 20100 found this helpful

I still love ironed (and sometimes starched!) white blouses, as well as pillow cases and other nice items. Guess the old fashioned ways will never disappear totally for me. And, in the nicer weather you will find lots of laundry drying on my clothesline. Terrific post.

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March 25, 20100 found this helpful

That is a very romantic point of view about laundry and there were benefits for sure, especially hanging in the sun to dry. But the rest of it does not bring back and pleasant memories for me. With 5 children including a set of twins and only 3 dozen cloth diapers, it was all I did was wash! I am glad those days are over.

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February 3, 20130 found this helpful

I love hanging my laundry outside too and I iron everything including bedsheets and pillowcases. It is a joy and a blessing to be able to do so for my family and myself. Why lament this joyful work? As a wife and mother, it is my job. Those who can't handle that should not marry. Those who are single and lament laundry and other chores should not leave mommy and daddy's home. Shunning duties that belong to you are signs of immaturity and steps should be taken to correct that if found in children. Adults are on their own. :)

The number of children or grandchildren is no excuse. Ours is a small homestead with livestock, gardens and an orchard. My children and I fill our day with taking care of our home, ourselves and each other. Everyone is happy and learning only the things that are good for them. All things are in Godly order. Ours is a richly filled, happy home. This is the example we give our children. If our children choose the married life, I assure you that we will be handing over a blessing, not a shameful headache to their spouses and in-laws.

Pookarina, your mother sounds like she was a fine example of a wife and mother. She left you with much more than just pleasant memories! Thank you for sharing them. I'm sure they are appreciated by most.

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December 3, 20130 found this helpful

My mother was a stay-at-home mom until my youngest brother went to school. I remember that she used to use a wringer washer along with the two steel tubs. My grandmother had a wringer washer, too. My hand got caught in it one time! I was taught to hang clothes outside, and I still do when I have time. Commuting 45 minutes each way to work limits the amount of things I have time to do. Doing laundry, or housework for that matter... I do not consider blissful things.

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July 29, 20140 found this helpful

I, too, grew up with the two tub wringer washer era. When my little brother was born we got our first automatic washer. That was in 1961. (He's the same age as Obama) I remember washing my cancans and putting them in liquid starch, then laying them in a flat circle on newspaper to dry. I think we wore at least 3 of those under our skirts and dresses. I also remember being the one who got to iron all the white shirts for my brothers and my dad. I was very good at it. My grandmother taught me. FYI I ironed just last week.

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February 21, 20150 found this helpful

Hmm I am 54 and my mom stayed home till we were all in grade school. She never used a clothes line, but I do. I never use bleach on clothing. To me it is for extreme cases. An example would be after a flood to kill mold spores. However to kill germs one at least needs to run towels and sheets in the dryer for 5 minutes. I was an elem. teacher who loved teaching Sci. and my dad was a pharmacist. Also people who have allergies are often allergic to things outside like pollen so you have to watch the count on that.

In the south it is high over half of the year. Just wanted to tap in on germs. I am allergic to dust and have to travel out of town with the purple lighted wand to swipe over everything.

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February 21, 20150 found this helpful

One more thing... About ten years ago I had a camp with the backyard over salt water. When I bought the place they had one of those old washers outside in a building about three feet from the water. Tore down the building and kept the old washer for a huge planter. It was beautiful with all of the rust. But the hurricane took it. But ladies use to stop me outside and tell me all kind of stories about them. Many of them told me that if I ever wanted to get rid of it.

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October 1, 20150 found this helpful

None of these laundry stories sound fun, romantic, memorable, or pleasurable. They sound like days of drudgery, monotony, and terribly hard work. I am in my 60's, and never remember my mother boiling clothes. It sounds like something done in the 1800's.

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October 1, 20150 found this helpful

I'm 55 and I remember my Mom boiling our laundry in the back yard when I was little.When we moved to Georgia in 1969, she got one of those wringer washers and not long after that discovered the laundromat. I also remember Daddy sweeping the front yard.Nobody except "rich folks" had grass in the front yard and graveled driveways.I also remember playing under the house in the summer.Most house's were built on stacks of rocks out in the country.I knew we were poor but we didn't mind because most of the people we knew were too.In the winter,the clothes would freeze when hung on the clothesline and would be brought in to be hung on the line in our kitchen to thaw and finish drying.

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June 9, 20160 found this helpful

I iron everyday...And if it's raining, watch out, nothing is safe..Sheets, tee shirts, my son's boxer shorts...I find ironing therapeutic. Ironing, it's a good thing :)

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