How Did Our Ancestors Do Their Laundry?

I just did a load of laundry without soap. How could I? But this got me to wondering if anyone out there knows what our ancestors did or used to wash before those convenient (detergent) brands became available.

Thank you,
Soapless in USA

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

Hi,

My grandma told me that during war times in 1940s they used the ashes from the fireplace/stove. She would place the ashes in the bucket, fill it with water and let it stand for a day or so... After she would pour the water in the clean bucket throug the cheese cloth to get rid of the ashes. After that the water would be used to soak the laudry. She said it works better then any of modern detergents. Unfortunately, I do not know what the proportions are. I tryed to do it, and I found that the water became soapy after a while... You may try it. it is safe.

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

I never heard of the ashes but my g/mother who was raised in the early 1900's (she was born in 1901) use to make her own lye soap. I guess that could be called detergent huh? Anyway, I remember her working all day in the back yard stiring in a black pot making several bars at one time and it smelled to "high heaven".

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

My mother made soap. Always did this after we butchered, so think she used the tallow from beef. Added Lewis Lye to it,(don't know what else) put it in a cloth lined wooden box (peach crate) and as it hardened would cut it in bars. These bars were stored in a barrel that she had for that purpose. On washing day we used a slicer to shave the whole bar of soap for the wringer type washing machine. Mother always had one tub for soaking, and two for rinsing. A little "blueing' was put in rince water to make white clothes whiter. their years supply of soap probably didn't cost as much as 200oz of TIDE does today. We sure have things easier. My mother had to heat the water in a boiler on the stove, and put in washer. We got water and plumbing in our farm house in 1942.

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

Wow,you guys brought back the memories. My grandmother was still making her on soap years after all my friends families were buying theirs. She also did it in the fall after butchering and used the ashes from her wood cook stove . I do not rememberthe process but I know it envolved a large black keetle and outside fire,a long wooden trough type thing. Other than that I do not know,but I don't think the poster was interested in ALL the details just interested in general. happy laundering to you all!!

JAN in NC

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

I have my great-grandparents copper boiler that they heated the water in on the stove, I just love it. But, of course, I don't use it to do laundry in, I store blankets in it!

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

When I was still a kid my mom would use Fels Naptha soap and a washboard.

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

I've helped my Grandmother make "Lye Soap" many many times.it is made from oak wood ashes places in a 5 gallon bucket and filled with water,let set for about 3 days...hot water was put into a big black washpot in the back yard and a fire kept going so the lye water would boil,then hog fat or tallow was put into the pot,boiled for about 2 hours and the fire was let go out.the "soap' was poured into a big granite dishpan [about 2 inches of it] and let cool.then it was cut into bars about the sixe of our soap bars now.it was a yellow soap and was good for washing your body or your clothes or your dishes. I'm 68 years old and it hasn't been too many years since I helped ny Grandmother make soap.

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January 27, 20060 found this helpful

I have had this over my washer for years,,FunnyRecipe for Cleaning Clothes

1. Build a fire in the backyard to heat kettle of rain water.

2. Set Tubs so smoke won't blow in eyes if windy.

3. Shave one whole cake of lye soap in boiling water.

4. Sort clothes, make three piles: one pile whites,

one pile colored

and one pile work britches and rags.

5. To make starch, stir flour in cool water till smooth, then thin down with boiling water.

6. Take white things, rub dirty spots on washboard, scrub hard and then boil. Rub colored,

don't boil, just rinse and starch.

7. Take things our of kettle with broomstick handle,

then rinse and starch.

8. Hang old Rags on Fence.

9. Spread tea towels on grass.

10. Pour Rinse water in flower bed.

11. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.

12. Turn tubs upside down.

13. Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs,

brew cup of herb tea, sit and rock a spell

and count your blessings.

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Anonymous Flag
January 29, 20060 found this helpful

I think our ancestors probably had to eventually burn the hides they wore because of fleas!! I can't imagine how hard it would be beating animal hides on rocks by the river!! lol.

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January 29, 20060 found this helpful

Before my second son was born, and I had to do laundry at the laundry mat, I made my own mixing 1:1 Borax and grated bar soap (one-two tablespoons goes a long way!) I always use warm or hot water to wash, so everything dissolved, but whites were a little dingy from soap, so I found a cheap detergent and stayed with borax. Now I use 1/2 the recommended detergent and 1/2 cup borax. Makes it last longer and my whites look fine!

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January 29, 20060 found this helpful

Everyone - Thank you for sharing your tips. Your information is fantastic. :-) Soapless no More

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December 4, 20060 found this helpful

I am so doomed. I need somebody to post how the people in England in the Victorian era washed linens and i need to know within the next 2 minutes! I hope this site is really busy. I know that they did NOT have a way to wash all their laundry, different things had different ways to be washed, so that's what's making this so hard! i gotta go give up now and do the rest of my homework and get a zero cuz i dont know how they washed linens.

Editor's Note: Here are a couple of links:

http://www.scienceinthebox.com/en_UK/publications/historyoflaundry_en.html

http://www.laundrylist.org/education/laundryhistory.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laundry

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Anonymous Flag
March 31, 20160 found this helpful

Lye

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