Laundry

Monday was laundry day. Meals were very simple on wash days, which involved strenuous labor over a hot fire and boiling water. Planning ahead on Saturday by making Monday’s dessert was advised. 

Clothes were put to soak Sunday night, or else a little ammonia was added to the wash water to loosen the soil. Proper sorting and order of loads was very important, as more than one load would have been washed and rinsed in a single tub of water. Fine flannels and nicer whites were followed by colored flannels, bed linen, and coarser pieces. Regular inspections of the washboard and tubs were necessary to prevent damage to clothes. Mending could be done before or after washing.

Water was heated over an open fire, almost to boiling. As steam wafted out of the pot, chips of homemade lye soap were added to the water along with several pieces of laundry. The woman of the house or her daughter stirred the clothing with a long wooden tool called a battling stick. After a few minutes the clothes were lifted from the steaming water, heavy and wet, and placed on a washboard to be scrubbed. Then the clothes were rinsed and were hung to dry on a clothesline or a fence. Time permitting, the clothing would be ironed while they were still damp. If not, the clothes would be dampened again for ironing on Tuesday.

Stains could be removed by a variety of substances:

for oily stains, cold water;

for ink stains, milk or lemon juice;

for wine, salt on the stain followed by boiling water;

for fruit stains, boiling water;

for paint, turpentine;

and for mildew, rust, or grass stains—lemon juice.