As I was going through my emails one popped out at me in bold letters: LIFE-CHANGING LAUNDRY TIPS! Really? Life-changing?
We’ve come a long way from beating our clothes on a rock in the river (although some countries still use this method). Soap wasn’t even used at first. The clothes were simply banged about in the nearest water source and then laid on bushes to dry. Later, wooden “bats’ were created to make it easier to beat the clothes about. And lye was made from wood ash and urine to get clothes really clean (yes, I said urine).
Next came buckets and washboards and bars of soap that were shaved into the water. My grandmother and her sisters used to talk about having to boil clothes on top of the stove. They hated the job and did whatever they could to get out of it.
The first machines still required a lot of woman power. There were cranks to turn and heavy wet clothes to transfer to wringers. Laundry was still hard work.
I can’t even imagine the excitement when the first motorized machines were invented (around 1851). What joy that must have brought to the women of the day. In fact, the man who invented one of the first machines did so as a birthday gift to his wife. I’m sure she was thrilled (but, Honey, do NOT buy me a washing machine for my birthday. Ever.).
My mom used to take in ironing to make ends meet. The women of her day would dry their clothes completely (usually outside) and then use shaker bottles to re-wet them. They would then roll them up and put them in special bags to “rest” until it was time to iron. Almost every article of clothing was ironed back then.
I am from the first generation of modern machines and wrinkle-free materials. We separated our colors from our whites, threw them in the machine and walked away. I may still whine about putting clean clothes away (no one has invented a machine for that), but I’m close enough to the times when laundry was a royal pain to appreciate the ease with which I can get it done.
So, back to that email: what were these so called “life-changing” laundry tips? Here’s a sampling:
- Read all clothing labels. Please, I do that in the store and if it says “dry clean only” I drop it like a hot potato.
- Pretreat any dirty areas on your clothing by sprinkling corn starch over them and rubbing gently. Ummmmm, no.
- Zip and button all jeans and pants. Huh?
- Unbutton all shirt collars. Nope.
- Turn clothing inside out to save it from fading. Hey, we all fade, I’m fading right now.
- Keep a sewing kit in your laundry room and mend every rip or tear before washing. Here’s my method: put the ripped clothing into a mending pile, wait for child to outgrow it and then donate it. Problem solved!
- Turn all pockets inside out. Only if there’s money in there (and, I’m keeping it).
- Hang all socks to dry. OK, this email has to be a joke.
Well, that was life-changing all right. I almost fell off my chair from laughing. I could have hurt myself.
Here’s my take on all this. A lot of people did a lot of work to get us to where we are now. I, for one, am not going to allow anyone to put me back to when doing laundry took an entire day.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I just received an email with the title “The Nine Commandments of Dishwashing” (I’m not kidding).