Laundry in the 19th century

What is it, Amy? You sound upset. The maid isn't feeling well and you have to do your own laundry this week?

Sounds to me like you've been a bit, shall we say, catered to in the 19th century. I think it's time for you to learn how to do your own laundry.
First of all, doing laundry in the 19th century is quite hard work, as you will soon discover. You live in 1868 now, and the first type of washing machine won't be invented until 1880.

First of all, you're going to need to fetch some water from the pump outside. Just press with all your might on its metal handle over and over again until you fill up a couple of large pails. Now, carry them into the kitchen. Pour the water into a large pot and place it on the wood-burning stove to heat (your clothes will be much cleaner and softer if you use warm water). If there are no logs currently burning inside the stove's firebox, you will have to gather up some new ones and light them. Don't forget to add the kindling first.
You will need to find the washing tub at this point. Simply pour the heated water into it and you're ready to begin!


Not a good frame of mind to be in, Amy Besides, it's really only your undergarments you need to wash. In the 19th century, dresses were not regularly cleaned - the fabrics were much too delicate. 
Stains? Well, you can try the juice of a lemon on those. Even onion juice is used in the 1800s to clear up soiled spots on fabric. Powder and liquid detergents don't exist in 1868, but you can use a knife to cut some shavings off of a bar of soap.

You see a wooden framed board with a rippled front? Well, that's a washboard. Slip it into the washing tub. You can gently rub your garments along the ridges to help clean them. 

Of course you will need to rinse your clothes after you have washed them. Discard the warm water and retrieve more water from the pump.
I think you just growled at me, is that right? Know what? You'll do just fine.
And now for some good news. Once you have washed, rinsed and wrung out all the clothing, you just need to hang them outside to dry. Don't see a clothesline? Then lay them on some clean grass. Let the sunshine and summer breezes do their own work.
Well, no. You're not quite finished yet. Every item of clothing will need to be ironed. In 1868, it is normal for everything to be ironed. 

You will need two irons, of course. One must be heated while you are using the other. 

So there you go, Amy. I hope it all goes well. 

Oh yeah. Don't forget to tidy up the laundry area when you're finished.