When people first started washing their clothes, it was done by pounding them against rocks and then washing away the dirt in a stream or river. While onboard ships, the crew used to put their dirty clothes in a cloth sack and tie a rope around the top. They would then drop the bag overboard and let the water agitate the clothes in the wake of the ship. There is evidence that ancient laundry detergent was made from the ashes of sacrificial animals in Rome. Other soaps include the use of perfumes and lye.
Washing clothes by hand was one of the most difficult tasks of housekeeping until the invention of the washer. It was very tiring to the arms of the women and the lye often caused burns. Women often hired out help with the laundry or took it to a cleaner who used the same process.
It took many years for the washing machine to develop into what most people are familiar with today. You can now find machines that steam your clothes, wash in two different fabric cycles within the same load, and those that use only a few gallons of water. Advances in technology have certainly brought about huge changes in washing machines and their use.
Two Types of Hand Washers
In 1797, the very first washing machine of sorts was invented. It was a scrub board. This allowed women to quit pounding the laundry against a rock. In 1851, James King invented the drum washing machine, but it was still a hand powered washer. This machine used a hand powered spinner to agitate the water.
Rotary/Spinning Washing Machine
The first rotary washing machine was patented in 1858 by Hamilton Smith. Less than 20 years later, in 1874, William Blackstone presented his wife with a birthday present. It was the first washer designed to get rid of dirt in clothes by washing it away. He had made the machine convenient for use in the home. However, most of these machines were made of steel and had heavy, dirty lids. Some were actually made with wooden tubs.
The first completely electric washing machine was called The Thor. The Hurley Machine Company, located in Chicago, Illinois, introduced this machine in 1908. The washing machines had an electric motor and a large, galvanized tub. The washer was actually invented by Alva Fisher and a patent was issued in 1910. One of the biggest problems with the early electric machines was that the water would drip down in to the electrical wiring and would result in shorts, sparks, or shocks.
A Few Interesting Facts About Famous Washing Machine Companies
In 1893, F.L. Maytag started a farm implement company. When business seemed slow in the winter, he decided to add a wooden tub washer in 1907. Soon, he began to make washing machines full time and Maytag was born.
Whirlpool actually began in 1911 as Upton Machine Company. Located in St. Joseph, Michigan, it started with the wringer washer with an electric motor.
The Schulthess Group has been around over 150 years. They started production of the first washers in 1909. They also backed the inventions of a punched card control for those washers in 1949. By 1951, the Schulthess Group started producing Europe's automatic washers.
General Electric was the first company to actually produce a washing machine that had five different push buttons. These were used to control the water temperature, spin speed, and the agitation speed. This was in 1957. This finally brought the washing machine to something that resembles what the world is used to today.