Washing Clothes: Directions From Long Ago

Washing Clothes: Directions From Long Ago

by Evelyn Horan

Years ago a grandmother gave her granddaughter, a new bride, the following recipe. It was found in an old scrapbook and is now recorded with spelling errors as well.

washing clothes by hands

Washing Clothes 

Build fire in backyard to heat a kettle of rainwater.

Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in your eyes if wind is pert.

Shave one whole cake of lie soap in boiling water.

Sort things, make 3 piles

  • 1 pile white
  • 1 pile colored
  • 1 pile work britches and rags.

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

Take white things, rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, and boil, then rub colored; don’t boil just wrench and starch.

Take things out of kettle with broomstick handle, then wrench, and starch.

Hang old rags on fence.

Spread tea towels on grass.

Pore wrench water in flowerbed. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.

Turn tubs upside down.

Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs. Brew cup of tea, sit and rock a spell and count your blessings.


For lots of young people, perhaps, you should paste these instructions over your washer and dryer. The next time you think things are bleak, read it again, kiss that washing machine and dryer, and give thanks. First thing each morning you should run and hug your washer and dryer, also your toilet—(those two holers used to get mighty cold!)

For non-southerners – wrench means, rinse.

About the Author

Evelyn Horan is a former teacher/counselor. Her articles and stories have been published many times in periodicals for children and adults in both secular and religious publications. She holds General Elementary, General Secondary, Pupil Personnel, and also School Psychologist life credentials in the state of California. Horan is the author of a number of books including Aging Requires a Gentle Attitude. Learn more about her work at http://www.authorsden.com/evelynhoran.

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