I love to read through old books, especially the kind of book that gave advice and detailed instructions for some of the more ordinary tasks that are still a part of everyday life but are now accomplished with so much less effort. Reading this excerpt… a complete guide to doing laundry from a book on housekeeping and cooking… made me really grateful for my automatic washing machine!

Monday morning, and the earlier the better (the morning sun drying and sweetening clothes better than the later), have the boiler full of clean warm suds. Soft soap may be used, or a bar of hard dissolved in hot water, and used like soft soap.

All the water in which the clothes have soaked should be drained off, and the hot suds poured on. Begin with the cleanest articles, which when washed carefully are wrung out, and put in a tub of warm water. Rinse out from this; rub soap on all the parts which are most soiled, these parts being bands and sleeves, and put them in the boiler with cold water enough to cover them. To boil up once will be sufficient for fine clothes. Then take them out into a tub of clean cold water; rinse them in this, and then in a tub of water made very slightly blue with the indigo-bag or liquid indigo. From this water they must be wrung out very dry, and hung out, always out of doors if possible. A wringer is much better than wringing by hand, as the latter is more unequal, and also often twists off buttons.

The lines must be perfectly clean. A galvanized-iron wire is best of all; as it never rusts, and needs only to be wiped off each week. If rope is used, never leave it exposed to weather, but bring it in after each washing. A dirty, weather-stained line will often ruin a nice garment. Leave clothes on the line till perfectly dry.

If any fruit-stains are on napkins or table-cloths, lay the stained part over a bowl, and pour on boiling water till they disappear. Ink can be taken out if the spot is washed while fresh, in cold water, or milk and water; and a little salt will help in taking out wine-stains. Machine-oil must have a little lard or butter rubbed on the spot, which is then to be washed in warm suds. Never rub soap directly on any stain, as it sets it. For iron-rust, spread the garment in the sun, and cover the spot with salt; then squeeze on lemon-juice enough to wet it. This is much safer and quite as sure as the acids sold for this purpose. In bright sunshine the spot will disappear in a few hours.

–from The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking,
by Helen Stuart Campbell, 1880

This clipping was inside one of my great great… grandfather’s journals

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Rich L.

Wow…That’s so interesting. Washing the sheets this morning was as simple as putting them in the washing machine, although I always line-dry my washing. I love your fascinating looks at the past.


I just read this post to my sister who was complaining that she didn’t feel like doing laundry. I told her she should be glad she lives in the present day and has an automatic washer but I don’t think my message got across. ;o) Seriously — this was a very interesting look at how things used to be done.


I love this kind of old book too. I’m always looking through books at old book sales and have found a few treasures. One I especially enjoyed was a complete guide to making sausage. Now that would be fun! (NOT)


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