Recipe For Washing Clothes

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washboard - a classic washing machine

Recipe For Washing Clothes

I never thought of a “washer” in this light before.. what a blessing!  — Imagine having a recipe for this !!! Years ago an Alabama grandmother gave the new bride the following recipe: (This is an exact copy as written and found in an old scrapbook – with spelling errors and all.)



Build fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water

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

Shave one hole cake of lie soap in boilin 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 broom stick handle, then wrench, and starch. Hang old rags on fence. Spread tea towels on grass. Pore wrench water in flower bed. 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.


Paste this over your washer and dryer. Then, the next time you think things are bleak, read it again, kiss that washing machine and dryer, and give thanks. The first thing each morning you should run and hug your washer and dryer and also your toilet—those two-holers used to get mighty cold! (For you non-southerners: wrench means rinse.)


photo by:ericskiff


  1. rose says

    i am going to make a copy of this and give it to my daughter and son in law… they both hate doing the laundry!… hehehee 😀 …
    thanks for sharing this, i enjoyed reading it! 😀

  2. says

    Oh I love it!! This is SO like the East Tennessee area, where I live! :) You don’t happen to live in the next holler over, do you? LOL! I just love it!
    And I love your blog, too, by the way. I’m a faithful everyday reader. Thanks so much for posting this. Have a great day!

  3. Gayle says

    SOOO strange! My sister read this VERY SAME piece to my mom and me tonight from a handwritten book of poems and writings that my Grandma had compiled from various sources.
    I was thinking that I should hang it over my washer too!

  4. barb~ says

    I admit freely I am SO glad I don’t have to do laundry this way. But, I have to wonder if in some ways these women weren’t really more satisfied in their daily lives. So much physical effort and ingenuity was required for every single task they did….whether the laundry, cooking with little food on hand, sewing clothes, blankets, gardening…and, an endless list. But imagine the feelings of pride and accomplishment with what they had done with their own hands. Physically, they had to be bushed each night-but, imagine how well they slept! I doubt anyone needed prescription sleeping pills!! They were less depressed because they were so active-in body, mind and soul. They came together in fellowship to quilt, or help neighbors in need-not sending an email or text!!
    I have learned finally-less is always more, and tis a gift to be simple!

  5. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    I don’t know Barb, I think of those 25 year old women with too many kids and too much work that looked 40… A full day had to be alotted for each task. Monday was laundry and that one reason it was blue…

    My mom used to chop the wood, build the fire, haul the water up from the well, scrub the clothes on a wash board, hang them out, heat the iron on the stove, and press them. I told her that if they had All Tempa Cheer back then it would have rocked her world! Now she had a washer & dryer. (She used to have four dishwashers too, Susan, Dottie, Ruth & Carol.)

  6. Corrie says

    I love your site. There are always great ideas found here. I was wondering if you have a recipe for powdered oxyclean. I am new to homesteading and I’ve found that to be a great addition to my homemade laundry soap.
    Thank you=)

  7. susan says

    Love the laundry poem! I have been wondering what to do with my husbands grandmother’s old scrub board. I have been keeping it because it has sentimal value,and my daughter says she wants to keep it so I think I will embrodery the poem and put it on the top of the scrub board for her! Of course it will be a slow thing to do since I am not well but I know she will love it!

    • says

      Susan I have had an old scrub board hanging in my laundry room often. I think that would be so cute with the poem.
      For anyone who has an old scrub board you can use them. I have on rare occasions used mine when I had several hand wash things that I need to do.

  8. Katrina says

    This is great-thank you for posting it!. It reminds me of a recipe for fried chicken that my great grandmother used-the recipe begins “Heat water in a kettle. While you are waiting for the water to boil, sharpen the good axe and select the chicken….” If I can find the recipe I will post it in the cooking section.

  9. Mary L says

    My mother used an old wringer washer until I was in high school. I’ve seen her run that machine while holding a croupy baby in one arm, seen her run her hand through the wringer and smash her wedding ring flat. I love and appreciate ALL my modern appliances!!

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