How washing machines have changed over time
By Niamh Diskin
Interview with my granny, Jane O’Connor
Q1. Have you ever used a washing machine?
Yes I have used both the new and old versions of a washing machine.
Q2. How often did you use this object?
I used it every second or third day, not as often as families use it today!
Q3. Do you prefer the new or old version?
I prefer the new version as it’s much easier to use and less manual work.
Q4. When did you first buy an electrical washing machine?
I bought my first electrical washing machine in 1960.
Q5. How much did a washing machine cost in 1960?
In 1960 the cost of my washing machine was about £300, today that’s equivalent to €2400. We had to pay it off in installments. Evert month a man would come to our house to collect the money
Q6. Would most people have owned a washing machine?
Very few people owned one; they could not afford a washing machine.
Q7. How has the washing machine changed over time?
At first we used a wash tub and board to wash our clothes. We then had a wooden rotary washing machine; this was a manual, wooden washing machine. Then we bought our first electrical washing machine.
Q8. Did males, females or both use the washing machine?
Only females would use it. The males would work on the farm
Washing by hand
The earliest washing “machine” was the scrub board invented in 1797. It was made from wood and cost about $35.00.
More advancements were made to washing machine technology in the form of the rotating drum design. Basically, these early design consisted of a drum washer that was rotated by hand to make the wooden drums rotate washing the clothes. As metal drums started to replace the traditional wooden drums, it allowed for the drum to turn above an open fire, raising the water temperature for more effective washes
Electric washing machines were advertised in newspapers as early as 1904. US electric washing machine sales reached 913,000 units in 1928. Washer design improved during the 1930s the machine was now enclosed within a cabinet. By 1940, 60% of the 25,000,000 wired homes in the United States had an electric washing machine.
Bendix Corporation introduced the first domestic automatic washing machine in 1937. Many of the early automatic machines had coin-in-the-slot facilities and were installed in the basement laundry rooms of apartment houses.
From 1990 onwards new features and designs of washing machines became available making washing more cost-effective.
Features available in most modern consumer washing machines:
- Delayed execution: a timer to delay the start of the laundry cycle
- Pre-defined programs for different laundry types
- Rotation speed settings
- Variable temperatures, including cold wash
- Child lock
- Time remaining indication