Here’s a scary thought: Washing all your clothing and linens by hand in Lake Apopka or a local creek. It’s easy to take the lowly washing machine for granted in our daily routine. But it’s important to remember just how much time and effort it saves us each week, not to mention back pain and blistered hands. So, sit back and learn about the origins of this essential appliance - you owe it to your washing machine.
The only thing stepping between you and “clean” clothes was a rock and your local water source. Scrubbing and beating clothing against rocks was the preferred method until 1833 when the metal washboard was invented and made widely available to the public. Next came “The Wringer” (pictured above) – a machine completely powered by hand. The Wringer entrance to the scene in the early 1840s proved to be useful but still required users to do a lot of the soap and scrubbing by hand. The Shakers released another hand-powered machine called the “wash mill” in the 1850s that was patented and made headlines for its revolutionary mechanical functionality that pressed clothing against a wall with warm, soapy water.
The Wringer and wash mill were a great start, but far from perfect. And neither was made available or very affordable to the general public. At the turn of the century, inventors started toying with the idea of steam-powered washing drums to meet the tall cleaning orders of commercial customers like hotels and restaurants. The drums utilized heat to sanitize and clean laundry that rolled around in a metal drum. Alva J. Fisher introduced a model called “Thor” in 1908. It was believed to be the first electrically powered washing machine. The Chicago’s Hurley Machine Company produced the machine primarily for commercial customers, but soon other companies developed their own versions for consumers.
At the height of the 1920s, U.S. electric washing machine sales had reached over 1 million units. Things slowed down for a decade as The Great Depression settled in across the country. There was an influx of communal laundromats since owning a machine of your own was not often feasible. By 1940, more than half of the 25 electrically wired homes in the U.S. owned a washing machine. The electric dryer soon followed suit but didn’t catch on as many still opted for clothesline drying.
Modern washing machines are incredible machines. From WiFi to built-in steamers, these amazing appliances utilize gas and electric hookups that come standard in all homes. It’s estimated that there are over 840 million domestic washing machines in use worldwide!
Call the residential plumbing experts at Reliance at 407-831-4459 or schedule service online for help installing a new dishwasher or repairing an existing machine.