Warshing Clothes Recipe — count yore blessings!

Washing History

Years ago, an Alabama grandmother gave the new bride the following recipe exactly 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 wont 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 [rinse] 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, rock a spell, and count yore blessings.

A Bucket and a Plunger

In 1979 I spent 6 months living on the outskirts Jerusalem with a BYU Study Abroad program. We lived in dorm-like conditions at the Ramat Rachel Kibbutz with communal bathrooms and had no laundry facilities. It was a huge effort to carry bags of our dirty laundry on the local buses into Jerusalem to find laundromats where we paid a lot of money to sit and watch our clothes cycle through washers and dryers.

Not long into our stay, I noticed a cheerful tall blonde named Noralee had packed a toilet plunger and was putting it to good use in the bathroom. But not in the toilets. She found a bucket, bought some laundry soap, and each week she plunged her laundry. I watched, amazed. As we got acquainted, she taught me the tricks of plunging laundry. It changed my life.

After that adventure, I returned to BYU for a few years, then I was a missionary for 18 months in South Africa, then I spent almost 3 years living in a village in the bush of Nigeria, and then I moved into an apartment in Salt Lake City. I did not pay a dime to a laundromat for over 10 YEARS! Everywhere I went and everywhere I lived, I plunged my clothes.

In 1989, the laundromat in my apartment complex lowered the price to 25 cents per load. I decided I could pay that price to watch a machine launder my clothing, after all those years of plunging. In 1990 I married John. He owned a washer and dryer, and so now my plunger rests in a corner of the bathroom, behind the toilet, where it gets little use. But I have never forgotten the glorious feel of hand-washed and hand-rung clothing, slightly stiff from sunshine or from indoor hanging during the winter months.

It makes me want to brew a cup of peppermint tea, sit, rock a spell, and count my blessings.

My Nigerian Bucket & Plunger with collected rain water

My Nigerian Bucket & Plunger with collected rain water

Laundry in Eket, Nigeria. Yes, I planted those pineapples!

Laundry in Eket, Nigeria. Yes, I planted those pineapple!


Here is a laundry plunger that once belonged to Margaret, the wife of my great uncle Elias Albert Bushman who lived in Lehi, Utah from 1851 until she died in 1933.


About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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