Kristi here. One of the worst things about taking a long trip is the amount of laundry you have to do when you return. As annoying as I find the chore, at least I get to walk away after throwing the clothes in the washer.
No such luck for the Regency era laundress.
Prior to the 19th century, laundry had pretty much been done the same way. Soak it, boil it, beat it with a rock. No wonder they wore their clothes dirty.
Thank God for the beginnings of the industrial revolution and all those crafty souls that saw a chance to make money by making laundry easier. They crated the forerunners to the oh-so-convenient machine I have today.
Some of the earliest advertisements for washing machines are from England in the 1790s. It was basically a barrel with a crank that would turn the paddles in the barrel, agitating the clothes in the water. Still a lot of work, but you could clean more than one or two garments at a time. The arrangement of the paddles allowed for more efficient washing as well, requiring less lye, less hot water, and less brutality.
Good news for the wearers of delicate muslin dresses.
Clothes were still hung or laid out to dry as an effective dryer was still a few years away.
Do you still do any of your washing by hand? Do you use a clothesline?