It wasn't just one day - it went on for most days of the week!
In 2005 if someone about 58 was asked ‘can you remember washing day’, they would probably look blank and reply ‘no’. Washing day to them would be a white machine, two soft tablets and switch on the electricity. Then leave it running for the cycle. But if we (slightly older people) were asked we would say ‘It wasn’t just one day, it went on for most days of the week’.
I can remember the washing days we had at home. They started on a Sunday. First you got the bucket to get the water – you had to carry the water about 200 yards from the water point. Then you filled the copper boiler in the washhouse, lighting the fire under it to heat the water. I can remember having to chop up logs for the fire. When the water was hot, in went the clothes and if they were whites a touch of Dolly Blue to help the brightness.
When they were ready, out they came to go onto the scrubbing boards, where mother would have the bar of yellow soap and the scrubbing brush. She would work in the soap and get to work with the brush, scrubbing away for all she was worth. Then into the rinse water, squeeze them out and put them through the mangle before hanging them on the old clothes lines in the yard or back lane. That was on a fine day. If the weather was wet they were hung in the house and every room was draped with drying clothes. The wash house was always like a sauna with all the steam from the clothes boiler in such a small space. The same applied to the house on rainy days, with all the clothes drying indoors.
Next day would be ironing day. Out would come the wooden ironing board if you had one, or the table was cleared for use if you had not. The flat irons were brought out and either placed in the baking oven on the range or heated up beside the open fire. The skill was to know when they were the right temperature by spit and touch! Not like today’s modern electric irons with their thermostatic controls for each different fabric. In those days everything was either wool, linen or cotton with no man-made fibres and many a garment ended up with scorch marks if the iron was too hot.
Talking to children today, they cannot conceive the amount of work our mothers had to do just for the washing. They only know about modern automatic washing machines where you push all the clothes into the machine, shut the door and leave it to do the cycle.