Wash Day in the Wash House

Wash House

Take a peek inside a well preserved weatherboard wash house and woodshed dating from 1913.  The wash house was a feature of houses built between 1900 and 1950 in Western Australia.  A woodshed alongside the wash house held a ready supply of wood chopped to size, ready to light a fire under the copper to produce hot water.

Wash day was a strenuous task, often taking all day to complete.  The first task was to light a fire underneath the copper containing rinsing water.  Clothes were soaked, then washed by hand in concrete troughs.  The next step was to transfer them to boiling water in the copper.  For safety, a copper stick was used to swirl the clothing around, until the washing had been thoroughly rinsed free of germs and suds.  Washing was transferred once again to troughs for a final rinse in cold water.

Excess water was squeezed out of the wash, using a wringer (or mangle to English people).  The washing was then hung outside on a clothes line supported by a wooden ‘prop’.  To older generations, the wash house is a trip down memory lane to reminisce about their childhood, and Mum doing the washing.  For younger people growing up with the laundry INSIDE the house, it’s a great way to learn about the heavy manual work involved in getting the weekly wash done, over one hundred years ago.

The wash house has a display of artefacts once used for washing, starching and ironing clothes.  Items include flat irons and trivets, early versions of steam, kerosene and petrol irons, more modern electric irons from the 1950’s, and a portable stove once used in a commercial laundry.  The wash house shelf contains wash day essentials such as starch, ‘blue’ tablets used to put in the rinsing water to whites whiter, tin water pitchers, and wooden dolly pegs for hanging the washing on the clothesline.

 

Wash House image