Friday is laundry day for me, and it’s my favorite of house chores. I remember the excitement on the day my mother’s new Bendix washer arrived, replacing the old ringer-type. This front-loader had a “window” (like my Frigidaire today). After the installation my sister and I placed a low stool in front of the washer and watched the various cycles – wash soap sloshing, rinse water filling up the tub, then spinning dry enough to hang on the clotheslines. It was like a special TV show for us girls.
As a teenager I helped with the laundry, including hanging out the clothes, bringing them in, folding linens, and replacing them in the closet (freshly-laundered ones on the bottom of the stack). When I was engaged to Bill, Mother gave me a lesson in the “right way” to hang clothes on the line.
For linens that meant attaching pins to each end of a towel, sheet, or pillowcase and connecting the same pin to the next item. Shirts and slacks hung from the hem; skirts and panties from the waist; socks from the cuff. We hung each separate item in groups – all towels side by side and so forth. This made for better organizing when bringing in the laundry to fold. Some I folded at the line, but most I handled on a bed.
We used oval wicker baskets to carry the laundry to and from the house. We sorted the laundry into the washer – a load of whites first, then light colors, and dark clothes last. All our sheets and towels were white so bleach could be used. We organized all linens in the closet according to use, folding towels and washcloths the way we wanted them hung from the racks. We changed bed sheets every Saturday and each sibling took care of stripping and then re-making his or her own bed. Mother’s storage system meant three of each item. One was being used, one being washed, and one stored away.
Those lessons learned as a teen have stayed with me throughout my own homemaking. At first I did use a clothesline and even had church deacons erect one for me when there was none. I especially liked to hang out sheets. Now it’s a dryer positioned next to the washer, and I don’t miss the clothesline chore. But the rest of Mother’s advice has stuck, assuming that I know the ‟right way” to sort and fold linens. I’ve been so attached to that theory that I often re-folded towels when someone helped me. Not good, so I’ve learned to accept the help and wait until my next turn to fold.
Ironing was not part of our laundry days growing up. Mother hired a lady to come once a week and her only task was to iron. Mother said, ‟If I had to earn my living by ironing, I would die trying.” That’s to say she hated ironing. So when I got married to a pastor who needed shirts ironed for Sunday, he taught me how to iron. In those early days before perma-press fabrics, we starched most all our clothes and cotton pillowcases. I recall using Argo or Faultless brands of laundry starch. Before ironing, I’d sprinkle water on the items and roll them up. If I sprinkled more clothes than I got to, I’d freeze those items. Yes, that’s what I did, for it prevented having mildew collect on them before I was ready to iron again. I learned that the hard way.
It’s rare now that I wash clothes and iron on the same day. Yes, I still iron some items. This chore is preferably done in the evening, watching a music video or movie.