Posted by: Dutch | December 5, 2009

Wash on Monday

In the early days, especially in the mountains, recipes or rules were never written or recorded. Instead, they were passed by word of mouth from mother to daughter for generations. Therefore, it was surprising to find a note an unknown mother penned to her daughter describing the best way to do the family laundry. This note could very well have been put in the wash pot the mother was giving her daughter as a wedding present. She wrote:

  1. Build a fire in the backyard to heat kettle of rain water.
  2. Set tub so smoke will not blow in your eyes if wind is present.
  3. Shave a whole cake of lye soap in the boiling water.
  4. Sort clothes into three piles – one of white clothes, one of colored, and one of rags and britches.
  5. Stir flour in cold water until smooth, then thin doen with boiling water to make starch.
  6. Rub dirty spots on the washboard, then boil them. Rub colored clothes, but do not boil. Take white things out of kettle with broom handle; then rinse, blue, and starch.
  7. Hang clothes on line except tea towels, which should be spread on the grass. Hang old rags on the fence.
  8. Pour rinse water in flower beds.
  9. Scrub privy seat and floor with soapy water.
  10. Turn tubs upside down. Put on a clean dress, comb hair. Make a cup of tea to drink while you sit and rest a spell, and count your blessings.

These rules appear to have originated sometime between the early days when the family wash was taken to the nearby stream, and the invention of the washing machine around the turn of the century.

– Reprinted from a document maintained at the Sobon Estate Museum in Amador County, California



  1. All of this was going on while father was following the back end of a mule with plow handles in his hands. I reckon.

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