Posted by  //  March 3, 2014  //  Articles


Have you ever been camping near a lake, stream, or pond and suddenly had a need for laundering?  Pasta sauce on you flannel shirt? Red wine on your khakis?  Have you skedaddled to the water’s edge and dunked your clothes before the stain sets? Did you use a rock to pound out the stain?  If so, you have been doing what man has done for thousands of years: pushing water through fabric to clean it.

To help with the rough scrub techniques, the washboard appeared, inventor unknown.  It has changed little since its introduction.  First made entirely of wood, it was comprised of a ridged board held above a set of legs.  The board would be immersed in the washtub and the clothes were pressed against the ridges, then rubbed up and down in the water, pushing the sudsy water through the fibers, releasing the dirt.

This scrubbing could be hard on fabrics (as well as hands!).  Metal replaced wood as the scrubbing surface.  Eventually, glass was used as the scrubbing surface for more delicate fabrics, like that used in ladies’ lingerie.

Washboards varied in size, to be used according to the job at hand.  They were also used as advertising, with nice graphics used to display the manufacturer’s name.  Today, washboards are more often used to make music in jug and zydeco bands.

By Karen Hewitt

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