Quest in Roots:
This page is an extract from the full Quest in Roots history book. You can purchase a CD
Wash day in the good old days was not a matter of adjusting a few dials. Wash day meant hard physical labor. Water was often hard or of poor quality. It had to be carried and heated in a boiler on the kitchen range.
There were no detergents. In the early days, housewives, on the farm at least, made their own soap. When an animal was killed for beef, all scraps of fat were saved, combined with water and lye in an iron cooking pot, and boiled until thickened. It was then poured into a container and when it had hardened, cut into blocks. On wash day a block or two were again melted and added to the wash water.
Our grandmothers were not even able to buy lye in cans. Water was seeped through wood ashes and used as lye.
Clothes had to be scrubbed and boiled and rinsed and blued, and then hung on a line outside to dry. In winter clothes froze like boards and were difficult to bring indoors to finish drying beside the stove. There was no synthetic material so almost everything needed ironing. Flat irons were heated on the range. On a warm summer day ironing could be very uncomfortable. Laundry days were busy, hot and tiring. "Blue" Monday was an appropriate name.
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