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Washing by hands

Laundering by hand involves soaking, beating, scrubbing, and rinsing dirty textiles. Before indoor plumbing, the maids, washerwoman (laundress), or housewife also had to carry all the water used for washing, boiling, and rinsing the laundry; according to an 1886 calculation, some women in the United States fetched water eight to ten times every day from a pump, well, or spring for these purposes. Water for the laundry would be hand carried, heated on a fire for washing, then poured into the tub. That made the warm soapy water precious; it would be reused, first to wash the least soiled clothing, then to wash progressively dirtier laundry.

Removal of soap and water from the clothing after washing was a separate process. First, soap would be rinsed out with clear water. After rinsing, the soaking wet clothing would be formed into a roll and twisted by hand to extract water. The entire process often occupied an entire day of hard work, plus drying and ironing.