The History of the Washing Machine

The History of the Washing Machine

Washing machines are appliances we take for granted every day. Most of us can’t even imagine handwashing all the clothing, towels and bedding we go through these days. It’s hard to believe that just a little over a century ago everything was washed by hand in a local water source. The metal washboard wasn’t even invented until around 1833. It’s time to take a step back and learn the origin story of one our most utilized modern luxuries, the washing machine.

The Early Days

Washing machines first started appearing in the early 1800s, though they were all powered by hand. To use them you’d have to rub the clothing up against a rough surface and then crank it through wringer to get the water and soap out. The Shakers released a hand-powered washing machine called the “wash mill” in the 1850s that was patented and made headlines in the day for its ease of use and practicality.

Look Ma, No Hands!

Handwashing was on its way out when companies started to develop steam-powered washing drums for commercial use. The drum would be turned over a heat source like an open fire sanitizing the laundry with high temperature water. This invention was short-lived as “Thor” was introduced in 1908 by inventor, Alva J. Fisher. Thor is believed to be the first electrically powered washer. The Hurley Machine Company of Chicago produced Thor primarily for commercial customers, but soon other companies developed their own versions for consumers.

By 1928, U.S. electric washing machine sales had reached 913,000 units. The Great Depression reduced sales and prompted the creation of more communal laundromats. But by 1940, 60% of the 25 million wired homes in the U.S. had an electric washing machine. The first electric clothes dryer was invented in the 1930s but didn’t catch on as much as the washer did – many opting to dry their clothing on a clothesline, something many still prefer to do.

Modern Times

These days electric and gas powered washer and dryers do all the work. Many newer “smart” models even have WiFi and apps so you can stay connected and control things from the comfort of your couch. It’s estimated that the U.S. produces over 9.5 million washers every year!

Do you need help installing a new washing machine or is there a plumbing problem keeping you from using your washing machine? Call Drain Masters or schedule service online today!