The history of washing machines

Updated April 17, 2017

Four hundred years ago, washing clothes was a time-consuming and tedious process. If clothing was really dirty, cleaners had to go to the river and rub and pound the clothing with rocks, making it easier for the soap to penetrate the cloth. The ancient Romans used fermented urine to whiten their clothing. Washing machine technology has definitely changed how we wash clothes and made it much easier. This article will explain the history of washing machines and its technological advancements.

Scrub Board

The first scrub board was invented in 1797. However, it was not patented until 1857 by James King. King was the first to use a drum, which made his machine look a lot like washing machines of today (although it was not motorised).

Rotary Washing Machines

The rotary washing machine was invented and patented in 1858 by Hamilton Smith of Philadelphia. William Blackstone built the handle and gear style washing machine in 1874 as a gift for his wife. It was the first washing machine intended for practical use in the home.

Electric Washing Machines

Electric washing machines began appearing at the turn of the 20th century. Companies such as Maytag, Hurley Machine Corporation and Automatic Electric Washer Company mass produced machines by 1910. Louis Goldenberg, a Ford Motor Company employee, invented the electric washer sometime in the 1890s, although its invention also has been credited to Alva Fisher. Before the Great Depression hit its peak, sales of electric washing machines surpassed 900,000 units annually.

Automatic Washing Machines

In 1937, the automatic washer was introduced, which was called the Model S. During its cycles, it was known to vibrate so roughly that it had to be bolted to the ground. The original Model S had two settings but a fully automatic Model S washer was invented in 1947. It boasted new features such as a soap dispenser, speed settings, a bleach dispenser and lint filters. By the 1960s, more than 90 per cent of all households in America were using electric washers.

Modern Washing Machines

Contemporary washing machines are either front loading or top loading. Front-loading washers are popular in the Middle East and Europe, while top-loading washers are most popular in North America, South America and Australia. Front loaders are much more simplistic compared to top loaders in their design but suffer from technical problems because its drum lies sideways.

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About the Author

Drew Woods is a native of Milwaukee, Wis. who has written articles for the international basketball website USbasket. He holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Bethel University and has been writing professionally for various websites since 2009.