The Wringer Washing Machine


I admit I miss washing clothes with a wringer washer. Growing up on a North Dakota farm with four hard-working men, plus three of us ladies, we had plenty of dirty clothes. Laundry was always my favorite job. There was something terribly satisfying about watching them swish in the hot sudsy water, then wringing them out into a separate set of rinse tubs. The wringer pivoted between the washer and rinse tubs.

Mom taught me to sort the clothes into piles of light to dark. The first load was white flour sack dishtowels, the next white/lights, progressing to some pretty dirty jeans and Dad's bib overalls. Running the wringer required a little experience. I probably wasn't the only farm girl who pinched her fingers once or twice. It had a forward and reverse lever, and you soon learned how to flip it to reverse in a flash. For some reason, the clothes tended to swirl around toward the edge, and start catching, balling up within seconds, and jamming the wringer to a stop. Usually guiding it out of the mess, backwards, did the trick, but sometimes there was nothing to do except yell, "Mom!"

The best part of using a wringer washer was the speed you could wash ten loads of clothes. Nowadays, my automatic takes a long time to fill, then run through the cycle of washing, spinning, a separate filling of rinse water, and the final spin--for each load. With the wringer washer, you could crank out those batches as fast as it took to agitate them clean. I would be rinsing/wringing the first batch, and hanging them on the clothesline, while the next load washed.

Some might wrinkle their noses at using the same water, but it never looked dirty to me until the last greasy overalls. I think it was "green living" water conservation long before it hit the news.

The invention of the wringer must have been a real boon to homemakers who had previously only used a tub, washboard, and hands to wring out the wet clothes. This image above may be of a motorized one, since I don't see a hand crank, and she looks like she's using both hands to guide the item.

Mom (Dorothy Kannianen) said her Mom (Anna LaBrant) got a gas-powered wash machine, probably in the 1940s. An exhaust pipe went out the window. Mom didn't remember any fumes, but she said the noise was awful, a big relief when it was shut off. In the summer it was in the unheated entrance, but in the winter it had to be pulled into the kitchen. But noise or not, what a huge improvement that must have been over a tub and washboard, with laundry for a big family! I'm not sure if the little lever on the top was for forward-reverse, or for the wringer, which was also powered by the engine.

The above picture shows the wringer by a rinse tub. Mom had a wheeled double rinse tub. We hooked hoses to the faucet to fill the washer and tubs, and drained them with hoses to outside.

When I was about five, I got one of my favorite Christmas presents ever--a toy wringer washer, pink metal with a little crank to turn the rollers. I remember washing doll clothes on the kitchen counter, feeling like life couldn't get any better.

#laundry #washingclothes #wringerwashingmachines #gaswashingmachine #rinsetubs #NorthDakota #waterconservation

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