No Washboard Worries

by Sherry Riter in Relationship

“Read the directions.”

If you’ve heard or said those three words approximately five hundred times by the time you are forty years old, don’t feel alone because so has everyone else your age. I would venture to say that the men are doing the hearing and the women are doing the saying of this sometimes very controversial sentence.

First let me give you a little history of my family roots so that this story will make sense. My line can be traced back to farmers and I don’t have to go any further than grandparents in order to find them. So I know a little about how farm life looks, feels and the amount of work it takes to keep everything running smoothly.

Keeping the “directions sentence” and “my farming roots” in mind, I’ll tell you about my little trip last week. I love going to antique stores which is rather surprising since I usually like new stuff or old stuff that I make look new. I’m such an odd mixture even to myself. Anyway, after I had my hair cut last week, I decided to spend a little “me” time walking through a very large and clean antique mall in Williamsburg.

I’m somewhat obsessed with looking at antique linens, brass keys, books, thimbles, furniture, dolls, crystal, china…. Yes, I simply love to experience the items of days gone by. There was a very old poem book dated 1895 with an inscription inside that said “Merry Christmas” and someone’s name. I almost bought it, but the binding was cracked and the pages had begun to fall out. Alyssa loves old poetry books, so I always keep my radar up for them.

Anyway, the next to last aisle had very old appliances and furniture. I sat on the bench wondering who had designed, produced and purchased it. How many people sat down just like I was doing? In a way, I felt very close to my grandparents who have already passed away. While sitting on the well worn bench, I saw something in the very back, leaning against the wall. I got up and walked closer in order to see a washboard used years ago to clean the laundry.

My mother told me stories about how she washed my diapers using a washboard and then hung them on the clothesline to dry. I stood looking at it and pictured my very young mother working so hard just to keep my diapers cleaned and I started getting teary with appreciation for a loving mother.

Antique stores always have this affect on me.

antique washboard

As I bent down to touch the well worn wood, I read the directions for use that were boldly printed on the front of the washboard. My first thought was, “That pretty much solves the issue of any man not reading the directions!” Maybe we should mimick this type of short, bold instructions on things instead of the ten page instruction manual needed just to learn how to use the new electric toothbrush.

The washboard read, “Do not rub hard. The board will do the work.” Whoa! Obviously, I have a whole different mindset around the phrase “will do the work.” My idea of having my laundry cleaned is placing it in the electric washing machine, adding soap, pushing the button to start the wash cycle and walking away. The machine at that point “will do the work.”

antique washboard

There I stood, still misty-eyed with gratefulness for a wonderful mother and then, I started laughing. I must have looked crazy. Since I am a very visual person, I had a funny mental image flash across my mind. I imagined taking the washboard home, handing it to my husband and daughter while saying, “From now on, I want you to do the laundry with this washboard. No need to worry because I read the instructions and it will be very easy to use! As a matter of fact, you don’t have to rub hard because it will do all the work for you.”

Of course, I’m sure they would both look at me as if I had completely lost my mind.

Just in case you ever want to give up your washing machine for a lovely washboard, the full laundry process is detailed below:

  • Fill a large bucket with hot water.
  • Place the washboard in the bucket.
  • Wet a piece of dirty laundry.
  • Lay it against the front of the washboard.
  • Rub a bar of soap on the laundry to create a lather.
  • Pick up the piece of laundry and rub it against the washboard.
  • “Do not rub hard. The board will do the work.”
  • Set the soapy laundry in an empty bucket.
  • Continue washing each piece of dirty laundry in the same manner.
  • Add clean water to another large bucket.
  • Place the soapy and washed laundry in the clean water and swish them around until all the soap is rinsed out.
  • Squeeze and wring the water out of the clean and rinsed laundry.
  • Hang laundry on the clothesline to dry.

Ahhhh, so simple! Totally dismisses all washboard worries because obviously “the board will do the work!”

Do you think you will ever complain about doing the laundry again?


The Redhead Riter


This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maryellen June 26, 2010 at 3:27 am

I do not do laundry. I allow it to pile up…as a fellow red head…I think we must be friends! LOL! I loved your post and the pictures are terrific! All the best.


2 Julie W June 26, 2010 at 5:45 am

My husband and I recently had to replace our washer and it is only a matter of time before our dryer goes, too. Martin and I were wondering if we should hold off on making another big appliance purchase (especially since we've had to replace our AC, too, this summer) and I mentioned putting up a clothesline in our backyard. Laundry was an art form, I believe! Who doesn't love the smell of sun-kissed sheets? I kind of wish we today haven't grown so used to convenience because I think we miss out on the rewards of laundry that required some work, know what I mean?


3 Lou Belcher June 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I'm glad I missed the washboard era. It might be great for the upper arms however. If you introduced it as a build-the-biceps routine, it'd probably catch on.


4 GB Girl June 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm

That is so cute.
Antique stores always make me sentimental too. I love finding old kitchen gadgets and cookware.

My Dad likes to tell me about the cakes his mom made and kept in her old cake tin. He tells it every time he comes to my house where I have it sitting on the fridge. I always tear up.


5 TJ June 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Your mom is in stitches, the directions leave out it takes your hand, arm and back. My wash board had a glass insert to do the laundry. I also used rain water to wash your clothes. Summer was not so bad, it was the winter when your fingers grew numb and when you hung them on the line they froze,lol. I will take the push button any day.



6 Gretchen Seefried June 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Oh gosh, can not even imagine if I'd had to use a washboard with 5 little kids and 2-3 large loads a day… yes indeed, god bless your mom!


7 Kimberly June 26, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Great Blog! I would not complain about laundry either after reading that! 🙂 ~Kimberly


8 viewfromdownhere June 26, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Yes, we're definitely lucky to have washing machines to do all the work, but man would that be a good workout!


9 RedHeadedStepChild June 26, 2010 at 6:29 pm

That's so cute! Thank God for washing machines and bought air!



10 katlupe June 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

It is not that unusual for using a washboard in the modern homesteading world. As you know, I recently wrote about my new method of washing my laundry on my blog. I like the look of the washboards and especially this one with the directions on it.


11 Gina August 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm

It really is amazing to see how far we have come. I remember reading somewhere that American housewives have actually gained 17 days a year due to modern appliances and technology. This post certainly backs up that claim!


12 Mama Penguin August 18, 2010 at 2:35 am

Your mama is one strong woman! I could never do laundry like that, of course I say that, but it was a different time. I think it would be neat to do laundry like that, maybe once 😀


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