• Washing has evolved a lot. Nowadays most of the families have a washing machine.
  • We have seen with the interviews of our narrators that this evolution has favored much to society, especially women.
  • People years ago wasted a lot of time and effort cleaning clothes with methods which were used when there were no electric washing machines.
  • With this project we have learnt loads of things about the past.


The narrator’s experience with washing in the 60’s

The narrator’s experience with washing in the 60’s

The aim of this essay is to present a brief summary about the findings of our Oral History Project, which is focused on analyzing how people washed in the 60s, and the change that the arrival of the washing machine produced in society. All information collected in my blog I’ve gotten through interviews with two narrators, two women about 70 years old who lived in first person the change and the arrival of electricity and running water. Besides, I am going to tell you aspects that both narrators had in common.

Firstly, I interviewed Julia. She lived all her childhood in a village in the mountains of Leon, Serrilla. There, she went to school and when she finished primary education, she went to the city, León. In León she went to the high school and when she finished her studies of baccalaureate she went to University to study for being a pre-primary teacher. All her life she worked as a teacher in the school of La Robla, a village near León. She told me that she lived in a windmill near the river because her parents were bakers. As the river was close to her home, she went with her mother and the girl who worked for them, to wash clothes there because they had no running water. To do this, they used a wooden board with waves for holding clothes and homemade soap with animal fat and caustic soda. Also, she commented that they washed once or twice a week. When she moved to the city, the nuns at the school where she was, also washed once or twice a week and used the table to wash clothes for every girl too. Also, when she started working and earning money, she bought one of the first washing machines. However, this washer did not spin or drain as today ones. Still, to wash your clothes once a day, was wonderful. She says that she felt a lot of emotion and for her was amazing that clothes give laps.

Secondly, my colleague interviewed María del Pilar. She has always lived in Madrid, but her washing method was the same as the first narrator’s method. However, she did not go to the river to wash and her mother had an assistant that made them household chores and she also washed twice a week using wooden board too. Later, her mother bought a washing machine for the first time and it was not electric. This washing machine was like a “ball” through the top you put into the machine clothes, water and soap. That machine worked if you gave turns with a crank for washing the clothes. Then you had to get clothes, wring and hang because the machine did not do that. This narrator used the washing machine before the other. Moreover, she told that when she became independent, she also washed with wooden board and when she had children, she washed twice every day. Around 1967 she bought a power washer, and as she says “it was heaven!”.

Therefore, both agree that the hardest part was dry clothes because you had to lay it on the grass or hold clothes in the clothes line and be aware of it for not becoming yellow. Furthermore, they say that washing with a machine was a great satisfaction instead of washing with your hands.

To conclude, the washing method has changed over the years and the arrival of the washing machine was a major change that produced much gratification in society. I have learned a lot doing this blog because I have seen the changes that have occurred in society, in the different techniques used and above all the joy that produced the arrival of the washing machine. Nowadays, youth does not value it. From my point of view and what my grandmother told me, at the present time, we do not value what we have, in this case the washing machine. I would like to see the youth of the XXI century washing with their hands, as people did years ago to really see the satisfaction of having a machine for washing, only pressing a simple button.

Research questions.

Research questions.

  1. What washing method did you use before you have a washing machine in your house?
  2. How often did you wash?
  3. When did you use other method different as the one that you use before you have the washing machine for first time?
  4. What did you feel when you use this washing machine for first time?
  5. What kind of machine did you have for the first time?


Today we are surrounded by all kind of appliances in our houses that serve as entertainment, such as television and others which help us to do housework, making them more bearable, making these machines work harder. In every kitchen you can see a large number of electrical appliances such as microwave ovens, stoves butane gas or electric, refrigerators, blenders, and countless utensils. One of the appliances was an important step in simplifying household chores was the washing machine.
In the 60’s of the twentieth century began to enter homes these devices, always depending on the purchasing power of each family, buying mostly in installments. Until the late 50’s all these tasks were executed by hand by women, dedicated to these tasks most of the day, while the men worked in the various workshops throughout the day, not only the stipulated hours, because after leaving to work they would work to other workshops. The 12-hour days were common. It was a flourishing period for the furniture maker sector and work abounded although wages were very low.
Keep in mind that it was not only problem of not having washing machines, but had no running water in the houses and electricity was unsafe, because continuous cuts occurred. During the 50’s there were many houses that had no running water.


The day in homes began to make fire for cooking and heating the house, mothers looked after children and send them to school. They also made the food. While daily sustenance was done was the time of the cleaning. You had to go for water to the sources that were in the town, many of them still exist, and people usually washed the clothes in the sink with a wooden board with rounded longitudinal grooves, was the washboard clothes ( the one that we show you in the first picture).
Women washing clothes in rivers because the in houses there was not running water. The laundry is carried in a tin pails. They also wore wooden board to wash clothes in some places is called slab. The soap they washed with was made by soda and with the fat that left over from the pig slaughter. Washing in the river, was a particularly heavy and hard work in the winter, because the temperature was very low and the water was freezing. They washed mainly in streams, because according to some women, the river water was very “hard”.



Washing in the river
A part from laundry home, some women were washing clothes of other families with more economic resources than paid for undertaking this task, both in the river and at home. Some houses had their own laundry rooms near the kitchen, but the water had to bring her sources or river.

The hardest task was to “do the laundry”. It was a job done by women over the house with their daughters, and it was not washing clothes, but whiten using ash from home. Casting work was done at home, where sometimes there was a room alone to do laundry. This was done once a month, or even every two or three months, but in summer it is more often did. A kettle to boil water, a “cocio” that was made of mud, a cotton cloth or canvas (and lye), fine ash mainly of oak and slabs of wood with which rinsing was done: to do laundry several objects were needed. The first thing to do was to put clothes soaked and then put it in layers and most widespread possible in the “cocio”. The “cocio” was covered with cotton or cloth and lye, which is well fastened to the top with a rope or cord. Then ash and lye above was laid. While, the water was boiled, they put it above the ash with a saucepan. Water seeped through the ash and lye the past to COCIO, soaking the layers of clothing. Water seeping through oak ash lye had an effect that was getting clean and whiten clothes.
The casting lasted several hours, depending on the amount of laundry and how dirty it was. Once casting was over, the garments were clarified in wells in the river, in ditches, public laundries etc. extending over the meadows and allowing them to dry in the sun before rinsing them.
For drying clothes, depending on the area or parts or directly on the lawn they stood, giving the sun directly, tamped with some stones.
The laundry was the most painful occupation spend all your time outdoors, great physical efforts were made and disease developed either because the legs were soaked up to the knees, the back position and the cold of winter water ( often he had to break the ice with a stone to wash).
Having soaked clothes for long hours produced colds, rheumatism, pneumonia, bronchitis and skin conditions. Hands often bled, and were planted with chilblains caused by cold and moisture.



Harresi Kulturala Elkartea, 2013, Cuando no había lavadoras. Retrieres from:

Casimiro Sainz Saiz, 2015, ¿Cómo se lavaba la ropa en el S. XVIII?. Retrires from:




The objectives that we want to reach with this blogs are the followings:

  • Knowing how to wash in the 60´s.
  • When they had the washing machine for first time.
  • If they prefer the washing machine or the method that they used before for washing.
  • Types of washing machine that they had.
  • Finding out common aspects or points of view between our narrators.


We hope to reach all of them after doing the interviews.