How Did Washing Machines Change the World?


The introduction of washing machines changed the lives of many but particularly impacted the lives of women by allowing them to enjoy more free time.

Previously women were responsible for completing the majority of household chores such as cooking and cleaning, however, washing machines meant that they were no longer required to wash all of their laundry by hand. 

The first washing machine was invented in 1767 and operated in a very different way to the washing machines we know today.

Originally, hot water was poured into the tank of the machine and then a lever was used to wash the clothes before they were dried between two rollers.

Over time, the concept of washing machines evolved, and in 1920 electric machines were created. 

Essentially washing machines made the chore of doing the laundry much less tiresome.

Before this invention, it was a particularly time-consuming task.

Often, clothes were soaked overnight and then soaped, boiled, wrung out, and dried the following day.

In many cases, these steps were repeated frequently depending on how many loads of clothes needed to be washed.

Washing machines changed the world by making washing much less physically demanding as women could put the clothes inside a machine that would do the majority of the task for them. 

Why are washing machines so important?

At one time, the task of washing and drying clothes was traditionally seen as the job of women.

Often it could take hours for women to go through the time-consuming process of washing the clothes, ringing them, and then allowing them time to dry.

However, when electric washing machines were introduced in the 1900s they gave women much more free time as they were no longer tied down to having to stay at home to do this chore. 

As a result of their increased free time, women had more opportunities to leave the home to go and join the workforce.

Of course, this was beneficial for businesses too because they now had a bigger workforce to keep up with demand.

Because of this, washing machines played an important role in providing more women with their independence and improved their status in society. 

When assessing the importance of washing machines, the differences between societies across the world becomes much more apparent.

Those from less fortunate backgrounds and societies are still yet to have access to these appliances meaning that they are still forced to trek to and from their nearest water source to soak and wash the clothes before finding a way of drying them.

As we have previously mentioned, this doesn’t only consume a great deal of their time but it can also inflict physical ailments such as back pains onto those who are responsible for doing it.

Those who are fortunate enough to have a washing machine are no longer faced with such challenges, as they can simply put the washing into the machine before selecting the appropriate cycle and allowing the machine to do the rest.

Essentially, understanding how some people aren’t in the same predicament ensures that we remain grateful for access to such appliances.  

How much did a washing machine cost in 1990?

In the early 1900s electric and automated machines were introduced, however, due to their expense, for many, they were not an affordable option, hence why many people still had to visit a launderette.

In the 1920s, an electric washing machine cost just over $81. By the 1960s, a washing machine cost a lot more than the average worker’s wage, hence why they still remained a purchase that was off-limits to many. 

Inflation over time has led to an increase in the costs of many appliances. As expected an appliance that would have once cost around $500 several years previously will now cost more than this.

In 1990 the average cost of a washing machine was around $761, which is an increase from the $594 cost of a washing machine ten years earlier in 1980. 

Now, washing machines enter the market at varying price points and the expanse in offerings from different brands mean that there are many budget-friendly options available that retail for around $200 and more high-end alternatives that retail for between $1500 to $2000. 

What was the first washing machine called?

Although we recognize these appliances as washing machines, this hasn’t always been the name given to them.

In fact, in the early stages of the 1830s, a washing machine was more of a board than an appliance and was actually referred to as a washboard.

Just like a machine, a washboard was used to clean and dry clothes although they did require more effort from those who were doing the cleaning. 

In the early 1900s, electric washing machines were introduced, and at this time, they were referred to as the ‘Thor’. The ‘thor’ was the first type of commercial machine that was commercially marketed in the United States.

These machines were designed with a set of blades, a cylinder, a galvanized tub, and an electric motor.

These components worked together as they would rotate in one direction before rotating in the opposite direction to prevent the clothes from compacting in one pile. 

In France, a washing machine was invented in the early 1800s and was known as the ventilator. This was designed with a barrel-shaped metal drum that had holes in it. Users then had to turn it manually near a fire. 

Just like the name of washing machines has evolved, the design and concept of washing machines have developed too. Just like advancements to the different cycles, machines were then designed with buttons and were able to operate at different speeds. 

In the early 2000s, modern washing machines were then introduced to the market and they soon became known as top load washing machines and front load washing machines.

Although many improvements have been made to the design of washing machines and they have are now referred to by a different title to what they were previously known as they have become an appliance that is found in the homes of many.

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How did washing machines changed the world

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