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How Washing Machines Work

In ancient Rome, public laundry service involved large dudes stomping on wet clothes to get the dirt out. By medieval times, launderers used handheld bats or agitators (called, depending on where they were, beetles or battledores and possers, dollies, dashers, ponches, or punches, respectively) to beat the grime out. Purely mechanical machines came along in 1782, and electric machines in 1908.

A recent study out of the University of Montreal suggested that advances in household technology during the 20th century — including automated, electric washing machines — were partially responsible for a decrease in time spent on household chores from 58 hours per week circa 1900 to 18 hours per week circa 1975. (And a jump in the number of married women in the workforce from 5% to 51% during the same approximate period of time.)

Curious about the history and inner workings of these labor-saving machines? Enjoy receiving information aurally? Here, have a podcast episode: How Washing Machines Work [mp3].

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