logo - Join me in the 1900s early C20th
Florence Cole as a child

Drying the weekly wash in
bad weather, early 1900s

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Drying the washing in bad weather was very different from drying the wash in good weather.

Damp clothes hanging over a fireguard to dry from the heat of the kitchen range

Damp clothes hanging over a fireguard to dry from the heat of the fire in the kitchen range. Photographed in Milton Keynes Museum.

Even in bad weather, though, my mother would always try to put the washing out of doors to dry. Sometimes the frost hung on all day, and the washing would come in stiff like boards. Her fingers would be white with cold. This was called hot ache and could be very painful.

When the rain, frost or snow came, the wet clothes had to be put in the kitchen to dry. There were a number of ways to do this.

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The fireguard

It was common practice to hand what we could over the fireguard of the kitchen range.

This fireguard was made of strong wire mesh with a half inch strip of metal round the top, and it could be secured to the wall. It well-and-truly guarded against fire. I never think that today's ones are adequate, but I suppose they are not supposed to be functional as few people have fires.

Old wooden clothes airer and dryer which could be hoisted up in a room so that the wet washing was out of the way.

Wooden ceiling airer and dryer which could be hoisted up in a room keeping the wet washing out of the way - photographed at Tilford Rural Life Centre.

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The ceiling airer

There was a very useful contraption which consisted of rigid horizontal wooden 'lines' which could be hauled up near the ceiling, out of the way. It was called a ceiling airer.

Diagram showing the working parts the dryer/airer which could hoist clothes up out of the way for drying or airing

Diagram showing the working parts the dryer/airer which could hoist clothes up out of the way for drying or airing. Drawn by Desmond Dyer for this website.

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Lines strung across the kitchen

One option was pegging the clothes onto lines strung across the kitchen. This worked well but was depressing because it was so untidy and we had to keep dodging round them.

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The clothes horse

Old wooden clothes horse used for drying or airing the washing indoors in bad weather in the early 1900s.

Wooden clothes horse used for drying the washing indoors in bad weather.

A particularly common method of drying was to hang the washing over a clothes horse. These clothes horses were of course made of wood. They were useful but couldn't hold much at a time.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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