Hanging the Wash – Then and Now

The following tidbits passed through Lehman’s from an unknown source. Many of us remember these rules (and still follow them today), as well as the poem below.

Mother’s Basic Rules for Clotheslines:Clothespin Aprons

  1. You had to wash the clothesline before hanging any clothes, walking the entire length of each line wiping it with a damp cloth.
  2. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order; always hang “whites” with “whites” and hang them first.
  3. You never hung a shirt by the shoulders – always by the tail! What would the neighbors think?
  4. Wash Day was always on a Monday! Never hang clothes on the weekend and never EVER on Sunday, for Heaven’s Sake!
  5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts and busybodies, ya know!).
  6. It didn’t matter if it was sub-zero weather – clothes would “freeze-dry.”P1150664
  7. Always gather the clothespins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left on the lines were “tacky!’
  8. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothespins, but shared one of the pins with the next item.
  9. Clothes off the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.
  10. IRONED? Well, that’s a whole other subject!

A Clothesline Poem (Anonymous)

A clothesline was a news forecast, to neighbors passing by

There were no secrets you could keep when clothes were hung to dry.

It also was a friendly link, for neighbors always knew

If company had stopped on by to spend a night or two.

For then you’d see the “fancy” sheets and towels upon the line

You’d see the “company tablecloth” with intricate design.

The line announced a baby’s birth, from folks who lived inside

As brand-new infant clothes were hung, so carefully with pride!

The ages of the children could, so readily by known;

By watching how the sizes changed, you’d know how much they’d grown!

It also told when illness struck, as extra sheets were hung;

Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too haphazardly were strung.

It also said, “Gone on vacation now,” when lines hung limp and bare.DSCN1309

It told,  “We’re back!” when full lines sagged with not an inch to spare!

New folks in town were scorned upon, if wash was dingy and gray,

As neighbors carefully raised their brows, and looked the other way…

But clotheslines now are of the past, for dryers make work mush less.

Now what goes on inside a home is anybody’s guess!

I really miss that way of life, it was a friendly sign;

When neighbors knew each other best by what hung on the line.

Shop clotheslines and other laundry supplies from Lehman’s >>

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Dori Fritzinger
14 years ago

What a wonderful article! We had to go without our dryer and relearned the rewards and work or hanging out the wash – no matter the weather.

14 years ago

My grandmother taught me the “ins and outs” of clothesline hanging and I still follow it pretty much today. I am now teaching my granddaughters how to hang clothes properly.

13 years ago

Is it true that you should hang dark clothes inside out to protect the color from fading in the sun?? It just doesn’t feel right when all my clothes are hung in order and then the darks look unorderly inside out. Anyone out there ever heard of this?

13 years ago

I think hanging out the wash is one big way to save on electricity. I love taking down the wash and folding it into the basket, even though it can be crunchy sometimes. People out here moan about electricy bills and BP and alternate energy, but they are very reluctant to do simple things like hang out their wash (even on a 90 degre day I can hear my neighbor’s dryer going : (

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