Washboards went out of favor with the invention of washing machines, but many people still choose to wash their clothes by hand. It’s far more water and energy efficient, but there’s a big debate over whether it cleans your clothes as well as a washing machine.
Washing machines work well to clean your clothes, but a washboard is better for delicate items and spot stains. Your clothes are also less likely to become damaged when using a washboard, but there are plenty of disadvantages to handwashing your clothes.
Technology has made every aspect of life more convenient, including washing your laundry. Many people might balk at the idea of spending hours hand washing their clothing, but if you have the time and patience for it, then you might want to switch to using a washboard. Check out our detailed comparison guide to see why the old-fashioned way of washing clothes is still best for cleaning.
History of Washboards
Washboards have been used for cleaning laundry since the 1840s. Originally, washboards were made of wood which had been carved to have a corrugated scrubbing surface. In the late 1800s, new versions of washboards made of zinc-coated base metal, granite, and even glass appeared on the market.
Washboards were used regularly into the 1950s, at which point their popularity started to die off. Once washing machines became mainstream and affordable, most people ditched washboards for the more convenient method of doing their laundry.
The main reason people switched to using washing machines was convenience. More women were entering the workforce, and fewer families had hired help around the home, so there were no longer people available to take on the task of washing laundry by hand.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Washing Clothes by Hand
When you think of washing clothes by hand, your mind probably goes straight to the negative aspects of this task. It’s time-consuming and arduous work, but there are plenty of advantages as well.
Using a washboard is actually better for your clothes. Some clothing and linen are specifically marked as ‘hand-wash only,’ but even durable fabrics will benefit from being hand-washed. The fabrics are less likely to develop micro-tears and other damage, which means they’ll last much longer.
Another benefit of using washboards is the ability to remove spot stains. Washers generally work well for removing stains, but with a washboard, you can target spot stains and ensure they’re eliminated.
Here’s a list of the other benefits of using a washboard
- Saves water and electricity
- Able to use a wider variety of soaps, including disinfectant soaps
- Colors are less likely to fade or bleed into each other
- Less expensive
That’s a pretty hefty list of advantages! Along with preventing your clothes from being damaged, the most appealing aspect of handwashing clothes is the way it saves water, electricity, and money.
In today’s economy, saving money anywhere you can is crucial for many people. It’s also helpful to save water and electricity, especially if you live in an area that frequently experiences droughts.
Despite its many benefits, there are plenty of downsides to handwashing your clothes. Using a washboard is a physical task, so it requires plenty of time and exertion. Here’s a list of the disadvantages of using a washboard
- Takes a lot of time & energy
- You need to heat up the water and fill up a bucket before using
- The skin on your hands could become cracked and dry from dealing directly with soap for extended periods of time (it’s recommended to use gloves to counteract this)
- If you’re also air-drying clothes, this takes a lot of time
The biggest hurdle most people can’t overcome to start washing their clothes by hand is the amount of time and effort it takes. You’ll spend hours hand washing your clothes, and it can cause plenty of strain on your back and shoulders. Your skin could also experience negative side effects from being exposed to soap for so long, so it’s important to wear cleaning gloves if you decide to use a washboard.
How to Use a Washboard?
When you think of using a washboard, do you conjure images of balling up a piece of clothing and rubbing it back and forth against the board? There are many misconceptions about how washboards should be used, so if you decide to go this route, it’s important to do so properly.
These are the steps you’ll need to follow to use a washboard
1. Heat up as much water as you need (1-5 gallons is generally enough for a few pieces of clothes to a very small load) and fill up a large bucket or your bathtub with the water.
2. Place your washboard against the side of the bucket or your tub.
3. Add soap to the water. Traditionally, people added shaved pieces of soap, but you can also use liquid soap like laundry detergent.
4. Stand behind your washboard and grab your first piece of clothing.
5. Dip the clothing into the water and then lay it against the washboard.
6. Take a bar of soap or a clothing scrubber and rub the soap or clothing scrubber on your clothing.
7. Turn your clothing over and repeat step 6.
8. Rub your cloth on the board to remove any dirt, debris, and odors.
9. Dip your clothing into the water and rinse.
10. Rinse your clothing once more in clean, non-soapy water, and then dry.
As you can see, handwashing clothes requires quite a bit of effort and materials. However, it does work very effectively to clean your clothes and prevents the type of damage often caused by washing machines.
History of Washing Machines
The very first washing machine was invented by James King in 1851. However, these machines didn’t become commonplace in the home for another hundred years. By the 1940s, 60% of homes with electricity in the United States had a washing machine.
Washing machines didn’t look like the ones we know today back when they were first invented. However, by the 1940s, most washing machines had drums that resembled the models we’re familiar with today.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Washing Machine
Washing machines were considered a revolutionary invention because of how much time they freed up. Women and servants no longer had to spend hours each day attending to the washing, and this freed up their time to enter the workforce, which was a necessity for many women in the 1940s and 1950s due to WW2.
The advantages of using the washing machine have far outweighed their disadvantages since their invention for most people. However, we’re going to take a closer look at the pros and cons of these machines.
These are the advantages of using a washing machine
- Saves an enormous amount of time and personal energy
- Cleans clothes through agitation and friction, which works well to remove debris and odors
- Provides different water temperatures for cleaning
- Makes it easier to use additional products like scent boosters and fabric softeners
- Easy to use
Washing machines have some pretty solid advantages, but they aren’t perfect. Here are the downsides to doing your laundry with these machines
- Uses a ton of electricity and water
- Cleans clothes through agitation and friction, which can create micro-tears in your fabrics. This will lead to damaged clothing over time
- More expensive than handwashing
How to Use a Washing Machine?
There are a few different types of washing machines, including high-efficiency units, front-loaders, and top-loaders. However, they all work pretty much the same. To use a washing machine, you only need to follow a few simple steps
1. Add laundry detergent to your machine’s drum or dispenser drawer.
2. Put your clothes into the drum.
3. Close the lid.
4. Select the temperature, cycle, and other settings you want.
5. Start your load.
Using a washing machine is far easier and requires fewer steps than handwashing. It’s a far more hands-off approach to doing your laundry, which allows you more time to do the things you enjoy in life.
Comparison Questions (Washboard vs Washing Machine)
Is Handwashing Better for the Environment Than Washing Machines?
One of the biggest reasons people still wash their clothes by hand is environmental consciousness. We live in a world where resources like electricity and water are in high demand, and finding ways to limit our use of these resources is vital for society as a whole.
Handwashing is better for the environment because it uses less water and electricity. Aside from those reasons, washing clothes by hand also eliminates the fumes emitted by washing machines. An estimated 62 million tones of CO2 greenhouse gasses are emitted by washing machines every year. Using a washboard doesn’t emit any CO2 gasses.
Is Using a Washboard More Affordable Than Using a Washing Machine?
Washing machines require a lot of energy and money to run. If you’re going to a laundromat, then you’re spending hundreds of dollars each year to wash your clothes. Homeowners with high-efficiency models are only spending about $20 per year, depending on the model, their location, and other factors.
Also, washing machines are very expensive appliances. They cost a lot to repair, and they cost even more to replace. A washboard eliminates these expenses. A washboard can cost as little as $10 and last for many years.
Does A Washboard Clean Clothes Better Than A Washing Machine?
Unfortunately, there’s no real definitive answer to this question. Washboards and washing machines both work well to clean your clothes. However, washing machines are more likely to damage your clothes.
Washboards are a more effective method for spot-cleaning your clothes, as you can target the stain directly. Washing machines usually work well to eliminate stains, as well, but with a washboard, you can guarantee the stain is taken care of.
The Verdict – Which is Better?
Washboards and washing machines both work well to clean your clothes. The right choice for you will depend on how dedicated you are to conserving resources, and how much spare time you have on your hands. If you have the time and energy necessary to wash your clothes by hand, then you should do so! However, there’s no shame in using a washing machine. There are plenty of high-efficiency models that conserve resources and are durable enough to last for years!
Jamie is the Founder of My Home Dwelling. He is a homeowner and enjoys sharing his homeowner tips with others. He has real estate experience working as a new home construction Realtor. Jamie has worked on numerous residential construction sites helping with interior and exterior renovations. He loves refinishing furniture, DIY home projects, and sharing his knowledge online.