washing machine history

Washing Machine History Through the Ages

For as long as people have worn clothes, there has been a process needed to wash them. Nothing has advanced the process of washing laundry greater than the washing machine. This is the quick washing machine history from its invention through new washing innovations today.

Pre-1691 Washing Machine History

Women completed laundry by a stream or river mostly done by hand, using birch cinders and sand. These turned out to be the most effective cleaning agent. Later on in urban areas, the construction of public washhouses improved public hygiene. This reduced the number of disease outbreaks. During Roman times, stale urine (known as ‘wash’) was used to clean laundry. Because its high concentration of ammonium salts was a great way to bleach linens.


Nathaniel Briggs filed the first washing machine patent in 1691 and several similar designs quickly followed. Construction for early washing machines involved wood and look like big, enclosed buckets with a handle to rotate paddles or giant rotating hand-cranked drum barrels. Wooden barrels eventually became metal barrels so that a fire set underneath to make cleaning more effective as it rotated in the drum. Steam-powered cleaning eventually followed.

1900-1940 Washing Machine History

In 1904, the first electric washing machine ads aired in the United States. However, the basic washing machine design and mechanisms remain relatively unchanged. In the 1930s electrical safety improved and the first automatic washing machines appear. This version somewhat resembles the washing machine designs we have today, which includes water hookups and the drum built inside the cabinet.

Modern Washers

The same drum design still persists in almost all washing machine models today. However recent efforts have focused on improving technology, reducing costs, and speeding up the entire washing process. Lightning Clean is currently one of the fastest and most innovative washing machine companies in the industry, as their Lightning One machine can complete a wash in ten minutes.