4) Wash House

Laundry Would Have Been Done For A Fee

4) Wash House

Few fossikers would have had the facility to wash and iron their clothes. It was common for women to take in laundry to help support their men folk who had not yet struck gold. The Chinese immigrants often established a laundry on the gold fields.

The Wash house has exhibits of their tools of trade. Some such as the household wash dolly and range of flat irons are on display in the Settlers cottage.

Wash day was a big day. The launderer would fill the copper with buckets of water, then get a good wood fire burning under it to bring the water to the boil. Once boiling, harsh soap would be grated into flakes and added with the dirty clothes. The launderer would use a washing stick, something like a thick broom handle, to stir the mix, and finally haul out the wet and steaming clothes. Washing would be rinsed with cold water in near-by wash tubs, bad stains scrubbed on the wash-board, then reboiled if necessary.  

The scrubbing board was ribbed sheet of thick glass, or metal, in a wooden frame, and balanced in a wash tub of soapy water.

Early inventions to reduce the work-load include the wash dolly and the original hand turned timber washing machine (like a large butter churn). Mangles were used to squeeze water out of the clothes well into the 1950's when they began to be replaced by electric spin dryers within washing machines.

Once cleaned and rinsed, and wrung out by hand, or through a hand turned mangle, the clothes were hung out on a clothes line to dry held by wooden clothes pegs. The line was lifted to keep the clothes off the ground by means of a clothes prop, usually a thin forked wooden sapling. If there was no line, clothes would be carefully spread over low bushes.

When the clothes were dry, they were folded neatly in preparation for ironing the next day. First clothes were dampened, by sprinkling them with water by flicking with your hand that had been dipped in a bowl of water. The dampened clothes were then rolled up in a towel for a few hours.

Cast iron irons were very heavy and were heated on the top of a wood or coal stove. In order not to get burned by the handle, the laundress would used a wad of cloth as protection each time she changed her cold iron for another hot one. Soon a system was invented with a separate wooden handle which was clipped into place to pick up the ironing flat. Later a steam iron was invented, the lid would lift up, hot clean river stones placed inside, water poured on top, and clothes ironed with the steam that came out the holes on the sides.

Gold Rush Colony Activity Details
Note: Activities are subject to change and availability, some activities are limited to; specific times and special dates or seasons, others may be by arrangement only. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Activity Name: 
Old Fashioned Wash Day
Activity Available To: 
Day Visitors
Heritage days and demonstrations as per programmes
included in entry fee
Organised By: 
The Original Gold Rush Colony
How Do I Participate: 
self guide