How The Amish Do Laundry Without Electricity

How The Amish Do Laundry Without Electricity

By Josh Brown

March 3, 2022

Amish Laundry, Amish Small engine washing machine, Amish Washing Clothes, Amish Washing Machine

Have you ever wondered how the Amish families keep their clothes clean? Maybe you have been to Amish country and seen an old style wringer clothes washer behind an Amish home and wondered, does it still work, how does it work without electricity, or maybe you didn't even know it was a washing machine. Possibly you have taken a ride in Amish country and seen a clothesline stretched from the ground to the top of the barn, full of freshly washed clothes out to dry!!! Well if you have wondered about Laundry day with the Amish, the Crockett Cooner is here again doing a little blogging for The Amish Of Ethridge. I've checked into how the Amish do laundry and I've found out, it will all come clean in the wash...

The Amish Way Of Washing Clothes


A Pig At An Amish Farm

So most everyone knows that the Amish usually work around livestock and do lots of manual labor. Its not hard to see that with all this work the Amish and their clothes can get dirty quiet quickly. Now there are many different methods the Amish use to clean their clothes from the wash pot to the old washboard where the Amish ladies scrub all the dirt away buy hand. But, did you know the Amish still use a wringer style washer, many times to clean their clothes!!! Yep, that's wright the the old 40's and 50's styles washers with electric motors, are still used by the Amish to this day.  

Now if you know anything about old washing machines most people know that electricity has to be present to make the newer style wringer washers work. Their is a small electric motor that powers the agitator inside the washing machine. Also, the electric wringer at the top of the machine used to squeeze the water out of the clothes, is powered by this electric motor. So how do the Amish with NO electricity power such a washing machine? The Amish in their creative ways, have found a way to change the pully on the bottom of the washing machine and transfer power from a gasoline powered engine to power the old wringer washers.  

The Old Washboard Style Of Clothes Cleaning Still Used By Some Amish

Old Clothes Washing Equipment

A Number 2 Washtub And Washboard

If you look into the old style of hand washing you will find a washboard and washtub. This method of clothes cleaning is not much more advanced than the previous method, which would have been cleaning clothes in a creek and beating them on the rocks to remove dirty, Yikes!!! But, actually the washboard was patented around 1833 by a gentleman named Stephen Rust. The original washboard still to this day, is almost the same as it was when it was patented years ago. The washboard is nothing more than a type of metal be that zinc, copper, iron, or tin that is fluted and placed in a wooden frame. The washboard is then stood in a washtub, the washtub is filled with hot water and clothes detergent and the clothes are then placed in the water to soak. Next the damp clothes are scrubbed on the board against the flutes to remove ground in dirt and stains. After the scrubbing is complete the dirty water in the tub is discarded and the tub is refilled with clean water for the rinse, where the entire process of scrubbing is repeated. Now as I mentioned before the washboard was patented around 1833 and the Amish migration to America started around 1700's. Meaning that when the Amish began washing their clothes with a washboard. The washboard style of washing was still a new practice for cleaning clothes, even used by us English.  

The Old Wringer Washing Machines

Old Wringer Style Washing Machine

One Of The First Types Of Wringer Hand Crank Washing Machines

When it comes to wringer washers you might think the Amish use the oldest style of wringer washer you can find. But, this is not true the first style of wringer washer came out before the newer modern versions with electric motors. The wringer washing machine started around 1846  or so and was made of wooden parts and worked with the original washboards. This wooden washer was not much more than a wooden barrel that had a wringer attached at the top, for pressing the excess water out of the clothing, or just a wringer (the two wooden wheels) that could be attached to the top of the galvanized wash tubs. Now in the above picture you will notice the system of pullies on the side of the wash tube. This is so the washer can be belt driven and does come with a agitator inside to scrub the clothing. 

In the newer style wringer washers, they come with an electric motor to agitate the inner workings of the machine. Now, as you may have noticed the machine pictured here might still not remind you of what you think a wringer washing machine should look like. As the advancement of the wringer washing machine grew so did the popularity of the washing machine. Through out the years there has been many changes made to the washers form galvanized tubs to enameled coatings and even powered wringers. 

Newer Style Winger Washer

Newer Style Wringer Washer

If you are looking around the next time you visit Amish country make sure to look closely and see what style wringer washer the Amish family uses. You might be surprised at the year models you might see.  Just keep in mind that the Amish have removed the electric power motors and replaced them with a standard drive pully at the end of the shaft where the electric motor once sat. Then they ran a drive belt to a small gas powered engine close by the washer and now power the old agitators and wringers with horse power for a gas burning engine, much like the ones found on go karts and garden tillers. 

The Gears On Old Electric Washing Machine

The Components Found Under An Old Washing Machine The Amish Adapt To Be Ran By A Gas Engine

Amish Horse And Buggy With A Washer

An Amish Horse And Buggy With A Washing Machine

Amish Wringer Washer Electric

A Washer Similar To The Washer In The Above Horse And Buggy Pic, I Found This Washer For Sale By An Amish Community.

Amish Clothes Dryer (Clothesline)
Amish Clothesline

Amish Clothes Dryer (Clothesline)

Now after all of the family clothes have been washed at an Amish home, next would be to dry all the laundry. Now it must be quiet obvious that the Swartzentruber section of the Amish, which happens to be in my area of the country is completely old world. Which means with no electricity drying laundry can also be a problem in cold weather!!! Now the traditional clothesline can always been seen at any Amish home in my part of the country. Usually stretching for a long distance up in the air so the weight of the damp clothes does not cause the clothesline its self to stretch causing the clean linens to drag on the ground. 

The long distance clothesline have always caused tourist to Amish county to ask , how do the Amish get those clothes way up in the air? Well, this is quiet a simple task if you really think about it. The Amish use a clothesline pully system that you can buy from many hardware stores and can be found online.  In a nutshell the Amish will attach a small hook to a post, tree, or the side of their homes and install a block and tackle single type of pully. Then on the other end of the clothesline which is usually found high in the air at the top most point of the Amish barn, another single pully is attach by a hook. A heavy rope or wire coated cable is then fed around both pullies running the entire distance between the two pullies. The opposite ends of the cable are attached together with a device called a  clothesline tensioner. The tensioner is used to take the slack out of the rope or cable when the weight of the damp clothes are hung on the bottom line. But, no matter how taught the line is pulled there will always be some downward stretch to the bottom line, where the wet clothes are hung with with clothes pins. Which brings us to to the final piece of equipment which is in the Amish clothesline, the separator. The separator consists of two small pullies separated by two pieces of flat steel, one on either side that is found between the top and bottom lines, of the clothesline. The separator's purpose is to distribute the weight of the wet clothes on the bottom line to the the top line. 

"I've spoken with a few Amish farmers that where quiet happy to tell the old Cooner here. That they had handmade a much stronger clothesline system than the ones found at the local hardware and box stores. One Amish fellow even showed me his clothesline which was all made for recycled objects. It was quiet creative, the pullies where old bicycle rims, the mounting hooks where replaced with oak 2x4 boards to cradle and attach the bicycle rims to the top of the barn, and his back porch. The clothes line separator was handmade from two small steal wheels and two pieces of flat bard steel. But, the best part was the additional hand crank from an old trailer that was installed on the bottom pully, to help crank the wet clothes high in the air."                                                                                                                                                                   Crockett Cooner

Points To Remember On Amish Laundry, If You Decide To Clean Your Clothes This Way

  • Washing And Drying In The Old Style, Is Much Harder Work
  • Old Style Wringer Washers Can Be Dangerous, They Can Crush Your Hands!!
  • Drying Clothes Outside Can Leave Fabric Rough, It's Bad On Sensitive Skin
  • The Old Style Of Washing And Drying Is Bad On Clothing , It Fades Fabrics
  • Clothes Left Outside, Are Exposed To Elements, Bugs, Animals, Pollens, And Theft

The List To Follow If You Want To Build Your own Amish High Flying Clothes Line

  1. Pick the right area of your yard, location is the key to drying your clothes outside. Not only do you want to pick an area that is out of your way with lots of sunlight, but a point to attach your clothes line to keep it elevated off the ground free from dirt and insects.
  2. Buy the correct heavy duty line for your clothes line. A good heavy rope designed for the elements or a metal coated cable is key for the line to withstand the elements.
  3. Make sure to find a good cable separator, to help support the bottom line from sagging and heavy duty clothes line roller wheels to support the weight of the wet fabric.
  4. Keep in mind if you are planning on lots of long wet fabrics such as sheets and blankets make sure to consider buying a clothes line wheel system with a crank attachment, for easy to lift the clothes in the air.
  5. Lastly, get the correct clothes pin, make sure to buy a clothes pin that can hold the cloth secure to the line. Nothing would be worse that seeing your clothes fly off in a gust of wind.

I hope this blog on how the Amish do their laundry has cleared up questions you might have on the subject, and shed some light on cleaning your clothing in this manner. Thank you all for taking time to read this blog post and if you are interested in seeing more from The Amish Of Ethridge website please make sure to subscribe to our news letter for more interesting post like this one. If you would like please feel free to leave us a reply at the bottom of the page, we love to hear your ideas on things. Lastly, take a look around at our other web pages and websites, and make sure to look for The Amish Of Ethridge on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Thank you all again for reading and have a great and wonderful day, and make sure to look for up and coming new post like this one. 


Where Do The Amish Find Old Style Wringer Washing Machines?

Mostly at Antique Auctions, Estate Sales, Antique Stores, and from one another.

Do The Amish Have Handmade Wash Boards For Sale?

Yes, If you can find the correct Amish shop that builds washboards. Many times you can find some different style and sizes of washboards, if your in the market for one. Just make sure to  check with a few different Amish stores to find exactly the style washboard you are searching for. 

What Type Of Gas Engines Do The Amish Use To Power Washing Machines?

Generally the Amish use a Briggs and Stratton horizontal type of Gas powered engine to power their washers. Its common to find the style engine that is found on most garden tillers and Go Karts. But, as a side not I've noticed recently, the Amish have moved into using Honda brand and Honda look-a-likes to power their washers.  

How Do The Amish Dry Clothing In The Winter?

If you have ever visited an Amish community in the winter, you will notice they have large homes with many different chimneys. Usually the Amish have a clothes line inside their homes close to a woodstove that is out of the way and dedicated to drying clothing. Also if you check my other blog post on Amish Quilts and Amish Woodworking /Products.  The Amish also build drying racks "diaper racks" to dry clothes in the winter inside their homes. 

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