A summary of the history of washing machines

Washing machine gets invented

The first washing machine was invented in the 1850s. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that more advanced washing machines were invented, including those with electricity and mechanical parts. The washing machine is an incredible invention that has changed our lives for the better. It saves time and energy, and money, and helps the environment by reducing water consumption.

Today, you can find several types of the washing machine on the market: top-loading washing machines, front-loading washing machines, compact or half-size washing machines, etc.

Before washing machines

Before the washing machine, people had to wash their clothes by hand. This was a laborious process that could take hours and even days depending on how many garments needed to be cleaned. The frequency of washing clothes varied by culture, income, and class. In some cultures it was common for people to wash their clothes daily; in others, it might have been once every few weeks or months depending on the availability of clean water and soap (or detergent).

The earliest washing machines

The earliest washing machines were hand-operated. It was made up of a large wooden tub that had a hand crank to wash the garments. A woman would fill up her tub with water, soap, and clothing, then scrub them clean by hand or with a washboard on top of it. This process was time-consuming and labor-intensive–but it was all that people had at the time!

This device, however relatively primitive, signaled the start of a new era. Although this machine was patented in 1846 in the US, it survived up to 1927. As technology improved over time, so did our ability to make life easier through household appliances like washing machines.

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The first mechanical washing machine

James King invented the first mechanical washing machine in 1851. He created a drum-based device that used water pressure to agitate clothes and remove dirt. Hamilton Smith patented the rotary version of this design in 1858, which soon became more popular than its predecessor. In 1868 Thomas Bradford invented another commercially successful model that resembled today’s washing machines–you could say it was worth the wait!

How Did the First Washing Machine Work?

Manual Labor

The first washing machines relied heavily on manual labor. They were not automatic and required a lot of physical effort to operate.


The early washing machines were simple devices that helped to agitate clothes to clean them. They consisted of:

  • A tub for holding water and clothes
  • A hand-crank or paddle for stirring the water

Washing Process

Step 1: Filling with Water

The machine was filled with hot water manually. There were no automatic water heaters or pumps.

Step 2: Adding Soap and Clothes

Soap and dirty clothes were added to the tub. The soap was usually a bar that had to be shaved or dissolved in the water.

Step 3: Agitation

The user turned a crank or moved a paddle to create agitation. This motion helped to remove dirt and stains from the clothes.

Step 4: Draining and Rinsing

Once the washing was done, the dirty water was drained manually. Fresh water was added to rinse the clothes. This step often needed to be repeated to remove all the soap.

Step 5: Wringing

After rinsing, clothes were wrung out by hand or using a wringer (two rollers that squeezed out excess water).

Example: Scrub Board

A common early washing tool was the scrub board. Clothes were rubbed against a ribbed surface to help remove dirt. This was a precursor to the more mechanical washing machines.


Over time, these simple machines evolved into more mechanized and automatic devices. Early 20th century models introduced electric motors and more advanced agitators.

Today’s washing machines are highly automated and offer a variety of washing cycles, temperatures, and features to make laundry much easier

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Automatic machines arrive

The first domestic automatic washing machine was introduced in 1937 by Bendix Home Appliances, a subsidiary of Avco. The machine wasn’t like the automatic washers of today, judging by its technical design and appearance, but it did have the majority of modern features. The machine lacked any drum suspension and it was not very popular at first because it was expensive. It wasn’t until 1952 when General Electric released their first spin dryer that the market really took off, but even then they were still very expensive machines that only affluent families could afford.

In more recent times we’ve seen washing machines become smaller and cheaper due to competition between manufacturers.

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There are several different types of washing machines available today.

The front-loading machine is the most common type and the one you’ll find in most homes. This kind of washer has a door on the front that can be opened to load and unload laundry. Front-load washers tumble laundry on a horizontal drum that causes friction between the objects in order to clean fabrics. In comparison to top-load washing machines, this washer type typically uses less water throughout each wash cycle.

Top-load washing machines have a door on the top of the unit where you can drop in or lift out loads. An agitator is used in this kind of top-load washer to move the laundry around in the wash basket. An agitator is a tall, vaned, or finned spindle that rotates back and forth in the wash basket’s middle while rubbing against the garments to assist dissolve loose soils.

A combo washer and dryer is a type of washing machine that also dries the laundry in the same drum. This type of appliance is great if you need both functions but don’t want to buy two separate units–it saves space and money!


The washing machine is an incredible invention that has changed our lives for the better. It has allowed us to spend less time doing laundry and more time doing things we enjoy. There are several different types of washing machines available today, including automatic machines that you can program to do your laundry automatically at any time during the day or at night.

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Author: Washing Machine Repair Nairobi

Washing Machine Repair Service Provider in Nairobi, Kenya. Best Appliance Repair Technician offering Washing Machine Repair in Nairobi. Besides repairs, one can also get Washing Machine Installation, Washer maintenance, washer parts and spares replacement, washer fault troubleshooting and washing machine problem diagnosis services. Get in Touch with Washing Machine Experts by dialling 0746801984