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6 Vintage Cleaning Tools You Never Knew Existed!

Ever wondered what cleaning tools people used in 1800s and 1900s?

No matter what the ‘oldies’ tell you, life sure was hard in the old days. There were not many fun things you could do and non fun things like cleaning up were not just boring but also hard work.

Here are 6 vintage cleaning tools that will make you believe that times have changed for good.

1. Washboards

In the 19th century, people used these washboards to wash their clothes. The washboard was kept on a basin and clothes were scrubbed on them with soap. Soap became cheap and widely available during the 18th century due to advances in production but washing machines were still a 100 years away so washing clothes was a backbreaking task to say the least.

2. Washing Dollies

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dolly tub dollies
Image (1) Credits: Old and Interesting
Image (2) Credits: Old and Interesting


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These are images of washing dollies (also called peggy legs, possers, poss sticks). As hilarious as the names sound, washing dollies played a very important role. Think of this as the grandmother of the modern washing machine.

The contraption shown in image 1 agitated dirty clothes in a washtub, something like what a washing machine does, with one important difference – there is no motor and the one washing the clothes has to do all the spinning. The thing in image 2 that looks like a toilet pup was used to suck out dirty water in the washtub. So there you have it, a manual washing machine of the late 18th century which took more time and more effort. But hey! Better than breaking your back by using a washboard and soap 😀

3. Ivory Soap

ivory soap
Image credits: wikipedia

“You need only one soap: Ivory soap,” proclaims this ad from 1898, which shows a pioneer washing with a novelty—floating soap! Now I’m not very sure what they used to wash before soap was invented but one thing is very clear, soap really helped reduce cleaning time and and labour. Now life was mighty tough for the frontiersmen (and women) of those days. There were no bathrooms and one had to do the washing and bathing in rivers so a soap that floats made a lot of sense. No soapdish? No problem. Just be careful that your precious bar of soap does not get washed away!

4. Chimney sweep

Image credits: wikipedia

Chimney sweeps used to clean soot, dirt, ash and soot from chimneys. This was hard manual work done by specialist, including small kids or by servants. In case you were wondering why I have included people in a list of equipment, read on. Yes, you heard me right. Tiny little humans used to go down chimneys with brushes. This cruel practice was banned because of the sheer brutality and the fact that many kids lost their lives.

5. Wooden log

washing (laundry) bats
Image credits: Old and Interesting

Imagining a wooden log or a club as a washing equipment is not hard in case you are a Flintstones fan. The humble wooden club is an often overlooked cleaning equipment that is still used to literally beat the dirt out of dirty clothes. According to historians the wooden log appeared as a cleaning equipment in the late 18th century.

6. Manual Vacuum Cleaner

Yes, vacuum cleaners existed in the 19th century with one key difference, the device had to be manually operated. The purpose was the same, to suck dust and dirt out of carpets and other surfaces but the suction was provided by sheer muscle power. It was operated by two people, one would do the actual vacuuming while the other would work a rod attached to a piston like device which would create suction. Foot operated devices were also available, there was even one model where the operator sat in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth to produce vacuum.

manual vacuum cleaner
Image courtesy: Wikipedia

About Priyasha Banerjee

A simple girl who is a huge F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fanatic. I'm sweet, crazy, a very good listener, highly emotional (you never know when the waterworks start) and won't talk to you if you say, "I didn't knew".

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