Washing at Auchindrain
Water from the burn was collected in buckets and brought up to the wash-house, to fill the cut down barrels. It would have been heated in buckets or pots over kitchen (or even open) fires. Clothes were placed in the barrel and “tramped” (treaded with feet) to wash them. Before the 1850s soap was expensive and specially taxed, and was often not used. The clothes were then squeezed out and scrubbed against a wooden washboard. This forced the soap and water through the fibres and pushed the dirt out. Before washboards, clothes and linen would have been beaten against rocks. Then they were rinsed in clean water.
Clothes were then wrung. At Auchindrain, this was done by hand, with women twisting, pulling and squeezing the fabric to remove excess water. A wringer or a mangle may have then been used to flatten and smooth fabric, passing it between two closely spaced rollers. This also squeezed more water out. Clothes were then draped over rocks or secured to hedges or a washing line with large wooden pegs, to be dried by the sun and air.
Without modern whiteners, a substance called Reckitts blue was used – a small blue bag stirred around in the water before the final rinse. It counteracted any yellow in the fabric with a slight blue dye. The main ingredients were synthetic ultramarine and baking soda. Before the mid-19th century clothes would have been bleached by the sun instead.