History Of The Washing Machine

Learn about how humans went from washing clothes by rocks and hand to creating machines that do the job for us.



By: Sarbagya Adhikari, Journalist

Many ancient tribes washed their clothes by pounding them on rocks or rubbing them with abrasive sands before washing them in streams or rivers. The Romans created a crude soap that was similar to lye and contained ash and fat from sacrificial animals.

Although individuals cleaned their clothes vigorously until around two hundred years ago, technologies approximating the washing machine we know today began to appear. Jacob Christian Schaffer of Germany invented the first machine in 1767. Nathaniel Briggs got the first patent for his invention in 1797. Hamilton Smith, James King, and William Blackstone are some of the washing machine creators from the 1800s. William Blackstone created a washing machine as a birthday present for his wife.

The first versions of the modern washing machine first appeared in the 19th century. The portable mechanism was rather simple, consisting of a tub base, paddles or rods, and a handle that twisted the rods. Instead of paddles, other variants used a rotating tub/drum. Both versions attempted to stir dirt off of materials. In the early 2000s, the first contemporary washing machines were introduced. The vertical axis high-efficiency washer was created by Whirlpool Corporation. This was the original top-load washing machine, as they are known today.