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Washdays, early-mid 20th Century

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Twin tub washing machines, mid 20th Century

About twin tub washing machines

Twin tub washing machines started coming on the market in Britain in the 1950s. One tub of the washing machine was for washing and the other was for spinning and draining.

Twin tub washing machines - a godsend but an expensive one

There can be little doubt that twin tub washing machines must have been a godsend to housewives in the 1950s who, until then, had to use the bagwash or a laundrette for the household washing. The washing machine could be used without leaving home and it was a great deal easier than doing the laundry by hand.

Twin tub washing machine, mid-1900s

Twin tub washing machine, photographed in the Willis Museum, Basingstoke

However, being new developments, twin tub washing machines were expensive in real terms. By no means all families could afford one. My mother never had one, and when my husband and I were first married in the early 1960s, we couldn't afford one either. So we went to the laundrette to do our washing.

Guest contribution

The cost of a twin tub washing machine

In 1962 I got a brand new twin tub washing machine. I saw it advertised in a magazine. It was pink and blue. I can't remember the name, but I remember the price was £39:95. We put down a deposit and we paid monthly.

Ruth Summersides

Disdvantages from personal experience

My experience of twin tub washing machines started later in the 1960s when my husband and I moved into our first house and we decided to buy one. The experience was not a good one. The washing machine was too labour-intensive.

Why twin tub washing machines were so labour-intensive

For me, after using an automatic washing machine in the laundrette, the twin tub seemed excessively labour intensive.

Our twin tub was not plumbed in. I suppose it could have been, but that was clearly not expected because the manufacturers supplied two hoses. One was for filling the wash tub and the other was for emptying the other tub. The one for filling had to be attached to the hot water tap and be hooked over the wash tub and the other had to be hooked over the sink. Neither the filling nor the emptying was automatic.

Someone had to stand over the washing machine while it filled, ready to turn off the tap. Then someone had to set the washing going and then come back to pull the clothes out of the wash tub and put it into the other tub to drain or spin. It was steamy business, even standing back and using long wooden tongs.

Once the washing had spun or drained, it had to be returned to the wash tub, which now had to be filled with new water for rinsing. This to-ing and fro-ing between the two tubs had to be repeated several times, depending on how many rinses were wanted.

Another disadvantage was that our model seemed to wash by rotating the clothes in only one direction. Probably later models agitated; I don't know. The result was that the clothes wound together and had to be unwound to separate them.

Why we got rid of our twin tub washing machine

Automatic washing machines for the domestic market were coming in around this time, and although they were more expensive than twin tub machines, we felt we had little realistic alternative but to buy one. So the days of our twin tub were short-lived.

Some households, however, kept their twin tub machines for many years.


If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.



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