The first drum washing machines arrived around 1905. They were still controlled by hand, but the steel tank allowed for the addition of a coal burner. The first electric machines were created in 1920, with only the rotating mechanism being electric. In the late 1940s, electric and automatic washers came together in one model, which could be switched between the two methods of operation.
For most of its history, the only way to clean clothes in an automatic washer was to put them in the machine and turn it on. In recent years, however, some manufacturers have added features such as temperatures control and water filtration that allow users to wash their clothes by type (i.e., whites, colors, etc.) or even using pre-programmed cycles.
Clothes washing machines are extremely efficient at this task, capable of removing almost all soil particles from clothes during a single cycle. However, they do require much more energy than hand washing to do so. With modern appliances using 220-volt electricity and 30-40 amps of current, those requiring lots of power will take longer to finish their cycle. Hand-powered washing machines used lye instead of detergent, which required much more time and effort to perform a load of laundry.
Until recently, heaped-up loads of wet clothing were the norm in households without a washer.
The first washing machine of any kind was created in 1797. It was a cleaning board. Women were able to stop bashing their washing against a rock as a result of this. The drum washing machine was designed by James King in 1851, although it was still a hand-powered washer. To stir the water, this machine employed a hand-powered spinner. The motorized home appliance was patented by Elias Howe in 1857. This was the first machine to include a mechanical wringer which gave us our modern understanding of how to wash clothes.
How did they get so big? In the early 20th century, most homes had at least one washing machine. Most often found in basements or attics, these machines could get pretty small. But since 1950 they have been standardized in size allowing for easy moving around. These days, they can weigh up to even 100 pounds! That's more than some people.
Nowadays, most households have more than one washing machine. Small apartments and dorm rooms are no problem because single-machine houses can be fitted out with some dividers and cabinets. Laundry rooms are also becoming more spacious as more and more homeowners install separate washing machines and dryers for each load of laundry. Of course, if you want to go all out, you can also fit multiple machines into a large apartment or house.
Who is responsible for washing clothes? Before the advent of the washing machine, everyone did it themselves.
The Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois, created the first electric-powered washing machine (the Thor) in 1908. The inventor was Alva J. Fisher. On August 9, 1910, a patent was obtained for a drum type machine having a galvanized tub and an electric motor (US patent #966677). This was the beginning of today's automatic washing machines.
Early washing machines were very heavy and expensive to manufacture. They used hand-cranked generators to provide power for motors that turned metal drums, which in turn rotated metal brushes against hot wires to create heat energy that would wash and dry clothes. These systems were extremely inefficient, using more electricity than modern appliances by orders of magnitude.
In 1913, an electric washing machine was demonstrated at the New York World's Fair by the Electrolux company. It was a success and led to many other commercial designs being produced during the next few years. In 1919, General Electric introduced its own electric washing machine called the "Electromatic." It too was a success and was followed by several other manufacturers including Maytag in 1920.
Washing machine efficiency has improved over time. Modern washing machines use large motors that are controlled by microprocessors, which reduce vibration and heat while increasing efficiency. Some high-end models have motors as large as 40 inches in diameter! They use electric resistance wire wound onto steel cores to generate heat, which is then transferred to the water through copper plates attached to the inside of the drum.