Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Remembering washday - Scottish nostalgia


Sheila Grant recalls the many chores, as well as the sights and sounds, that surrounded washday in bygone Scotland.

Do you feel intimidated by the vast array of cleaning products on supermarket shelves? Are you putting your family at risk by not using a selection of these products? Was it the advent of supermarkets that brought about this multitude of cleaners, sterilisers, antibacterial cloths and liquids?

In the 1950s there was never such a plethora. My parents and grandparents did have a few dusters, but old vests, shirts and even underpants (they were bigger then) were cut up and used as cleaning cloths on a regular basis. For floor cloths, old towels and terry nappies (remember them?) were ideal.

Washing soda was used for many cleaning jobs. Before going off on holiday my mother used to put some washing soda down the drain followed by a kettle of hot water. it cleaned the drain and stopped it smelling.

Incidentally washing soda is now a coarse powder. When I was young it was pebble we spat our first saliva of the day on a piece before rubbing it on to warts or corns. They soon healed.


Prior to 1916 ordinary soap was used to wash dishes but World War One caused a shortage of fat to make soap, and the first detergents were created. They bore little resemblance to what we now use to hand-wash dishes.

I remember my mother had a gadget resembling two halves of a small cage into which she placed the last remnants of bars of soap before clicking the cage shut. There was a handle like a spoon handle and whilst holding that she would swirl the item in a bowl of warm water until it became foamy and soapy. It could then be used to hand wash delicates like woollen jumpers or fragile items.

The bedding, towels and shirts were washed weekly in the washhouse boiler. The fire was lit, usually by Dad before he went out to work, and by the time we were off to school Mum would be out in the washhouse, her rubber apron on, and her hair tied up in a scarf. Her flushed face could barely be seen for steam. It was usually Monday and should the weather be against her, she had no option but take her turn at the `green`.

If wet we came home at lunchtime to clothes horses and pulleys weighed down with drying washing and broth! It was always broth on washing day and I hated it. The old-fashioned soup bowl with the lip was an ideal place for me to deposit the hated butter beans and peas.



(Image copyright Tuck DB Postcards)

Back to "Memories of Scotland" Category

08/08/2016 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Ring of Bright Water author Gavin Maxwell was born - On this day in history

Gavin Maxwell, author of Ring of Bright Water, was born on 15 July 1914. ...

John Douglas was born - On this day in history

Scottish bishop John Douglas was born on 14 July 1721. ...

King Alexander III was crowned at Scone - On this day in history

Alexander III was crowned at Scone on 13 July 1249. ...

Mary Queen of Scots movie 2018 trailer released - watch it here!

The trailer for the new Mary Queen of Scots movie has been released. Watch Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in ...

Other Articles

Gemology map of Scotland - definitive treasure map of Scotland's natural resources

Discover where some of Scotland's most beautiful gems are found with this unique gemology map created by ...

2,000-year-old wooden bowl discovered in Orkney - Scottish archaeology news

Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,000-year-old wooden bowl from an underground chamber beneath The Cairns ...

Excavations at Newcraighall show a landscape of change

Archaeological investigations coupled with historical research of Newcraighall on the south-east edge of ...

Historic Counties map shows Scotland's historic counties

This counties map from The Historic Counties Trust shows the names and areas of the historic Scottish ...