Friday, January 18, 2013

Hanging Out The Warsh

We are having some lovely January weather in Iowa this week.  Today the sun is shining and the temp is reaching 50 degrees.  Makes my heart yearn for Spring.  What to do, but hang out a load of warsh (that's how we northern Iowans pronounce it) and watch it flap in the breeze.  Probably won't get totally dry, but then I can drape it over a dryer rack in the spare bedroom and smell the freshness.

Of course, when I was a kid, hanging out clothes was a chore.  Now it's a delight.  I never use my dryer in spring, summer or fall unless an item needs delinting.  If that isn't a real word, you know what I mean.  I'll pop it in the dryer for a few minutes and then hang it outside.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't give up my dryer, but nothing beats sliding a shirt over your head that has been dried on the line.


The ultimate treat is crawling into a bed that has been freshly made up with crisp sheets off the line.  I dry my bedding on the line all year round.  Even in the dead of winter, a sunny day with a bit of a breeze will dry a line of sheets.  You have to do it quickly though, because they'll start to stiffen before you can get them thrown over the line. Sometimes, the corners of the fitted sheets don't get completely dry, but I just toss them over a kitchen chair and they're ready for folding in no time at all.

Mom had definite rules to hanging out clothes.  No such thing as pinning items up willy-nilly.  First of all (and most important), you needed a damp rag to wipe down the line before you started.  If there were dirty marks on the clothes when they came off the line, you were first in line to rewash them ...

All unmentionables were hung on the back line so they couldn't be seen from the street.  Lord knows we didn't want the neighbors to see our underwear (holey or not).  All blouses and tee shirts were hung from the bottom so the wrinkly pin marks would be hidden when tucked in pants or skirts.  If the item wasn't going to be tucked in, you had to iron out those pin marks ... crisp and neat.

The towels were hung from the biggest down to the smallest.  They had to be lined up exactly.  If you got to the bottom of the basket and found a size that didn't line up right, you had to repin the entire row.  I learned to do it right the first time and tried to sort the basket as I loaded it.

You hung all the white clothes on the section of the line that got the most sun and the colors were hung on the lines in the shade, if possible.  We always removed the colored clothes as soon as they were dry so they didn't fade.  The whites were left out in the sun all day to get as much sun bleaching as possible.

When you finished taking down all the clothes for the day, you made sure there were no pins left on the line.  Mom considered that "tacky".  Besides, the pins picked up dirt and dust; and how could you wipe down the line the next time if it was full of pins?   Rules, rules and more rules.

Now you've got a load of clean, fresh laundry that needs to be ironed.  Where did I put the sprinkler bottle?  You know ... the old 7-up bottle with the cork stopper and sprinkler on top.

Excuse me.  I've got to go smell my laundry ............


  1. I can't wait for spring to get here so I can start using the line that I acquired when my daughter moved to a new house...smelling those fresh sheets already.

  2. The first thing I did when I took possession of my first house was to have my husband rip out the clothesline in the backyard. I don't remember my mother ever hanging out laundry although I am sure she did. When I was a child we usually threw a blanket over the clothesline staked down the edges and made a fort.

    Now ironing . . . that bottle looks familiar.

  3. From your description I can smell that clean laundry from here, or at least imagine. Wonderful description of a "how to hang laundry", really enjoyed reading this and now I shall become a follower.

  4. I know why I say warsh instead of wash! I live in Nebraska, but my paternal grandmother was born and raised for many years in Iowa. My father said warsh and I never thought to ask him why. My nieces have teased me and their mother for years. Now I have an answer for them. I also love clothes that have been hung outside. I think our mothers had very similar ideas about the correct way to do this. I enjoy your blog and will enjoy following it.

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