Behind The Scenes – The Dolly Washer

Environmentally Friendly Washing Machine

The "Dolly" Washing Machine. Queensland Museum

Ever wondered how to reduce your impact on the environment and reduce your electricity bill as the same time?  Well look no further than the past!  Re-introducing the “Dolly Washer” from 1879.

 The “Dolly” washer features a central wooden spiked agitator in the wash bowl to help remove the most stubborn stains and ergonomic 3 gear reduction hand crank to allow easy rotation of the handle.

 The water recycler is located directly above the wash basin allowing you to remove all the excess water from your washed clothes and reuse it for the next load. We recommend washing whites before colours when using this reclaimer feature.

 The “Dolly” washer also has two handy fold away work benches on either side and comes fitted with wheels as standard, so you can wheel the washing machine out next to the clothes line and wash your clothes next to your environmentally friendly solar dryer. Once you have finished, use the handy tilt feature on the left hand side to empty the wash bowl and water your lawn at the same time (We advise using a low phosphorous detergent when using this feature). The environment will thank you every time you wash your clothes.

Built by Taylor and Wilson and dated 1879, this washing machine would have been state of the art at the time.  To wash clothes, water would have to be collected, (often in buckets by hand) and heated on a wood stove or over and open fire.  The hot water would then be bucketed into the wash trough. Clothes would be sorted not only into colours, but into levels of dirtiness.  As the water was used, and re-used again, the cleanest clothes would be washed first and the most soiled last. Each item would then be passed through the wringer to remove excess water before being hung on the line to dry.

Reflecting on the time and effort involved in using this washing machine makes me appreciate how little effort is required in washing clothes today, yet how much of a chore we still consider it to be. I cannot argue that the housekeepers and domestic helpers of the past had an easy job to do.

This behind the scenes artefact from QueenslandMuseum’s collection also highlights the nature of the progress made with technology,  our demand for helpful household appliances, and our dependence on the burning of fossil fuels to power the convenient tools we have created.

Have we as a society become too dependant on power and convenience through work/life pressure or just laziness? Is the constant push for the latest in technology and convenience also a push towards environmental degradation? I’m not suggesting that we all go back to hand washing our clothes but maybe we could find solutions to our current problems by looking into our past?

For more ideas and resources to teach science and technology in the classroom, and even looking for possible solutions to Global Warming and Climate Change visit QM Loans. Loans kits include, Early Queensland Living and Australian Inventions.

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