The Amish are a fast-growing conservative Anabaptist community. They are characterized by a belief that their God-given purpose is to lead a simple life of practicing faith and fostering discipline, dedication, and humility.
Amish people generally tend to avoid modern technology, however, the extent of avoidance varies across different Amish groups: Old order Amish, new order Amish, beachy Amish, and Swartzentruber Amish.
In the technology-dominant world, simple life for Amish entails strict traditions such as forgoing electricity, wearing plain clothes, restrictions on modern gates, etc. The daily chores that are made easy with electrical appliances, the Amish do in ancient ways.
For instance, the Amish people do not use washing machines, they do not even have electricity to power them. The question then is, how do Amish do laundry?
If not the washing machine, then who does the laundry?
As part of running the household, the task of washing clothes befalls the Amish women. While grunt work for men involves outdoor tasks such as carpentry, farm maintenance, manual trades, and so on, women have their hands full with the mounting pile of dirty sheets, clothes, and towels, etc.
With an average of 6 to 7 kids in an Amish household, at times even 8 to 10 or more, laundry for Amish women means almost an entire day gone just like that. The laundry has to be washed, rinsed with clean water, hung out to dry, gathered back in, and then pressed and neatly folded to be put away.
Maybe take this moment to thank your lucky stars for washing machines!
How do Amish wash clothes?
Unlike the usual dumping of clothes in the washing machine, for Amish people, laundry involves a blend of both modern and older ways.
Although some older order and Sachwartzentruber Amish are still more comfortable with washing their clothes the old way; by hand, in a large pot of boiling water, most Amish women use wringer washers that come with a tub.
The wringer washer is powered through a diesel generator which is a perfect example of how strict the Amish are about avoiding electricity. Although it may seem that the washer would make laundry easier, it is definitely not the case.
Washing clothes is a very lengthy and tiring process for Amish women. Since they have to use the same water in the washer tub for several loads, they are very particular about the order in which they wash the clothes (for example sheets, tablecloths, underwear, etc.) and the clothes that can be washed together.
You would not wash your casual or work clothes with your Sunday best outfits. The water would have to be changed for the Sunday best. This means that the entire laundry would take many loads to be complete. Not to mention, that the laundry has to be wrung, rinsed in clean water, and then wrung again before it can be hung to dry.
With time Amish people are also gradually accepting technology in their daily lives. Many of them now use either solar-powered or pneumatic washing machines to do their laundry. Often those machines are also equipped with timers, which is a massive sep-up from ringer washers!
How do Amish people dry their clothes?
Having answered how do Amish wash clothes, the next question pertains to the drying rituals of clothes. Hint: it does not involve dryers!
If you have ever visited or lived in Amish communities, you will know their one signature trait is the long clotheslines. Almost every yard is bound to have them. Amish people, to no one’s surprise, do not use mechanical dryers but instead opt for the traditional ‘hanging clothes to dry’ method.
Typically, the clothes are hung out to dry in the T-clothesline that comes to one’s eye level. However, in order to make the process efficient without technological interferences, Amish people have come up with an innovative way to dry out clothes.
Instead of using a single clothesline, Amish people are now using spools or pulleys to hang up a very long double-line clothesline from a point near their house to another point high up on a tree. Women can either turn the crank or pull on the line to access the next empty spot on the clothesline without having to constantly walk across the whole yard.
Without a dryer, drying clothes is heavily dependent on external factors as well. For instance, proper sunlight and wind are essential. Rainfall, on the other hand, may be a hassle as it would prevent hanging out clothes to dry. So, bad weather would essentially mean postponing laundry day, which further means piled up chores.
How often do Amish wash clothes?
The processing of doing the laundry is an extremely lengthy and exhausting ordeal for Amish women. Hence, predictably, washing the clothes is not a task that Amish women do every day, every other day, or at any time. Instead, they have a particular day (or two for large families) of the week reserved as the laundry.
Interestingly, Amish people do not indulge in any house chores on Sundays. The only chores they may do are the crucial ones such as milking or feeding their livestock. Moreover, Saturdays are spent preparing for Church the next day, so Amish people spend the whole day cleaning their homes and buggies.
In most communities, the same laundry day is shared by everyone in the community. As such, more often than not, the designated laundry day is a Monday, or in the case of two laundry days a Thursday as well.
It does not take a lot of careful observation to see the hints of an off-grid lifestyle in the Amish way of living. You can clearly draw parallels between the two.
The laundry ritual practiced in Amish communities is a testament to their religious hold on a simple lifestyle. To the point that the Amish people are willing to deal with exhausting washing chores instead of simply giving in to the comfort and ease provided by technology.