The History of the Laundry Room



The laundry room may well be the unsung hero of the modern day log home. While we may only give thought to our washers and dryers when they have problems, these modern appliances save tremendous amounts of time. Laundry used to take around a day of hard labor per week, while now it takes a few minutes a load to set up a machine to do the work for us. In this post, we’ll look at the history of laundry appliances in the home, and how the laundry room has evolved with these changes.



In the earliest days, laundry would be done in a stream or other source of flowing water. The clothes would be beaten against rocks to help remove dirt and were twisted afterwards to help remove water before drying in the sun. As civilization developed, communal washhouses became common in larger population centers. In more rural areas, washtubs were used with heated water to aid in cleaning, and the iconic scrub board was invented in 1797 to aid in removing stains and dirt. By 1843, the hand-cranked mangle (or wringer) was invented to aid in wringing the water from clothes before drying. Since indoor plumbing was not yet available, laundry remained a primarily outdoor activity.


Students doing laundry in the Practice House Laundry Room at Iowa State University in 1926. The early washing machines of the time were a step up from the washboards of the past and could also be used indoors, but still nowhere near the ‘set it and forget it’ machines of today.

By the 1930s, both indoor plumbing and electricity combined to make electric clothes washers and dryers a possibility. The first automatic, electric clothes washer came on the market in 1937, with electric tumble dryers appearing on the market a year later. Since many houses of the time were not designed with these appliances in mind, they were placed in existing rooms with adequate plumbing and electrical supply. This made the kitchen a very popular room for early laundry equipment and also for smaller modern apartments. In homes built in the years following World War II, the basement became the preferred location for a laundry room. This served the useful function of isolating the often noisy machines away from living spaces.



As homes became larger in the 1970s and 1980s and the appliances quieter, the laundry room was moved onto the main floor. Then as now, a popular location for a laundry room was combined with a mudroom linking the garage and remainder of the home. In addition to the convenience of having the laundry on the main floor, the colocation with a mudroom was very space efficient. Oftentimes the laundry room will be sunk from the house but elevated from the garage, reducing or eliminating the steps between the garage and house.

Modern washers and dryers are quitter than ever, and a recent trend has been to locate the laundry room closer to the master bedroom for easy use. This can mean locating the laundry on the second floor, but the recent trend towards first-floor master bedrooms means the laundry may remain on the main floor.

So, where does the laundry live in your dream log home?  On the first floor in the mud room?  Right in the master closet?  The basement?  Leave us a comment and let us know where you think this utilitarian room should fit into the ideal floor plan.  And if you’re looking to bounce your ideas off someone and get the floor planning underway, then contact Real Log Homes today.  Their talented designers are ready to help (but they won’t do your laundry for you, sorry).