In the early 20th century, new household technology was both accomplished and inspired by the tremendous increase in American industrial production. As in industry, mechanization and scientific management were part of a larger reorganization of work. And as in industry, efficient housekeeping was partially a response to labor unrest—both the “servant problem” and the growing disquiet of middle-class wives. A major proponent of the new housekeeping, Christine Frederick was consulting household editor for Ladies Home Journal from 1912 to 1919 and the author of numerous books and pamphlets on scientific management in the home. Frederick’s pamphlet, You and Your Laundry (1922), instructed women in the daunting complexities of washing clothes—a process comprising fifteen different steps. You and Your Laundry also illustrated the close alliance between scientific housework and consumption. Written under the sponsorship of the Hurley Machine Company, Frederick’s pamphlet frequently invoked its brand name and products. The pamphlet ended with a pitch for buying on installment, a payment plan that helped to spur consumption. Read the full article by clicking the link.
I was going to write about sustainable landscaping – and I still will, but something else came up:
Washing clothes is actually my least favorite chore right along with mopping the floor, taking out dripping trash, and investigating that “noise” in the middle of the night. Thus, I view the laundry task through a ‘necessary evil’ lens. But I like when it’s done. The problem is, it’s never done! I think I handle laundry fairly well for a household of four, but every time I get the last bit folded and put away on a Sunday night, the basket is already nearly half full with a new load, which is a real buzz kill.
Can’t you tell I could use some excitement in the laundry department?
Photo: Roy Montgomery
So imagine my delight to stumble upon some countryfied laundry soap, made with old-school attitude by a sustainable minded sister from Los Angeles. And before you go glossy eyed on me: No, this is not an ad…in fact, she doesn’t even know how sprung I am on her mission. Yet.
I actually heard about Renee Gunter and her sustainable landscaping and water saving from Outdoor Afro community member, birder, and backyard innovator Cindy Hopkins, but when I dug deeper, I found her Old School Brandblog, which is an adventure that takes us back to the days before the soap opera of TIDE improvements to a place I had completely forgotten existed. I admit that I had long ago bought into the jingle’s message that “Tide gets it clean“, but lately I have wondered to myself: at what cost?
Laundry might have taken all day in the basement, or in the backyard back in “Big Mama’s” youth because of the contemporary technology and orthodox methods needed to produce no less than perfectly starched, white collars. But in spite of the toil, it was sustainably done without health and environmental consequences.
Tools of the Trade
How did our grandmothers produce sparkling laundry without chemicals leeching into our water systems? Or without irritating delicate skin? I have a hunch Ms. Gunter has captured their solution in her soap. She makes the soap in small batches with kind ingredients for use with the modern convenience of a machine.
best friends forever
After reading her blog, I have to admit I felt like a laundry wimp who has conveniently avoided the real deal of laundry duty experienced by the women of my heritage. Her blog chronicles the presence and skill of African American women in the activity of cleaning laundry, and hanging it to dry outside, with some gorgeous historic photos. She writes about the matriarchs of her family, all of whom were maids who migrated from Arkansas to the Los Angeles area, and recalls sitting and watching the meticulous cleaning her mom and aunts did for wealthy whites that relied more on skills and sweat equity than on products.
Laundry in the Sunshine
So to gain some laundry cred, I am ordering Old School Brand soap this week! And when I get it, maybe I’ll go a bit further to save quarters, reduce my household footprint on the environment, and let the unmentionables hang outdoors for the sun to bleach, and all the neighbors to see, as one more way to help make the world healthier.
Old School Laundry Soap
Comments: . Bar B said: Sounds like a wonderful product. This post took my mind back to my own days of going with my great-grandmother, and sitting and watching her clean and work for a wealthy white woman out in San Rafael. Interesting times, partly growing up and considering this woman and her family extended family. Anyway… my grandmother still hangs her unmentionables out on the clothes line today. As you pointed out, it saves those quarters and, in a way, brings the great outdoors, in.
A passed down tradition! A little goes a long way! No bubbles, no dyes, no lye! EARTH FRIENDLY
Hard Working laundry soap that cuts to the chase of clean!!
My soap is concentrated which requires less packaging, less water and less energy! Old School Brand is amazing for hand washing, all machines and all temperatures!
One bag is $10.00 for up to 32 loads of laundry!
Now go ahead and hang your laundry out to dry, feel the Old School freshness that will bring back memories of a slower paced lifestyle.
Thank you for choosing Old School Brand!
Inspired by Emma Goldman's quote, "I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck", I founded Urbanscapes a landscape design company in 1996 servicing the Los Angeles area.
My specialty is drought tolerant gardens. I have always thought L.A. to be a desert thus creating gardens that thrive in our arid landscape. With each project my goal is to create master plans utilizing my reduce, reuse and recycle philosophy of conservation.
Since the formation of Urbanscapes I have created a few other sustainable design concepts, Rumplesacs, a reusable shopping bag line, Reconstruction, a found objects jewelry line, and of course Old School Brand Laundry Soap, an amazing laundry soap that really get's your clothes refreshingly clean with no junk added!
These projects are but a few ways I give back to community.
Please do not reproduce any of the words or pictures on this blog without my permission. All rights are reserved.