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Mount Vernon


Inside the washhouse

Picture 40 of 69

Inside the washhouse

Two slave women worked up to six days a week washing table linens and clothing. They cleaned the Washington's garments as well as those of house guests and some artisans and managers. Large cauldrons of water were boiled on a hot water stove to the left of the fireplace. The laundry was immersed in the steaming water, hand-scrubbed with soap made of lye and animal fat from the plantation, rinsed, and then dried in the laundry yard to the rear of the washhouse. It was understood that the sun helped bleach white textiles. In bad weather, clothes would have dried on racks inside the washhouse. Finally the washerwomen pressed the clean laundry using irons that they heated in the fireplace.

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