Where Would We Be Without The Humble Washing Machine?

Can you imagine your home without a washing machine? It goes without saying that this relatively simple yet time-saving device has revolutionised the way in which we clean our clothes, bed linen, and pretty much anything else that’s made of fabric that’s prone to harbouring dirt and bacteria.

A basic idea that evolved over centuries
The washing machine as we know it boasts a long and varied evolution. Ancient civilisations used abrasive sands to scrub their clothes free from dirt and mud. In Roman times, clothes were placed in large stone bowls and continually trodden on until the grime was released from the fabric. By the Victorian era, however, scientists had wised up to the benefits of keeping clothes cleaner for longer, and several pioneering washing machine prototypes were developed throughout the industrial revolution as a result.

It’s quite difficult to determine exactly which model comes closest to resembling today’s smart and sleek-looking machines. A patent was registered under the category of ‘Washing and Wringing Machines’ in England way back in the seventeenth century, but several other ideas for washing machines emerged from various inventors in the next one hundred years or so, including a design from German-born Jacob Christian Schaeffer in 1767.  The drum washing machine was patented by an American, James King, in 1851, while a rotary system was soon devised several years later by Hamilton Smith in 1858. From this point onwards, the concept of the machine continued to evolve, with the advancement of technology leading to the announcement of the first electric washing machine at the turn of the 1900s.

The first automated washing machine was introduced to the market in 1937 by Bendix Corporation, and it’s often said that the look and overall design of this machine resembles that of the front-loading units still sold today. Since then, several manufacturers have proceeded to build bigger and better machines, with the likes of Staber Industries, Fisher & Paykel, Whirlpool Corporation, Maytag and Sanyo all bringing innovative new ideas and features to the table. Typical domestic washers now give the user the option to select different wash temperatures, rotation speed settings and predefined laundry cleaning programmes.

Washing machines in a business setting
New technology and developments have since paved the way for larger machines with much higher capacities. This has allowed businesses within the service industry to really capitalise on the benefits of being able to clean (and often dry) large quantities in a relatively short timeframe. For example, large hotels simply wouldn’t be able to accommodate so many guests from day to day if they had to clean towels and bed-sheets in a single domestic-style machine, so these types of companies definitely benefit from investing in heavy-duty washers that can cope with loads of 32kg or more.

Contemporary commercial washing machines are much more sophisticated than those intended for domestic use and often allow the user to inject varying chemical types into the load to match the right products and softeners to the right fabrics, therefore making the entire wash/rinse cycle much faster and more eco-efficient.

These products are often a key part of an organisation’s internal operations, so each machine’s functionality and durability is vital to its performance, which is why many modern-day washers are constructed from stainless steel. They may look bulky and awkward and make enough noise to deafen an elephant, but they are largely resistant to corrosion and developed to perform extremely well for years on end, which reduces maintenance costs in the longer term.

Can businesses actually afford these machines?
Though they may sound expensive to buy and maintain, many models are indeed affordable enough to be a viable investment for businesses that are struggling to turn over washing loads on a day to day basis. Companies such as Miele and Primus are often cited as the market leaders as far as commercial washing machines are concerned, but the choice of products on offer today allows companies of all sizes and budgets to find products that will meet their requirements (and continue to for years to come!).

Ronan Lowe is an industrial consultant who helps businesses choose the right heavy duty washing machines for their needs.