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Through the Wringer: 1950

"Connor washing machine with motorized wringer." Circa 1950 photo by the Gordon Burt studio in Wellington, New Zealand. View full size.

"Connor washing machine with motorized wringer." Circa 1950 photo by the Gordon Burt studio in Wellington, New Zealand. View full size.

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Still Burns Today

In 1975, when I was 4 years old, I got both of my hands caught in the electric wringers of our washing machine. I had put something in and it caught my right hand. I put in my left hand to get it out. So my left hand was on top of my right hand, and they were stuck. The wringers kept spinning. It was just me and my grandmother home at the time.
My grandfather was having coffee at a restaurant a few miles away. He got an urgent sense that something was wrong. So urgent, that he ran out without paying. When he got home he was able to free my hands from the wringers. Then he rushed me to the ER.
I had third degree burns on the bottom of of my right forearm and on the top of my left hand. The knuckle just below my left thumb had to be removed because it was crushed. They weren't sure if I would ever be able to use my left hand again. I had to get skin grafts on both and was in the hospital for over 3 months. Then I had months of physical therapy. Luckily, you can't hold back a little kid and I made a full recovery.
I learned to live with the horrible scars from the skin grafts, and I never get offered when people, especially kids, ask me what happened. It's a part of my life, my history. Until I stumbled upon this site, I had never heard of anyone else sustaining injuries from these machines. For the first time in 42 years I finally realize that I'm not alone.

What a great magical wringer...

...the item shown going through it is already dry! It definitely had its advantages. Many claimed it got clothes cleaner faster than the modern front or top loading automatic. I wonder sometimes how much it might have had to do with changes in fabric and laundry detergents technology? Simpler fabrics without all the treatments and coatings and blends in fibers may have had an effect on how they absorbed or held dirt? I have no way to compare since I've never had to do a comparison test.

But the one I've always wanted to have was an original Bendix Deluxe front loading model that started you out with DIRTY dry clothes, and finished you up with CLEAN dry clothes - all in the same machine. They were available into the early 60's I think, from the old advertising I've seen. I wonder why they didn't maintain their popularity? Price maybe? The length of time it took to do a single load may have been an issue, but whether it was done between two machines or all in one probably wouldn't have made too much difference. It certainly would be more space saving than two machines. Even stacked, because of the vertical space required. And with two machines, it requires your personal intervention between functions. So, it can only progress as quickly as you can be ready to switch clothes from one to the other. This way, you could throw them in, turn it on, and walk away - even leave the house - and come back to a finished load of clothes!


There was a kid in the class ahead of me in grade school who had a mangled right hand. The story was that he had caught it in a wringer. He became a professional french horn player--the one instrument that is played with the left hand.

Another one who got his arm...

...stuck in the wringer.

I was about five years old when it happened and remember screaming at the top of my lungs. I did have a bruise and remember it was quite painful. I remember before I would press my fingers on the wringer and my mother yelling I would get it stuck.

Well it did happen and I stayed away from that machine.

My grandmother got an article of clothing stuck in it and was lucky my grandfather was home to stop the machine.

The wringers did their job, but were no playthings.

Lots of arms rung dry!

I guess I wasn't the only one after all. :) I did fare better than the little 4 yr old in the hospital with you, Dave. I had my experience when I was 4 or 5, can't quite remember, but I do remember how it felt. I had my arm clean up to the armpit in the wringer while my mother was yelling for my uncle to come and save me. He got me out of that thing. I remember him smiling at me while he got my arm out. I think my mother was more upset than I was. It hurt but I didn't need a Dr. thankfully. I used to help my grandmother with the washing, mostly carrying water from the cistern. I was still afraid of the "mangler" so I let her do that job. Ah, the joys of childhood!

Another wringer casualty here ...

My grandparents had a "modern" Maytag wringer machine in the late '60s. I. too managed to let my hand get drawn into the wringer. I had never heard such panic in my mom's yelp. It was out in a flash, no harm done. I remember my grandfather, a stoic, reserved man in his mid 80s, beckoning me over to where he was sitting in the garage, and solemnly inspecting my hand. It was one of the few times we ever shared one-on-one.

Those Poor Kiwi Housewives!

Heels, but no pearls.

Curse the New Machines!

My grandmother used one of these well into the late 1970's. I used to watch her in the basement using the wringer and she would show me her recent wringer related injuries to her hands. She got a new washing machine around 1978 and hated it. She swore it did not get the clothes as clean as her wringer washer. We still have her rinse tubs.

The Stories are True

On this day in 1970, I was a 10-year-old kid who was in the hospital after being hit by a train(!). The kid in the bed next to me was 4 years old and had gotten his arm caught in one of these things. He wasn't as fortunate as landtuna; his arm was pretty well crunched up, and he was in a lot of pain. I got out in a couple of days with a couple of fractured ribs and 56 stitches on my back. He had a pretty sizeable cast to contend with. Who'da thunk one of these modern appliances could do more damage than a freight train?

When speed is a factor

When I was a summer camp counselor back in the 1970's, we prized these machines over the newer models for doing camp laundry. When one became unrepairable (a rarity) a replacement was almost impossible to find. They took a beating but kept working because there were uncomplicated and all of the works were right out where you could get at them. Compared to the newer models with time-consuming spin cycles and mechanical-rotating dials, when one of the kids would wet his sleeping bag, you could flip the switch, wash and rinse it in about 15 minutes, wring the water out in about 30 seconds and have it hanging on the clothesline by breakfast time. You could process 3 or 4 kids' bags by the time one modern washer did one load.

That young lady doesn't look very happy. Maybe she's got a lot of bed-wetters in her family.

Electric Wringers

My mother and grandmother both told me stories of people getting their fingers caught in the wringer, panicking and pulling hard, thereby peeling the skin of their hand. I've never seen that story substantiated, but it was quite the visual for a little kid.

Things we take for granted

My Mother-In-Law, now long gone, told me how in the 1950's she went to work for only one purpose: To buy herself one of those fancy new-fangled Washing Machines. As soon as she saved enough money, she quit that job.
I imagine that machine looked a lot like this one. Hope it made it her life much easier and much happier.

Old school washing

My grandmother's electric wringer lasted into the 70's.

When it finally gave up the ghost - despite everything my mother tried to tell her about modern washing machines - my grandmother went out an bought a brand new wringer!

Miracle Machine

No water needed. It wrings your dry towels even drier.


Motorized wringers were before the fitness craze.

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