C1030 ant det-laundry 1.jpg

A 1920s clothes wringer.


Would you pay $149 for a wood and glass washboard made in the 1940s? How about $114 for an old 1920s clothes wringer? Such items are finding their way into restaurants and homes as decorative objects.

Collecting old laundry items seriously began 10 years ago. Items were bargain-priced. These days, prices depend on where you find them.

One of the most popular items is the washboard. They were made of so many materials and sizes that a collection could decorate an entire wall. Even potters like Bennington made washboards in the 19th century, as did others using a brown or mottled Rockingham glaze. As rarities, collectors are willing to pay several hundred dollars for one.

Late-19th-century washboards were colorful, with advertising filling the space above the soap tray. During that time, washboards were also made of yellowware and framed in pine. A real discovery would be an early washboard with a folk art carving or painting.

Vintage washboards are popular and can cost as little as $20. Among them were those with materials such as glass, copper, wood, tin, cast iron and ribbed glass in a herringbone pattern.

C1030 ant det-laundry 2 (1).jpg

A washboard made of wood and glass.


When you can find them, salesman’s samples of laundry items, from washboards to mangles or wringers, are pricey. The mangles are small, made of wood and iron.

Old irons can make great doorstops or paperweights.

And, who would think wringers from the early 20th century are serious collectibles? Collectors search for those with makers’ marks still intact and in various forms.

You can’t have laundry collectibles without old boxes that once contained Staley’s starch or early soap flakes. Put on a shelf, they can be almost as interesting as a Currier and Ives print. Other popular items are magazine ads featuring laundry items and hung as art.

Don’t forget clothespins. You’d be amazed at the wide variety made from the mid 19th century. The rarest and most expensive are Shaker clothespins.

CLUES: There are reproductions of 20th-century washboards with printed advertising labels. Look for a tiny “copyright” number. Buy only items in good condition.

Anne Gilbert is a private consultant doing antiques appraisals for a fee. She can be reached at 1811 Renaissance Commons Blvd., Unit 2310, Boynton Beach, FL 33426.


What To Read Next