07 August 2011

Washday... the village way in Russia

If you remember old ways to do the wash, tell us your recollections in Comments below. 

Russian village washday always starts in the morning - after the bath the night before!    When we boil the cauldron for a bath, much of that water is left to wash our clothes the next day.  Just about every banya has a laundry room attached which may double as the after-bath veranda.

I know of just one family here that has a city-type washing machine.  Most summer people have small modern machines at home in St Petersburg or Moscow, but these would take too much water for washing and rinsing to be practicable in the village .  So we use a Riga-8 washing machine built in 1971, a gift from our 88 year old grandma, Tonya.

Our Babula likes to frequent markets and get good deals for us.  When asked before shipping each time if the washing machine worked, she said, “ So why not?” 

Both were made in Riga, Latvia, which in Soviet times was an industrial center for consumer appliances.  The first, a 1970 Riga-8, price 97 rubles (stamped right in the metal label) survived the trip by a large Gazelle van but it’s motor failed. 

The second, a 1971 Riga-8, price 78 rubles has worked great but has kept me busy with hose clamps every summer.1

1 See our post from  26 June 2010 by clicking When Russian Prices Were In Steel to find out more about Soviet pricing.



1961 RUSSIA Soviet Elite Washing Machine RIGA-55 MANUAL, back coverFor sale on Ebay now, http://cgi.ebay.com/1961-RUSSIA-Soviet-Elite-Washing-Machine-RIGA-55-MANUAL-/310303018874

Machines such as these were sold starting around 1961, but most Russians did not see them as a necessity.  They  were  expensive and therefore mainly purchased by people with higher salaries, such as military officer families.  Instead, the rest of the populace used washboards until recently.

Our sturdy working machine only needs a little maintenance.  We keep a supply of clamps, hose lengths, and tape.  I grab plastic hose joiners whenever I see them for sale.

I love plumbing and construction but at my age do little. Larissa does most heavy work, which I regret.  I help where I can but she is quick and independent about doing her tasks. 


If we need more hot water, a large emersion heater in a bucket does the trick.

Larissa presoaks some items, runs the Riga 8 washing machine, wrings the clothes, puts them in an old wheelbarrow, and takes them to the lake shore.

She wades in and throws- in this case – a sheet on the waves, whipping it around to get the soap out.  The Russian word for this is poloskat, ролоскать, which accomplishes the mission probably better than the rinse cycle on our city machine.

Each piece gets a vigorous wringing in turn.  Then everything is wheeled to the side of the banya, and hung on the clothes line.  Later some items get ironed, all are folded and put away.

My share in this activity is to wear things and make them dirty for the wash.


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