Mr. Bryan’s washerwoman, Dry River (Jamaica) by William Berryman, 1808–15.
Wash houses were vital for large households. Clothing as well as bed and table linens had to be laundered at least once a week. Enslaved housemaids like Ursula Granger carried out the physically-demanding process that often took a whole day to complete. Everyday linens were often boiled in a large copper outside the wash house, while finer fabrics were washed by hand within. Firewood and large quantities of water were required. Laundering involved soaking, soaping, rubbing, washing, and boiling the linens, followed by draining, rinsing, bluing, re-rinsing, starching, wringing, drying, and finally, ironing.