Washing machines are an essential household appliance, without which it is hard to imagine life. However, there was a time when washing machines did not exist, and the only way people could have clean clothes was by hand washing them.

So, when were washing machines made? As technology progressed, the first washing machine designs started to emerge.

There were various versions, ones that were manually operated and others that ran on electricity. So, if you want to discover when the washing machines were made, continue reading.

When Were Washing Machines Made
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When Were Washing Machines Made?

The first washing machines were made in the mid-19th century. The earliest patent for a mechanical washing device was filed in 1797, but it was in the 1850s that practical washing machines were developed.

The early machines were hand-operated and involved a simple mechanism for scrubbing and wringing clothes. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, electric-powered washing machines began to emerge, significantly easing household laundry.

The first electric washing machines appeared around the early 1900s, and their popularity grew steadily throughout the 20th century.

Technological advancements led to more efficient and automated machines, making them a common household appliance worldwide.

Over time, washing machines have continued to evolve, incorporating modern features and smart technologies to improve performance and convenience for users.

Brief overview

  • 1767 – Jacob C. Schafer created the first design for a washing machine.
  • 1851 – James King made the first drum-based washing machine.
  • 1858 – Hamilton Smith patented the first rotary machine.
  • 1874 – William Blackstone invented the first domestic washer.
  • 1907 – Alva Fisher invented the first electric washing machine.

The History of Washing Machines

The first design for a washing machine was created in 1767 by Jacob C. Schafer in Germany and operated manually. This washing machine was to be operated by using a stick to press and rotate the clothes along the textured sides to remove dirt. 

Until the 19th century, washing machine designs all followed a similar concept. Then in 1782, Henry Sidgier invented the first washing machine with a cage. This earned him an English patent.

The first washing machine with a rotating drum

There is some debate regarding the invention of the first washing machine with a drum, as two inventors were working on their designs simultaneously. The inventors were James King and Hamilton Smith. 

James King was the first of the two to apply for a patent in 1851, but the machine was finalized in 1874. While Hamilton Smith made his invention in the period between this time, he finished and patented his washing machine in 1858

The James King washing machine greatly reduced the effort of washing clothes. The machine consisted of a wooden drum, a wringer, and a crank to activate its engine. In contrast, Hamilton Smith created the first rotating washing machine. 

Read more: What Time Is Too Late To Use Washing Machine?

The first washing machine with a rotating drum
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How Did Love Lead to the First Domestic Use of a Washing Machine?

While James King and Hamilton Smith are credited with inventing the first washing machines that were precursors to modern ones, they were not really suitable for domestic use.

For this reason, while watching his wife struggle with washing clothes, William Blackstone decided to find a way to lessen her workload. 

Thus, he invented the first domestic washing machine in 1874, which he presented to his wife on her birthday. Later, he started selling his invention to other families looking to lessen their workloads.

The First Electric Washing Machine

With the introduction of electricity, many home appliances came into use. The first electric washing machine was made by the engineer Alva J. Fisher in 1907.

The washing machine was called “Thor” and was sold by the Chicago-based Hurley Electric Laundry Company. The patent for the Thor electric washing machine was issued in 1910. 

By 1982, electric washing machine sales reached 913,000 units. However, during the Great Depression era, sales were significantly reduced, with the number of units shipped dropping to 600,000 by 1932.

In 1934, Andrew Clein opened the first laundromat in Fort Worth, Texas.

Automatic washing machines

The first automatic washing machine for home use was introduced in 1937 by Bendix Home Appliances. The washing machine was a front-loading one equipped with a rotating drum and a glass door.

The washer had an electric mechanical timer and coils autofill, wash, rinse, and spin dry. However, there was no water heater. 

In 1957, washing machines were available with settings for wash temperature, rinse temperature, speed, and agitation speed.

However, they were incredibly expensive, and it was only in the 90s, when microcontrollers were introduced, that the prices started to drop. 

Also read: Can I Leave My Washing Machine On When I’m Out?


So, when were washing machines made? In short, it varies depending on different sources. The first illustrated design was by Jacob C. Schafer and was issued in 1767.

However, the precursor to today’s washing machine is the patented version of James King in 1851.

Hence, while there is a lot of debate on which was the very first washer in history, one thing is certain, the history of washing machines is long.