Housework has changed a huge amount over the last hundred years and thank goodness for that! In Pre-Industrial England, housework was much harder work than it is today. Many people simply had hard earth floors, which tended to become dusty and required regular sweeping. Until the 18th century carpets were a luxury and they were often hung over tables rather than put on the floor.

Housework became easier in the 19th century, but it was still hard going. Carpets were mass-produced in Britain from the mid-19th century and they became much cheaper. However, cleaning the carpets was no easy task in the 19th century. You had to hang up the carpet and beat it with a carpet beater. The carpet sweeper was invented in 1876 by Melville Bissell which made it far easier to clean rugs and carpets. Nowadays we can automate all our household devices to do the work for us. For Home Automation, visit

Other inventions that made life easier was linoleum in 1860 by Fredrick Walton. This was a cheap and easy to clean floor covering. Then in 1893 Thomas Stewart invented a mop with a replaceable head that clamped onto the handle which made it easier to have a clean mop.

Most Victorian homes also had a scullery in which you would find a ‘copper’, a metal container for washing clothes. The copper was filled with water and soap powder was added. The clothes were turned with a wooden tool called a dolly or you used a metal plunger with holes in it on the end of a pole to push clothes up and down. Wet clothes were wrung through a device called a wringer or a mangle to dry them. The clothes wringer or mangle was invented by Robert Tasker in 1850.

Times were tough!

Image credit

In the 19th century people ironed with flat irons which were just slabs of metal with handles on top. You heated the iron until it was hot then used it to iron your clothes. (Normally you had 2 irons, one was put on your oven to heat while the other was used). The electric iron was invented in 1882 by Henry Seeley, while the first steam iron was introduced in 1926.

Until the 19th century, people still cooked over an open fire which was very wasteful as most of the heat went up the chimney. In the 1820s an iron cooker called a range was introduced. It was a much more efficient way of cooking because most of the heat was contained within. By the mid-19th century ranges were common. However, the iron range did have one disadvantage – it had to be polished with a black polish to stop it rusting.

Times were tough!2

Image credit

Gas cookers first became common in the 1890s and the first electric oven went on sale in Britain in 1893. By 1939 there were about 1.5 million electric ovens in Britain and about 9 million gas ones. Cooking got quicker too with convenience foods becoming far more common thanks to the introduction of fridges and freezers. In Britain, microwave ovens first became common in the 1980s.

The first electric washing machine was made in 1907 and although they became more common in the 1930s, they were still expensive. In Britain washing machines did not really become common until the 1960s.

The vacuum cleaner was invented by Hubert Booth in 1901. His earliest model was petrol driven and was so big it had to be pulled through the streets by a horse. It was parked outside your house and hoses were fed through the windows. The first portable electric vacuum cleaner was invented in 1908.