A washing machine (laundry machine, clothes washer, or washer) is a machine used to wash laundry, such as clothing and sheets. The term is mostly applied to machines that use water as opposed to dry cleaning (which uses alternative cleaning fluids, and is performed by specialist businesses) or ultrasonic cleaners.
After the items were washed and rinsed, water had to be removed by twisting. To help reduce this labor, the wringer/mangle machine was developed.
The mangle used two rollers under spring tension to squeeze water out of clothing and household linen. Each laundry item would be fed through the wringer separately. The first wringers were hand-cranked, but were eventually included as a powered attachment above the washer tub. The wringer would be swung over the wash tub so that extracted wash water would fall back into the tub to be reused for the next load. As implied by the term "mangle," these early machines were quite dangerous, especially if powered and not hand-driven. A user's fingers, hand, arm, or hair could become entangled in the laundry being squeezed, resulting in horrific injuries; unwary bystanders, such as children, could also be caught and hurt. Safer mechanisms were developed over time, and the more hazardous designs were eventually outlawed.
The modern process of water removal by spinning did not come into use until electric motors were developed. Spinning requires a constant high-speed power source, and was originally done in a separate device known as an "extractor". A load of washed laundry would be transferred from the wash tub to the extractor basket, and the water spun out in a separate operation. These early extractors were often dangerous to use, since unevenly distributed loads would cause the machine to shake violently. Many efforts were made to counteract the shaking of unstable loads, such as mounting the spinning basket on a free-floating shock-absorbing frame to absorb minor imbalances, and a bump switch to detect severe movement and stop the machine so that the load could be manually redistributed.
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