Who invented the washing machine

Alan G. Wilson, in his essay “Who Invented the Washing Machine?,” outlines the history of washing machine technology and points out that although many historians credit Englishman Henry Sidgier with inventing the first workable machine, others suggest Americans Oliver Evans or William Nicholson might deserve this honour.

It is not possible to name one single person who invented the washing machine. However, there were many people, directly and indirectly, involved in the invention of this useful household appliance.

How was it developed first?

The history of the development of washers can be traced back to around 1767, when a French engineer named André Jacob Jesse patented a hand-driven machine for laundry using a crank and shaft. His invention was not practical as the user had to rotate the handle for about 45 minutes to complete one cycle of washing, which used to take almost a day earlier.

In 1797, a British engineer named James King improved upon Jesse’s design by adding paddles and drums to the washtub that revolutionized the washing machine. King’s design was a commercial success, and more than a dozen companies started manufacturing his invention. It resulted in a significant drop in the price of this washing machine. It became affordable by many common people for their household use.

Subsequent improvements in washing machine

King again improved upon its design by replacing the old wooden tub with a new metal one. However, he could not patent his design as there was no such provision in the UK at that time. King’s invention became public property, and anybody could manufacture the same thing without paying him any royalty.

From 1851 to 1860, John Eberhard made several modifications in the basic structure of James King’s machine by adding an agitator, which made it much more efficient. He also modified the drum to use an off-centre axle that allowed the clothes to move around efficiently in the drum. It is Eberhard who was rightly credited for inventing the first practical washing machine. His work was further improved by William Blackstone of Chicago, who installed a hand-driven washing machine in the basement of a hotel. Soon, many hotels became equipped with Blackstone’s washer that eventually evolved into a home appliance for domestic use.

In 1874, John E Irvin further improved the basic design by adding the wringer mechanism on top of an oscillating drum. This new design gave birth to what we now know as a washing machine. In 1885, this invention became so popular that one of the largest manufactures of cotton textiles in the USA started manufacturing it for the laundry business.

Evolution of new washing machine model

In 1907, a British electrical engineer named James Simonson invented a new type of appliance which could wash and dry clothes using electricity. It was not commercially successful. However, in the 1930s, it became so popular that every house in the developed countries had this newest invention.

Hence, if we try to trace the history of washing machines by considering their various stages, many people should be credited for inventing them. It is not possible to name just one person who invented the washing machine. However, the one who made a significant contribution to inventing this useful household appliance was James King of the UK. He first invented it using drums and paddles for efficient working.

Why was the washing machine invented?

At the outset, it isn’t easy to trace why exactly people invented the washing machine. The primary motive was to reduce manual labour for laundry work, which took almost a day earlier. Another possible reason could be that not everybody can afford servants to do their household chores, especially in developing countries. This invention provides an opportunity to people who would otherwise not be able to enjoy the luxury of having a housemaid or servant do household work.

With the availability of washing machines in every home, hardly anybody has any excuse for not doing their laundry instead of getting it done by someone else. People are highly dependent on these machines now as they reduce their workload considerably.


Thanks to this invention, people now have more time for other useful work. It has opened up new avenues of income generation as there are innumerable options available for anybody looking forward to doing some part-time business or work from home. More than that, washing machines provide convenience and comfort to people in their homes away from home.

It is one of the most significant inventions in the field of household appliances. Most people appreciate the benefits of washing machines, which makes their life so easy and comfortable. Even though it had to go through some changes during its evolution since 1850, this invention had come a long way from when James King first invented it.

People certainly love to own the latest models of washing machines because it saves time and energy.


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