Thread Number: 77963  /  Tag: Vintage Dryers
"Drying Machine" terminology?
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Post# 1019745   1/1/2019 at 17:17 by LowEfficiency (Iowa)        

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Can anyone explain this quirk of laundry appliance terminology?

We have "washers", and we have "washing machines".
Then on the flip side, we have "dryers"... but almost never are they called "drying machines".
Why is this?

Some data:   (Number of hits for Google search phrases here on
"Washer" = About 31,600 results
"Washing Machine" = About 5,720 results
"Dryer" = About 17,500 results
"Drying Machine" = About 13 results

Is there a historical reason for this?

Post# 1019810 , Reply# 1   1/2/2019 at 11:00 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

I do not know if this is the definitive explanation, but washing machines have been mechanical things involving motion and mechanical action so they qualified to be called machines. Clothes dryers evolved from drying cabinets that were purely passive in nature. Articles to be dried were hung in the cabinets and heat was supplied by some method. Some people called them clothes dryers. When the mechanical version came on the scene, "dryer"  or "clothes dryer"was already the accepted term because the earlier version was not a mechanical device. Maybe.

Post# 1019820 , Reply# 2   1/2/2019 at 14:21 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

launderess's profile picture
IIRC, and at least going by vintage commercial/residential laundry manuals those heated drying cabinets were just that, large boxes with heat meant to replace hanging laundry in a room with a fireplace or other method of heat.

At least in commercial setting there were machines called "tumblers" or "shakers" which resembled modern clothes dryers, but they didn't heat. Their purpose was to shake and loosen loads of laundry that had just come from extractor (and often were plastered into a solid mound), so they could be easily separated. This also did a bit of fluffing up, and main purpose was to get things ready for ironing/finishing.

Until drying cabinets fell mostly out of favor you often heard "tumble dryer" used to denote what is simply called a "clothes dryer" today. Distinction made between a device that was basically a rack inside a cabinet with a bottom fed heat source, versus a machine which tumbled laundry while heat came from below (or above).

Think in early years of semi then fully automatic washing machines more people tended to call them just that. Have seen so in television programs and or in other media right through the 1980's. But most seem now to simply shorten things to "clothes washer" or just "washer" since nearly everyone knows what is being referred.

You can search for "ironer" or "rotary iron", or "ironing machine". First will produce most "hits", with likely the others following in descending order.

In French you have "machine a laver", or "laveuse"

IMHO persons use "washing machine" because that appliance took over a task formerly done manually, but was now to various semi or fully automatic done by a machine.

Drying laundry historically meant hanging it about on something (a drier)with little to nil intervention until the process was complete.

Post# 1019850 , Reply# 3   1/2/2019 at 18:16 by Intuitive (Sydney-Australia)        
Laundry terminology Aussie

In Aust (Sydney / NSW this may change elsewhere in Aust!)

  • Washing machine - washer
  • Tumble dryer or clothes dryer (often wall mounted above washing machine and 99% electric powered ) - dryer
  • Clothes pegs - clothes pins
  • Hills hoist - outside clothes line
  • European laundry - closet laundry  But in NSW must have laundry sink installed too

I am sure there is more and different areas in AU will have their own names   ( swimmers, bathers, cozzies etc) 

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