Thread Number: 77963  /  Tag: Vintage Dryers
"Drying Machine" terminology?
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Post# 1019745   1/1/2019 at 17:17 (552 days old) 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 (551 days old) 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 (551 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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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 (551 days old) 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) 

Post# 1057910 , Reply# 4   1/17/2020 at 14:07 by LowEfficiency (Iowa)        

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Saw one for sale today... a "Dryer Machine"... reminded me of this thread.
Thanks for the replies above - some interesting theories for sure.

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Post# 1057931 , Reply# 5   1/17/2020 at 16:23 by Wilkinsservis (Melbourne Australia)        
Dishwashers also

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I do remember the mother of a friend from school, originally from UK, calling the dish washer the washing up machine which almost sounds Germanic in semantic construction

Post# 1058416 , Reply# 6   1/22/2020 at 17:14 by henene4 (Germany)        

Wäschetrockner or just Trockner

Spülmaschine would be roughly translated word by word "rinsing machine" since german for washing dishes is often "abspülen".
Fun fact there: Rinsing, flushing and dish washing could all be some kind of "spülen"

Washing machine

but "Clothes dryer"

Verry germanic indeed

My thought would be that machines do several things in sequence. A dryer just does one thing so to speak.

Post# 1058418 , Reply# 7   1/22/2020 at 17:29 by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        

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Me, I’m confused about Drum and Tub...

As for Dishwasher, there are more than just dishes going on it, so to me, that’s a washer—maybe Kitchen Washer, vs. Laundry Washer, which I, myself, have termed these “washing appliances” as...

— Dave

Post# 1058428 , Reply# 8   1/22/2020 at 18:52 by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

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A tub is a non-perforated container that can hold water.  A solid-tub toploader has two tubs ... a spin tub that holds the water and clothes during agitation and throws the water into the outer tub (which has a drain outlet) during spin.

Drum is closely related to tub in that it's not usually perforated ... although a frontloader washer's wash/spin basket is sometimes called a drum.  Dryer drum.

A basket is perforated (holey) and fits into a tub which holds the water.  Water at all times can pass through the basket perforations into the outer tub.

Post# 1058476 , Reply# 9   1/23/2020 at 03:56 by askomiele (Belgium Ghent)        
Laundry in dutch - flemish

As this is getting a more of a linguistic topic, I tbought sharing this would be nice.

Standard dutch is a written language and uses the following terms as standard:

wasmachine (washing machine / a machine that does the laundry for you)
wasautomaat (autmatic washing machine / referring to the fact that the machine washes automaticly)
wasvolautomaat (comes form the german "waschvolautomaat", the machine does every step fully automatic)
halfautomaat (the machine does the task of washing / spinning but needs manual tranfser or manual gear / knop changes)

droogautomaat(automatic dryer)
droogtrommel (drying drum - reffering to the tumblerdryer)
wasdroger (laundry dryer - so its clear you dry laundry with it and not hear e.x. nvm the US Norge hairdryer)

Any dutchspeaking people... feel free to add!

But dialects are everywhere and as Foraloysius can agree with, the Netherlands use another regional standard than we does in Flanders (hope that makes sense to you guys).

In Flanders we use as standard terms:
wasmachine (washing machine)
droogkast (dry cabinet although this thing tumbles :o)

The last thing is very bizar because drying cabinets never where a thing over here. They where not common, nor was a public wash house, and virtually unknown. Only some monasteries or big laundries had the steam heated drying cabinets. The rest of use had a line or a rack. Even now, drying cabinets are a very small niche. People just put their washlines / racks inside the garage, kitchen, bathroom or ever the livingroom. Having a tumbler dryer is considered as an extra and is used as an emergency option only.

Hope u guys found it interesting!

Post# 1058486 , Reply# 10   1/23/2020 at 06:41 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        
Thank you, Michiel, very interesting, indeed

Michiel, did houses in your country ever have the drying racks that were loaded up with damp laundry and hoisted to near the ceiling over the kitchen range? I have heard people from the British Isles speak of them.

Post# 1058736 , Reply# 11   1/25/2020 at 00:31 by tolivac (greenville nc)        

If the container is vertical-opening to the side--than its a "drum" if oriented where the load opening is on the top-then a "basket with holes"Non perforated-than a "tub"?Note how the terms are used interchangebly

Post# 1058821 , Reply# 12   1/26/2020 at 01:12 by DaveAMKrayoGuy (Oak Park, MI)        
The AMKrayoGuy, not-so-accurate Observation:

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From what I've heard, seen or read: a Tub is vertical, and a Drum is horizontal, so a clothes washer/dishwasher would have the former, a dryer would have the latter, but a front-loader would have a tub, so Tub would be in anything that's a Washer...

-- Dave

Post# 1058824 , Reply# 13   1/26/2020 at 02:22 by gizmo (Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Au)        

why a washer is a "washing machine"...

here's my theory supported by no evidence at all...

the reason we spend the extra words in saying "washing machine" instead of "washer" is that the word "washer" has another meaning - the flat disc of steel with a hole in it, placed over a bolt before the nut goes on. So it is a disambiguation - using an extra word to avoid possible confusion.

There is no alternative meaning for a dryer, when used in context, so there is no need to say "drying machine." the word "dryer" will do just fine.


Of course this is just a theory I thunk up by myself, it might be complete BS. It may just be an historical accident, because washing machines have been around longer, when doing things with a "machine" of any sort was a bit of a novelty, the term "washing machine" seemed appropriate at the time. Dryers came along when we already had a house full of "machines" and calling things by their task (mixer, vacuum cleaner, drill, vibrator, etc) was in common use.

Post# 1058852 , Reply# 14   1/26/2020 at 09:37 by ozzie908 (Lincoln UK)        

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Your spot on about the Washer being small flat and round with a hole in the middle for nuts and bolts, But also here in good ol Blighty there is a tap washer and that's usually a round disc with a hole "depending on the tap" and made of rubber so we still use the washing machine term !!

Post# 1058879 , Reply# 15   1/26/2020 at 17:09 by iej (Ireland)        

Here in Ireland it's usually:

Washing Machine. You very occasionally hear 'washer' but not very often.
Dryer or Tumble Dryer, with the former increasingly replacing the later. If you listen to very old adverts form the early 1970s or earlier, they usually refer to them as "a tumbler dryer."
I've never heard 'drying machine'.

Also a 'combo' is never called that here they're always a 'washer-dryer'

Post# 1058881 , Reply# 16   1/26/2020 at 17:35 by marky_mark (From Liverpool. Now in Sitges [Barcelona] & Palm Springs, CA)        

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In Spanish a washing machine is:

lavadora = washer

Except I believe in Argentina it is lavarropas = clothes washer or "to wash clothes"


The machine that dries the laundry is:

secadora = dryer

Again, I think in Argentina they say secarropas = clothes dryer or "to dry clothes"


A washer-dryer combined is:

lavasecadora = washdryer


A dishwasher is:

lavavajillas = tableware washer / crockery washer

or lavaplatos = plates washer


There may be variations between different people/cities/countries etc.

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