How Does a Washing Machine Get Clothes Clean?
A washing machine swishes clothes around in soapy water until the dirt has been removed. A washer has a tub and an electric motor. The device in the center of the tub that does the actual washing is called an agitator. The churning action of the agitator forces the soapy water through the clothes.
The soap loosens the dirt particles and suspends them in the water. The dirty water is pumped out, and clean water comes in to rinse the soap out of the clothes. The washing machine then spins out the water, and the clothes are ready for drying.
The clothes actually hit each other and help force the water and soap through the clothes forcing the tiny particles of dirt and perspiration out of the clothes, into the main water, spin the water with the tiny particles out, clean water added, spin and done.
Before the machines were invented, it was done by hand, there was a separate day set aside just to do laundry. Water would be boiled, usually outside, and the clothes were put in with some homemade lye soap, and stirred with a wooden paddle.
Then they were lifted with the wooden paddle and placed in a clear water rinse, stirred again and then wrung out by hand, and hung on a line to dry.
So just letting your clothes soak won’t get them totally clean, you would have to agitate by hand, rinse, and then wring them out by hand. And if you put them into the dryer to dry it would take at least twice the time to dry than the clothes washed in the machine.