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What is a Mangle?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2014
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A mangle is a machine that is designed to press laundry. Originally, one was used to help press the water out of laundry, to ensure that it would dry more quickly when hung to dry. In the modern eras, mangles are usually used to press dry laundry flat, and they are common in industrial laundry facilities that handle things like sheets; using this machine is far more efficient that pressing by hand. Smaller ones for home use can also be found in some regions of the world.

The first version of this tool was the box mangle, developed in the 17th century. It was made up of a heavy box on rollers that was painstakingly pushed across wet laundry to press it. Using it required at least two people, since the box was typically weighted with bricks or stones, making it impossible to move alone, and it would have been a grueling task.

In the 18th century, the first form of the modern laundry mangle emerged. It had two large rollers that were turned by hand with a crank or by an engine, while laundry is passed between the rollers. Historically, they were often powered with steam engines, once it was invented, and they would have been noisy, hot, and quite dangerous for their users; most modern machines are electric, a significant improvement.

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When used to process wet laundry, a mangle can cut down on drying time significantly by squeezing out as much excess water as possible. For pressing things flat, the machine may be heated so that it will create crisp, smooth creases, and it is not uncommon to see a pressing mangle with a steam attachment for setting pressed seams and creases. In many cases, this device is used with a clean sheet to wrap the object being pressed to ensure that it stays clean.

Modern mangles are much safer than their historical counterparts, but users still need to be careful, especially around industrial machines. They can easily severely damage extremities, and users have been severely injured when their hair has been caught up in the workings. Iin some cases, a mangle can actually pull someone's scalp right off, which would not be a pleasant state of affairs.

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