Yunak-Traditional Turkish Washery

Although regional differences exist, until the early 21st century laundry was done in washeries called “yunak”. These “yunaks” were near streams or springs. They consisted of a space where women would sit and where the washbowl would be put and flat stones in front of them. Women would make a fire to boil water in a cauldron and add ashes or clay to it for soaping the laundry. Some would also add dried orange peels for fragrance. After that dirty clothes were put on a flat stone and beaten with a washing bat to drain the water, and then rinsed.

Yunak Traditional Turkish Washery

Washing bat is a specially designed wooden tool used for beating clothes, rugs, sacks and carpets while washing them. After using water and ashes for soaping the laundry, women would hit the wet laundry repeatedly thus draining the dirty water and cleaning them. The washing bats had to be both light and durable, so certain timber was for them such as mulberry and walnut (durable) or poplar (light weight). Washed clothes would be spread over bushes or hanged on the branches of nearly trees.

Laundry was not done everyday. Clothes would usually be washed on Thursdays. Women would wear old clothes called “dere geyma” meaning clothes worn for doing laundry in the stream. It should also be said that women washed themselves on those days but some washeries were not sheltered enough. If a man was going to pass by on the laundry day, he would first ask if the washing bat’s end was thick or thin. If the answer was “thin” it meant he could pass.

Yunak in central Turkey

But if the answer was “thick” he would have to wait for the women to make themselves  proper or would change his way entirely to avoid passing by. Children would also be washed on that day and the mothers would keep saying “sular asagi, yavrum yukari” while bathing them, which roughly translates to “water is going down, my child is growing up”.

If you want to see an interesting example of a traditional washery in Cappadocia, please sign up for our tour of Avanos.

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