My hunch is that if I were dependent upon this methodology for cleaning clothes, laundry would not be done at the current level of multiple times per week. I remember one of these in my grandmother's basement (along with a coal shute, coal bin, and coal furnace) in Detroit circa the early 50's. The Motor City was safe, vibrant, and diverse. Very sad for me to see it now (or I should say the remains).
"The axe forgets; The tree remembers." African Proverb