Monday, November 21, 2005

On laundry- the start of looking

Inspired by this line in Sir John Harrington, "being too lazy to wipe should not be condemned, as surely any competent laundress can remove the stains from one's linen," I have sought the advise of one Mistress Rhiannon y Bwa, and she sent me the following to get me started on looking for things from there:

I am assuming that the speaker below is referring to the washing of linen, which is a subset of cleaning textiles. Wool and silk would be quite differently handled.

I would look into stain removal (I know Drea is working on this as a topic and might be at FF&F). However, I suspect that the main chemical cleaning used was 1. lye or 2. urine fermented until is smells of ammonia.

The main washing action was done by soaking in one of the above (diluted) solutions and then pounding on rocks and/or rubbing on flat boards. The washboard is pretty late, if I remember correctly, past our period. The pounding might accomplished with a bat. The procedure was dip, flop down, pound, rotate, pound, rotate, pound, redip, etc. Then wringing out. I think the multiple pounding and dipping is what removed the dirt. After that, it was bleaching. Accomplished by grass bleaching: lay items flat, keep them damp by sprinkling with plain water, repeat as necessary in sunny weather. This could take quite a while. I am old enough to remember laundering baby diapers of cotton. Even when washed with soap, the no. 2 deposits left a yellowish stain. This could be removed by hanging out in the sun for a while. We tried not to bleach them with clorox to save the baby's sensitive skin. In period, they didn't have the bleach we know today.

The lye was obtained from wood ashes, with water dribbled down thru it and collected. Hard on the hands.

Sometimes, I would not be surprised if nothing was used, just washed and pounded in a stream, etc. There are pixs of this activity. And some surviving grotto like rooms with stone ledges around a pool of water that have been used for centuries.

The clothes pin is another fascinating story. Most clothes were just hung on available objects or clothes bars. As for flattening and ironing, that was what my class was mostly about. Research the mangle (round wooden roller wrapped neatly with wet cloth, rolled back and forth by a flat paddle to squeeze out water and flatten the cloth.

I have to dig out the Markham again and look for things other than booze. :) And see what else I already have in household books, because now I am curious.

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