This is the way we wash the clothes, wash the clothes, wash the clothes. This is the way we wash the clothes so early Monday morning? It went on: This is the way we iron the clothes, iron the clothes, iron the clothes. This is the way we iron the clothes so early Tuesday morning.
Have you ever watched period movies, or classic series and wondered: How on earth did they keep those yards and yards of fabric in their clothing clean? I am not just talking about the aristocratic women who had servants as that was not their chore. But the servants and real folk– who did their laundry? And what about those already super busy pioneer women? It got me to thinking so I decided to do a little research into times past and how they handled laundry back in the “old days.”
It seems that in the earliest times, people just went to the river or creeks and put their clothing in and agitated them with a stick. Soap was only introduced much later. Some even stone washed their clothing and some used sand to scrub them clean. Sounds counter intuitive. I can remember being told that my very own nappies were cleaned by the ancient stone and creek bed method in New Zealand during a temporary deprivation to our indoor plumbing which wasn’t very much to speak of in the first place.
For bleaching, people often used to lay their whites on green grass and over bushes in direct sunlight. Sometimes they would spray a little water to get the clothes damp again to increase the bleaching. My very own Belgian grandmother did this bleaching at times in her posh American neighborhood. She got away with it because she had an acre of land and could strategically place the times out of the neighbors’ critical eyes. So, I can attest to the fact that this was a tried and proven method and it did work.
It is quite telling to see that soap and our other methods of cleaning only recently came into vogue, thus changing our standards on cleanliness. Recently, we have been watching some old TV shows from the 1950s complete with their commercials of the day. Palmolive Soap Company advertised that its soap, if used 3 times a day, would guarantee the American housewife a more beautiful complexion. Of course, this was all scientifically proven (and I note that the “truth in advertising” wasn’t in the American vocabulary yet) . I thought, if anyone did that to their face 3 times a day, there would be no natural oils left and the skin would be left looking like a prune! Or the one that Ajax is “gentle on your hands” while the camera pans a lady’s lovely manicured hands. Really? That stuff dries the dickens out of your hands.
Here are some interesting excerpts I found whilst perusing the internet
While it is agreed that electric appliances considerably altered the life of the typical American housewife, few would agree that the changes were all for
the best. Much of the hard labor could be done by machine, so one would assume that the development of washing machines and vacuum cleaners would mean less time spent doing housework. But not so! According to researchers, the average homemaker in 1924 spent fifty-two hours a week doing her housework. Forty years later, the average American homemaker was spending fifty-five hours a week on housework – even surrounded as she was by “laborsaving” appliances. Why might this be? One reason: higher expectations. As one author noted:
People began to expect more from those who kept the house. For example, whereas once laundry was done once a week and clothes worn several days before being laundered, modern housekeepers may do laundry every day because family members wear an item only once before washing it.
In addition, the American homemaker became – and to some extent, still is – obsessed by a variety of “germ theories” stating that kitchens and bathrooms had to be “scrupulously clean” to prevent disease. While it is true that sanitary homes tend to be healthier homes, magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens published article after article encouraging women to achieve an almost impossible degree of “domestic perfection.” Dirty was equated Evil, while Clean became synonymous with Good. Instead of using technology to help meet society’s old standards, the homemaker now had to strive harder and work longer to meet new standards.
Between 1927 and 1932, the Cleanliness Institute worked with government agencies, medical departments, schools, and social service organizations to encourage the use of soap and water. They sponsored public service announcements on radio and published full-page advertisements in national magazines, encouraging the use of soap and water.
Resource : http://www.trailend.org/ind-cleanliness.htm (great read!)
The History of Cleanliness
While the meaning of all the virtues has changed overtime, the application of the virtue of cleanliness has perhaps fluctuated the most. We would probably be grossed out by Franklin’s standard of cleanliness, and today’s standard would likely have disturbed him. Historically and up through the present day, ideas of what constitutes “cleanliness” has varied greatly.
For an ancient Egyptian or Babylonian, cleanliness meant showering with water from aqueducts or simply from servants pouring water on you. A soap made from ashes and animal fat was used. The Greeks created the first plumbed-in showers, and citizens showered outside at various spigots scattered throughout their cities.
For an ancient Roman cleanliness meant rubbing his body with oil and dust and then adding a layer of perspiration from a day of work or play. After he had built up a sufficient patina of bodily soil, he’d have someone scrape it off with a rake-like instrument. Next he would take a series of baths-first lukewarm, then hot, then cold. This would all occur in public at a local bathhouse, a swinging place where he’d hang out for several hours. Soap was not typically involved in any part of the process.
For early Christians, cleanliness was not next to godliness. In fact, the dirtier you were, the more virtuous you were assumed to be. Cleanliness was considered a sinful luxury and thus monks and nuns who cared more for God than their earthly tabernacles avoided bathing to show their dedication to a holy life.
For Europeans in the centuries after the coming of the Black Death, cleanliness meant anything but a bath. To observers during the plague, it seemed that people often became stricken with the disease after using the bathhouse. The theory was advanced that bathing opened your pores and thus let in disease. A layer of dirt and odor was thought to stave off infection. Bathing became avoided like, well, the plague. It would not be until the 17th century when bathing would slowly come back into vogue.
But it would really be the purveyors of hygienic products that would continually up the ante of what cleanliness truly meant. As advertising became more prevalent in the early 1900′s, the producers of soap, deodorant, and toothpaste set out to convince a new generation of Americans of problems they never knew existed. For example, it was Listerine’s advertising team, not dentists, who came up with the term “chronic halitosis” to describe bad breath. Whereas as bad breath had previously been thought of as a part of life, it then became a dangerous disease to be cured and eradicated. Likewise, toothpaste manufacturers made the frightening discovery of “film on teeth,” a phenomenon that had once gone completely unnoticed. The cure of course was daily and religious tooth brushing. Advertisements warned potential customers that any kind of bodily odor could spell a premature social death.
While I’m not for advocating being stinky, smelly and dirty – hardly so!- I take pride it keeping up appearances, and I rather think cleanliness is (almost) next to godliness to a certain extent.
“I Hanker for a Simple Life, Is that A Crime?”
Hat tip to the Dowager Countess of Downton
My approach is not as archaic as I, too, “hanker for a simpler approach” to a modern homesteading lifestyl.e
1. Layering your clothing helps. Use undershirts, etc., next to your body so you only have to was those items and those items keep your clothes clean. Aprons for women and overalls for men (especially those of us who are homesteaders) help protect your clothes.
2. As they did in times past, air out your clothing and only wash those parts of the items that are soiled with “spot washing.”
3. Wearing natural fibers such as wool helps your skin and clothes made from it breathe and wool is a natural antibacterial material. Cotton is very durable when wet and is lightweight but absorbs moisture and provides warmth. Natural fabrics last longer and wash better.
4. Re-wearing If an item is not soiled or smelly – why do I waste water and resources washing it. I have basket besides my bed for such “worn” clothes. I don’t want to fold them and put them in the drawers with the clean clothes but they aren’t yet soiled or smelly enough to wash.
Any other suggestions?
:: Resources ::