A Few Words on Laundry Work, from 1889

"Washing at home recommends itself by many advantages. The linen is washed by itself - that is, it is not mixed with that of all classes of wearers, which is generally the case when sent out to be done, nor are chemicals, or other preparations used to save labour, which are so destructive, nor are the articles worn in washing; but by being washed at home, you know the treatment your linen receives - in fact, to have one's washing done at home, is to my mind, a great luxury, although washing day is looked upon by many with much horror. In preparing for a wash, the several articles should be sorted - the white linen sheets and body linen put together, coloured articles next, then woollens and the coarser and greasy cloths by themselves.

The several articles, especially the table-linen, are then examined for spots and stains. Ink stains may be removed by oxalic acid dissolved in water, the articles must be well rinsed immediately after in cold water. Bleaching liquid will take out fruit, wine and vegetable stains. The sheets and fine linen are then put into a tub, covered with lukewarm water in which soda has been dissolved and thus left to soak till next morning. Greasy cloths are put to soak in another tub. Next morning early, the copper fire should be lit; it is a good plan to lay it and fill the copper the night before, to save time. As soon as the water is hot, the washing commences with the sheets etc, which are wrung out of their water, the tub emptied and refilled with clean warm water, and the articles are soaped, well-rubbed, one linen surface against the other. The linen is again washed in water as hot as the hand can bear it and soaped and rubbed till quite clean and then rinsed and wrung out to insure a good colour; the linen is then boiled in the copper, with a little soda dissolved in the water. It should boil for twenty minutes or half-an-hour; it is then taken out, rinsed in clean hot water and then in cold tinged with blue. To rinse well is of the utmost importance, it clears all the suds out. After this is done, the things are wrung, and if possible, hung out to dry in the open air. The greasy cloths may now be washed and boiled in the same way. Coloured articles should not be soaked, but washed right off as quickly as possible, no soda being used. They may be rinsed in soft water, with salt dissolved in it, wrung gently and hung out to dry.

Woollen articles are washed in clean lukewarm suds, made in the following way: Cut up some good soap very thin and pour boiling water out of the kettle on it, in a very short time it will be dissolved, add cold water. Flannels must never be rubbed, they should be rinsed in rather soapy water and dried as quickly as possble. There are many new modes for washing flannels: one is to put ammonia in the water and use no soap; as I have not tried this, I cannot give my opinion on the subject. I have heard that paraffin is also much used for washing linen and saves much labour. The following is an excellent and tried recipe: Dissolve a quarter of a pound of soap cut up in some boiling water, add to it water to make up about six or seven gallons and a tablespoonful and a half of the best paraffin. Soak the clothes in this mixture all night. Next morning, they are wrung out and boiled in the copper in pure water for half an hour and rinsed in two or three waters, as may be thought needful. This process makes the linen more easily ironed and gives it a fine clear look. "A perfect success" is the verdict of all who have tried this.

Starching - Linen shirts, collars and cuffs are freqeuently dipped first in boiled starch, allowed to dry, then dipped in raw starch to which a pint of borax powder has been added, and ironed damp; the boiled starch need not be used if they are put twice into the raw starch. Muslin things are dipped in boiled starch, gently squeezed, clapped between the hands, well shaken and hung to dry, then damped, rolled tightly up and allowed to lie for a few hours, or all night I convenient. Table linen is done in the same way, but the starch for it should be very thin, nearly as thin as water, and it is ironed on both sides. Print dresses are done with boiled starch, dried, damped and ironed with very hot irons. Sheets, bed-room towels, housecloths are mangled, not ironed. All those who wash at home should impress on their servants to keep the copper thoroughly clean, also tubs; that the blue bag be squeezed and hung up immediately it is done; that large coals are not put under the copper when cinders or coal dust would do just as well; that no more starch is made than is really wanted; that the linen, as soon as ironed and thoroughly aired, be folded up and put away; and that all the utensils be cleaned and put away in their respective places as soon as done with. The clothes pegs entirely of wood are best, as the metal of those with springs is apt to stain the linen. I will just add that fresh air and plenty of clean water are the chief secrets of linen keeping a good colour. Too much soda makes it yellow; London water is so hard, soda must be used; avoid washing powders, use the best soap. Steeping clothes all night saves much labour, it softens the dirt."

From 1889   

A Few Notes on Laundry Work - Drying Laundry

For further information please see our article THE BUSTLE ERA - Fashion in the 1870s & 80s.

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