Top Tips for Cleaning Clothes – Georgian style

So, just how did those Georgians cope with cleaning delicate fabrics? They couldn’t simply nip along to a dry cleaner to have them chemically cleaned. Well, we came across this wonderful little book from 1753, packed with all types of useful information including top tips for cleaning clothes, ‘Madam Johnson’s Present: Or, Every Young Woman’s Companion in Useful and Universal Knowledge’ so we thought we would share some of them with you. We have no idea as to how effective some of these methods are so ‘approach with caution’. Some of them sound very dubious, so please do be careful if you try them one at home as we accept no responsibility!

A Lady's Maid Soaping Linen by Henry Robert Morland
A Lady’s Maid Soaping Linen by Henry Robert Morland; Tate

To take iron mould and all sorts of spots and stains out of linen

These are removed by holding the linen, where they are, round a silver or stone mug containing boiling water, and by rubbing them with a slice of lemon. In the middle of summer, when the sun is very hot, the soaping them on both side will take them out; and if the linen be soaped all over it will be very white. Rubbing the stained places with juice of sorrel, or dipping them in the hot juice will take out the spots. The same may be done by rubbing them with salt and vinegar and squeezing; or by dipping them a few times in sharp vinegar boiling in an earthern, tin or silver pipkin over the fire; after which they should be well rubbed with soap, dried before the sun or fire and washed. Boiling milk will take the stains of fruit out of linen.

Morland, Henry Robert; Domestic Employment: Ironing; Lady Lever Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/domestic-employment-ironing-102602
Morland, Henry Robert; Domestic Employment: Ironing; Lady Lever Art Gallery

To take paint out of linen

Stains of that kind are extracted by rubbing them over with butter, hanging them in the sun, or before some heat to dry and then washing them.

To wash thread and cotton stockings

Let them have two lathers and a boil, having blued the water well. Wash them out of the boil, but don’t rinse them. Turn the wrong sides outwards and fold them very smooth and even, laying them one upon another and a board over them, with a weight of press them smooth. Let them lie thus about a quarter of an hour, after which hang them up to dry and when thoroughly so, roll them up tight without ironing by which means they will look as new.

2010EE8115_jpg_ds- pink stocking V and A

To clean gold and silver lace

This is performed by taking some Talk, finely pounded and moistened with the spirit of wine, and then rubbing it with a brush over the lace every way. The same will do also for gold and silver stuffs highly raised, but lace turns black, if rubbed with Talk by itself.

70413_85eec1f9eb1ede56_b
Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

How to make starch for small linen

Having wetted a quarter of a pound of starch, mixed with a little Powder Blue, so as it will bruise, add it to half a pint of water, and then pour them into a quart of water boiling on the fire. Stir well, and let the starch boil at least quarter of an hour, for it cannot be boiled too well, neither will the linen iron or look well, unless the starch be thoroughly boiled. After the starch is strained, dip the linen into it and then squeeze it out. Dip first those things you would have stiffest, but do not rub them in the starch; and as you want the starch stiff or thin, add or diminish. Some put Gum Arabic, Allum and Candle into the starch as it boils, but these are prejudicial; and if anything be added let it be Isinglass, about an ounce to  quarter of a pound of starch, for that will help to stiffen and make them clear, but not to be used for laces. A kettle of Bell-Mettle is the properest vessel to boil starch in.

Mercier, Philippe; Lady Mary Fairfax; Fairfax House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lady-mary-fairfax-9884
Mercier, Philippe; Lady Mary Fairfax; Fairfax House

To take dirt from any silk

This is done by wetting it with a cloth dipped in clear water, and then wiping it, till the stain is out; then rubbing it first with a wet cloth, and next with a dry one and afterwards rolling it up dry in another clean cloth; but no air must come to it, for it would change the colour or crumple it. If the pieces of dirt be thick, they should be let dry and then shaken off; after which the silk should be rubbed with crumbs of bread and then with a clean cloth. If it be stained with coffee, rubbing with milk and then with fair water and a cloth will clean it.

How to take out spots of oil or any grease spots in silk

Let the spot be covered with French chalk, scraped and then rubbed well with a clean cloth. Pure spirit of lemon, without the essence, will extract any stain; but spirit of Sal Ammoniac is though preferable; for although the silk be all over stained with oil, it will take it out, at least on the second application if the silk be dry.

Silk, linen, silk thread; hand-woven damask, hand-sewn. c1743. Courtesy of V&A Musuem
Silk, linen, silk thread; hand-woven damask, hand-sewn. c1743. Courtesy of V&A Museum

To take spots out of thin silk

Dip a piece of black cloth in a pint of white wine vinegar, pretty well heated and rub it over the stain; after which scrape Fuller’s Earth on the stain and putting dry woollen cloths above and below, place and iron, moderately hot on the upper part and the spot will vanish.

The Camp Laundry, 1782, British Museum
The Camp Laundry, 1782, British Museum

To clean satins and Damasks

A suit of these may be cleaned by rubbing them with the crumb of a three-penny loaf, two days old, mixed with a quarter of an ounce of Powder-Blue.

And, to finish, we couldn’t resist a Thomas Rowlandson caricature, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.

lwlpr11413

Source:

Madam Johnson’s Present: Or, Every Young Woman’s Companion in Useful and Universal Knowledge

Washday Blues – Duties of a Georgian Laundrymaid

(c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Last week we took a look at the duties of a housemaid (click the link to find out more), but if the house was large enough to warrant it, then a laundry maid would also have been employed, if not, then the role would have simply been added to the already onerous duties of the housemaid. The average annual salary for a laundry maid in 1750 was £5 (approx £450 in today’s money). In 1685 Hannah Woolley wrote a book which explained exactly what the duties of servants was; this book could still be purchased in the 1750s for a mere 1 shilling.

The Compleat Servant Maid

The information below is taken from another fascinating book written by a Mrs William Parkes who gives clear instructions as to what an employer should expect their laundry maid to be able to do.

Before laundry is sent to be washed, laundry should be examined, and if any part require to be repaired, it should be kept back.

The housemaid/laundry maid should keep an account of the number of the articles that are sent to the laundry, and count them over on their return, to see that all are right, and well aired and should replace them in the linen-press. In putting by the fresh-washed linen, care should be taken to place it so that the whole stock may come into use in regular succession, by placing it, for instance, under the rest of the linen, or at the back of the press.

Tate; (c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Tate; (c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

If the linen be put damp into the linen-closet, it will be mildewed, and stains produced which cannot easily be removed. A good maid will manage her work in so methodical a manner, that she will never either feel or appear to be hurried. Every day in the week will have its allotted portion of the weekly cleaning; by which means no one day will be surcharged with work, so as to occasion bustle or annoyance in the family. The drawing-room, the dining-room, and the library, she should contrive to clean thoroughly at those times in which the family are absent.

I would certainly advise you to procure one who has been accustomed to the business of the laundry, as that is not a department which you can yourself superintend ; nor can a housekeeper do so to any great extent, without neglecting some of her other avocations. Your eyes will quickly tell you if she wash the linen clean, and get up fine muslin tolerably well. If this should not be the case, you must, certainly, notice it directly, or the colour of your linen will be injured.

Young woman ironing – Louis-Léopold Boilly, Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

One thing you must remember, that your laundry should have every convenience to facilitate the work. The wash-house should be well supplied with soft water, boilers, and tubs. A washing machine saves labour, but I believe that the clothes are not so well washed as by the hand; and some imagine that it wears out the linen, and tears it.

In the laundry there should be a good stove (for the double purpose of heating the irons and airing the linen), and also a mangle.

Muslins and light things should be washed in clean water, as their colour cannot be preserved if any other apparel have been, previously, washed in the water. I am convinced that the laundry-maid would much more easily preserve the good colour of her linen, and-linen spare her own hands, if she changed the water more frequently, although it might occasion a greater expenditure of soap. Flannels are sometimes washed in cold water, mixed with ox or sheep gall; but this is the old-fashioned mode, and many ladies now prefer to have them washed in clean hot water. The colour of flannel is entirely lost if it be washed in water in which anything else has been previously rinsed.

A_laundry_maid_leaning_out_of_a_sash_window_to_wring_out_a_Wellcome_L0051348
Courtesy of Wellcome Trust

Besides the essential articles of soap, blue, and starch, the laundry-maid should always have a supply of salt of lemon, citrate of potash, and bleaching liquid, with which to remove ink spots, iron-moulds, or other stains from the linen before it is washed.

The quantity of soap used in a week’s wash may be reckoned at the rate of half a pound per head; which includes the washing of the household linen as well. The quantity of starch depends, of course, upon the number of articles to be starched. Sometimes it is fashionable to have muslin dresses starched and when table linen is worn and thin, a little starch improves their appearance, by giving them something of the consistency of new linen.

 

The Laundress, Jean-Baptiste Greuze.
The Laundress, Jean-Baptiste Greuze. J. Paul Getty Museum

Some laundry-maids are so careless as to tear the linen in stirring it while boiling, making use of any rough stick they can find; and, also, sometimes to permit the water in the copper to get very low, by which means the linen is liable to be scorched by the fire. Such negligence should always be reproved. Soap is an article very easily wasted by a careless servant, and it requires some vigilance, either in the housekeeper or in the mistress of a family, to prevent it. When the quantity used weekly has been ascertained, it should be weighed out for each washing, nor should the laundry-maid be permitted to.

lwlpr21540 washing mill
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Needless to say, occasionally accidents happened!

Dowager Lady Walpole
Lloyd’s Evening Post, October 10, 1764 – October 12, 1764

 

Earl of Shelburn
General Evening Post, July 28, 1739 – July 31, 1739

Our final offering on the subject of laundry maids comes from the Daily Advertiser, Thursday, September 27, 1744.

Corpulent

Sources

https://archive.org/stream/domesticdutiesor00park_0#page/n0/mode/2up

http://www.arleyhallarchives.co.uk/staff.htm

http://www.pascalbonenfant.com/18c/wages.html

Public Advertiser,  Friday, November 11, 1757