Monday, November 9, 2015

Washing Up Correctly in 1854

Monday, November 9, 2015
Still Life: Tea Set
Loretta reports:

Washing Up Instructions
Many centuries ago, when I was in school, we had Home Economics classes. That is to say, the girls did. The boys had Shop. I’m not sure what our process was at home. Mainly I remember regarding all household chores as loathsome wastes of valuable time I could have spent reading.

I do remember that the Home Ec method involved more or less the same order of events as in the Victorian-era approach. Otherwise, though, Godey's advice seems to modern eyes rather slapdash, not to mention unhygienic.

And so it’s a good example of a world that hadn’t yet caught onto BACTERIA, let alone grown hysterical about the little critters. The Victorians didn’t have hot water on tap, either, or instantly-dissolving dish cleaning liquids, or the host of other allegedly labor-saving devices available to us.

I’ve read elsewhere of cleaning rugs and other items with used tea leaves, a method I haven’t tried, but I’m thinking of experimenting with certain bottles and decanters.

Image: Jean-Étienne Liotard, Still Life: Tea Set (circa 1781-83), courtesy Getty Center via Wikimedia Commons.
Text from Godey’s Magazine, November 1854

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Caroline Clemmons said...

That's almost the order I learned in home economics class and from my mom. The exception is we washed clear glasses first, then the order listed. We used hot water and hot rinse water, though, having the advantage of indoor plumbing, thank goodness. I love your blog, by the way, and never miss reading your posts.

Anonymous said...

The janitors at my High School were an elderly husband and wife pair -from Scotland originally. The corridor floors were a really tough linoleum (so much more sensible than wall-to-wall carpet), They used to dump a large batch of damp used tea leaves on the floor in front of their push brooms to clean the corridors every afternoon. Did a good job of it too.

Rachel Laudan said...

What a great image. And good topic too. I don't think you will be able to clean decanters with used tea leaves. From my very distant youth, their use was to collect dust that otherwise might rise in clouds. they didn't have any cleaning properties of their own.

Karen Anne said...

Does tea stain? I see that it does not contain tannic acid, as I had thought, but instead tannins. Tannic acid stains something impressive :-) as I recall from a chemistry set event in my youth. And the web seems to think tannins do as well.

Liz said...

I grew up in a household with three people born during the reign of Queen Victoria and we did not have hot running water in our summer cottage. We had to heat our washing up water on the stove, then pour it into a tub for the the washing. We did, however, have Sunlight liquid washing up soap, and we proceeded pretty much as in the description. We did the washing up ourselves because by the post-WW2 era, the maids were gone. There was still a maids' room off the kitchen though, and I frequently slept there when the weather was hot (not very often in Canada!)

Unknown said...

My mother taught me, and her mother, born in 1888, taught her. Glasses first, then flatware, then bowls & plates, pots & pans last. All washed and rinsed in water 'as hot as your hands can stand.'

My mother-in-law washed all silver that was put out for the meal, didn't matter if it hadn't been used. It might have gotten salt on it and that would corrode it if not washed away. 'And it can always use a bit of a shine with the tea towel.'

LorettaChase said...

Karen Anne, tea stains quite impressively. Ask my dental hygienist. The women in my family used it on linens to get a beautiful pale brown/ecru/natural sort of color. I've used it to dye white underwear.

Anonymous said...

To clean anything narrow (jars, bottles, etc) a tip was posted in one of the cooking magazines I've owned to put hot water, a bit of fresh (dry) rice and a tiny bit of detergent in the container, stopper it, shake vigorously. The dry rice scrubs the crud out of the narrow container without the hassle of trying to find some specialized thing to reach the very bottom.

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