An A.B.C. of Cleaning and Removing Stains

One of the things I like about old cookery books is that they often contain other interesting and at the time useful and practical information on household management; everything from laying tables, to training a maid, to laundry and buying a trousseau… does anyone have a trousseau any more?

I have a book, undated, but I think was published in the 1930’s, Modern Practical Cookery, with sixty-three pages of illustrations, no author mentioned, but published by Allied Newspapers. I have mentioned this fascinating book before, but leafing through I came again to the chapter, An A.B.C. of Cleaning and Removing Stains. I can’t imagine many books would have such a section these days, but we have miracle washing powders, gels, sprays, liquids which can take away most things spoiling clothes, table line etc. We ave washing machines, we have professional dry-cleaners, we can buy clothes very cheaply and don’t need to be as careful as we used to have to be.

The following instructions just show how different our lives are now… We might have ornamental and scented candles in our homes, but few of us would use them for practical reasons – my mum and sisters did their homework by candlelight in the 30’s, so I can imagine they might need to remove candle-grease from clothes or other fabrics; who these days would have blotting paper thick or otherwise to remove spots of it? :

Spots can be removed by ironing with a moderately warm iron over a good thick sheet of clean blotting paper.

A bride might have a veil, someone into retro fashion might have a veil… in case they do, and as long as they have some calcined magnesia… :

A net veil can be cleaned by putting it in a pillow case with plenty of dry flour and calcined magnesia. Roll this up. Leave the pillow case like this for two days, rolling and shaking it from time to time. Shake out the flour and the veil should be nearly as clean as if it had been washed.

If this method makes the veil nearly as clean as if it had been washed, why not just wash it? There is a remedy for net dance dresses, should they require cleaning (do they mean tutus?) :

Net dance dresses will usually wash quite well in soapy tepid water though it is wise to cut off a tiny piece first and wash it and see whether it will shrink.
After washing, let it drain a little, and then roll it up in a bath towel, leaving it for a couple of hours before doing the ironing.
Net is very difficult to iron. It must always be ironed across the width, as if it is ironed along the direction of selvedge, it will stretch greatly, and become stringy in appearance.. Unless you are an expert at getting up dresses of this sort you will find it very difficult to get a smart effect.
Net that seems limp after washing, can be starched in fairly thick boiling water starch, after which it should be dried and dampened again before ironing. Always iron net on the wrong side.

That is a very comprehensive and helpful set of instructions… but if for example my daughter needed for whatever reason to wash a net dance dress, she wouldn’t know what a selvedge was, she wouldn’t know what boiling water starch was, and I think she would be distinctly unimpressed with the amount of procedures which have to be gone through to clean something… Today we like quick, easy and convenient!

Do they still make silk stockings? The ones mentioned in this book would be pure silk; these days many natural materials are blended with synthetic. However, should you have silk stockinette, here is a helpful tip:

Silk stockinette can be washed in tepid soapy water. it should not be hung up to dry, but laid flat, and then rolled up in a towel for two hours, before ironing with a fairly cool iron.

Different fabrics and materials are mentioned, each with their own treatment…

  • antelope skin
  • cretonne
  • flannel
  • fur (including fur that is not very dirty and white fur)
  • lace and white lace
  • leather (smooth leather, the inside of a grubby leather bag, sea water stains on leather, leather stains on tweed)
  • wool
  • artificial silk (especially milk stains)
  • velvet
  • satin
  • velour
  • repp
  • lizard skin
  • tapestry
  • tweed

This is only a tiny example of the fascinating treatment of stains, marks, tarnish and spots dealt with in this chapter! (I’ll write another time about how exactly you can use an onion, yes an onion to clean an oil painting.)

My featured image is of beetroot soup… next time i make some, when I notice beetroot on my clothes, I’ll consult the A.B.C. of Cleaning and Removing Stains chapter.



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