When winter comes

it really is winter, I can’t deny it… plenty of mists still – especially here so near the sea we get fret rolling in off the water, but no more mellow fruitfulness. So warm coats, warm boots, and above all scarfs, I love scarfs… However, looking through the Happy Housewife, by Ruth Drew, a collection of her writings published posthumously, I find she has plenty to say on winter boots. We are so lucky not only with the warm environment most of us live in, central heating, efficient fires – gas, electricity, solid fuel, wood-burning, double glazing, insulation, most of us with cars, all the shops blasting heat wastefully… we are so lucky that maybe we ought to think back to not so long ago when we really had to properly dress up to cope with the weather.

I’m not sure when Ruth write this, whether it was the 1940’s or 50’s; a lifetime ago whenever it was! Here she tells us how to clean the lambswool lining of boots – I assume they were removable.

Winter boots: When winter comes, questions about  cleaning lambswool lining of winter boots are never far behind. Of course it is very snug to have lambswool making a neat little ankle ruff at the top of one’s boot, but all too soon the wool gets dirty, and then comes the problem of cleaning. One possible way is to treat the lining with one of the dry cleaning powders. You sprinkle the powder on fairly lavishly, leave it for an hour or so and then brush it off, but d this out in the open if you want to avoid a sneezing fit.
Although this method is fairly effective, why not give the lambswool a shampoo? This method is more like shampooing a carpet on a very small scale, and indeed one of the soapless detergent carpet shampoos can be used. These are quite good for the job, because they whip up into a really rich foam which is exactly what you want. You begin by giving the lambswool a really good brushing with a stiff clothes-brush and a surprising amount of powdered mud usually comes off.
The next stage is to scoop up some of the foam, making sure that you avoid picking up any liquid and brush it quickly over a little stretch of wool. You then rub smartly with a clean, dry towel, preferably a rough one. If you are careful you can do this without wetting the upper part of the boots. This is most important if the boots are made of suede, because this treatment can leave an unpleasant watermark if you allow dirty water to trickle down.
By way of a rinse, it is best to use clean, warm water with a dash of household ammonia. You simply wring out a small cloth in the ammonia water, and give the lambswool a quick rub all over. The only thing then is to dry the wool, and there is no harm in putting the boots, on their sides, fairly near to a fire or radiator. But of course not so near as to cause scorching! The final job, when the lambswool is completely dry, is to give it another brush, but not with the clothes brush you used for brushing off the mud!

We take modern, easily cleanable fabrics and materials for granted; even suedes and leathers are treated to help keep them clean and waterproof; we have so many products – the world is full of products – to clean every imaginable thing, and I’m positive there are special products to clean every imaginable type of fabric or material. We might  have a lot of cleaning things, but we don’t have the actual household chemicals so common fifty years ago; I’m pretty sure hardly anyone has amonia tucked away under the sink – not in its neat, unbranded form anyway! In this way, our homes are so much safer, and although accidents still do happen, I’m sure there are not so many.

So there you have it (as they say on Masterchef after demonstrating a fiendishly difficult ‘simple’ dish) – now you know how to clean the lambswool lining of winter boots.


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