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washing in just water?

Posted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 8:08 pm
by Motley
Hello,

I was browsing around the other day and I came upon this from the Societies section:

http://cosmestonmanorarchers.moonfruit. ... 4530207416

On this page it says:

One of the rules is we only wash our clothes in clean water no soap which gives it that old and authentic rustic look


I am pretty sure that they had soap in the mid 14thC so did they only use water?

Does water really make the clothes look more authentic?

I am not trying to be picky here, I am genuinely curious as to whether there is anything in this?

Regards,
Dan.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 8:26 pm
by Brother Ranulf
Twelfth century English sources mention laundresses in towns; they used a wooden trough to contain the "leissive" which consisted of water, wood ash and caustic soda (effectively the ingredients of soap). Fullers used soapwort, fuller's earth and ammonia from stale urine to clean cloth before it was sold (John of Garland says that the fuller worked naked in his trough during this stage of the process).

Soap was not always used: the German monk Theobald drank the water in which he washed the clothes at his monastery.

For a brilliant article on the subject of medieval laundry see:
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi- ... /HTMLSTART

I particularly like the 15th century quotation:

Of wyn away the moles [stains] may ye wesshe,

In mylk whyt; the fletyng oyly spott

Wyth lye of beenes make hit clene & fresshe.

Wasshe with wyn the feruent inkes blot,

All oder thynges clensed well, ye wot,

Wyth water cler, is purged & made clene,

But thes thre clense: wyn, mylkes, and beene.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:14 am
by EnglishArcher
Dan,

The Cosmeston Manor archers have a somewhat unique, and rather particular view on what constitutes 'authentic' medieval living. You may find it doesn't always correlate with what others are doing; or with what the canonical sources suggest.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:38 am
by Alice the Huswyf
Soap existed, as did other methods of cleaning. You can get bad soiling out in plain water, but you have to beat or rub it out - not good for the woollen cloth on a regular basis, while linen will take the punishment and it softens the cloth at each wash. Clean water-only washing doesn't always work, certainly not on wools, and as long as you put oils back into the wool, gentle soaping won't damage it as long as you rinse well and dry and re-shape appropriately.

In any age if you have access to an easier or more effective method that you can afford, you are going to use it!

All clothes were new once. The best way to make period clothing look like clothing instead of costume is to pre-shrink your fabric with care before making it up - this has an added advantage of removing modern dressings. Then just treat it as clothing. Wear it, wear it, air it to freshen it , rub or brush out dried mud, spot-clean greasemarks and wash it from time to time when it is grubby - dirt particles cut the fibres and you are shortening the lifetime of the garment if not cleaned properly.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:36 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
It's just B***cks to think that its "authentic medieval" by being dirty.
Some people were dirty guttersnipes with rust stains around their cods, other's would have been as clean as a bent coppers whistle, just as is the case now.
i'm sure that most people would have done their best to keep themselves and their clothes clean because most people do not like either being or next to a sweaty oik.
This is myth pandered as fact, total choaid.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:42 am
by myladyswardrobe
Marcus Woodhouse wrote:It's just B***cks to think that its "authentic medieval" by being dirty.
Some people were dirty guttersnipes with rust stains around their cods, other's would have been as clean as a bent coppers whistle, just as is the case now.
i'm sure that most people would have done their best to keep themselves and their clothes clean because most people do not like either being or next to a sweaty oik.
This is myth pandered as fact, total choaid.


Thankyou!!

I've been helping my niece with her GCSE history and they are pushing the "facts" that people in the medieval/Renaissance period lived in houses with floors caked in mud, dirt, urine and rotten food (among other things). It is implied that things are simply added to the midden which is the house floor!

People never washed or cleaned themselves or their environment/clothes and had absolutely no concept of hygiene at all. Water for cleaning was deemed to be suspicious!

Another friend of mine did a Costume "course" at UNIVERSITY which stated quite blatantly that embroidered smocks were fashionable to hide the dirt because they were never washed. That ruffs were fashionable because it hid the dirty neck! Teeth were blacked out to be fashionable cos then it proved you were rich enough to have sugar.

Its a wonder the human race hadn't died out if this was the case!

In a small attempt to change this viewpoint, I gave my niece the handouts to my lecture on "Exploding the Myth of the Unwashed Masses." I let her handle soap balls (thanks to Sally Pointer) showed her recipes for soap, haircare, tooth care and perfumes and contemporary sources detailing various types of people exhorting children (and adults) to ensure they are CLEAN!!!

I also showed her the various images that show people bathing, show baths, soaps, cloths and other bathing paraphernalia. I explained that places like Lavenham have a network of medieval sewers and drains as does Hampton Court Palace which then proves that not just the very very very wealthy could afford to have proper drainage.

Sadly, if she used any of this information in her exam, it would probably be marked wrong.

::sigh::

As you say, Marcus, some people would have been squeaky clean and others would have been happy to live in a dirty midden. Just like now.

Bess.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:40 pm
by Colin Middleton
There is a contemporary document reporting on how fithy the English are and describing pretty much the whole list of detritus that you gave being on the floors of houses. Personally I think that it's a 'coal in the bath' kind of thing.

AFAIK, by our (disinfect EVERYTHING) standards, they were dirty, baithing rarely and wearing the same underwear for days on end, etc. But, they also were aware of hygene and took care to be clean. You were expected to wash hands several times a day before and after eating, after going to the toilet, etc., which is more than most of us can manage today. Given that you were often eating and drinking from a shared bowl, I can imagine a lot of pressure to wash hands and face regularly.

Dirty is a bit of a subjective idea...

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:15 pm
by Motley
Hey Guys,

Thanks for the replies. I was pretty sure that they did wash and bathe and use soap etc. Obviously not as much as we do with our hand sanitizer on every corner mentality. That is why I was a but surprised when I read that and wanted to know if there was something about clothes in particular I was missing that made just water necessary.

I think EnglishArcher maybe enlightened me as to the reliability of this information. :-) And the rest of the info was interesting so thanks.

Cheers,
Dan.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:33 pm
by steve stanley
Time and place,people......I have a regulaly washed shirt for 'normal' use & one that relies on rain for when I'm meant to have been out in the woods for a couple of weeks...........
Steve

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 11:01 am
by Alice the Huswyf
Yes, but you are not holding that practice up as a period domestic norm, are you? That's a matter of need and convenience.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 11:07 am
by steve stanley
Yep,the 'norm' should be what is correct for the event scenario...........

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:52 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
I'm not into method acting me.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 11:19 pm
by guthrie
Brother Ranulf wrote:Twelfth century English sources mention laundresses in towns; they used a wooden trough to contain the "leissive" which consisted of water, wood ash and caustic soda (effectively the ingredients of soap). Fullers used soapwort, fuller's earth and ammonia from stale urine to clean cloth before it was sold (John of Garland says that the fuller worked naked in his trough during this stage of the process).

I've just noticed that Brother Ranulf has perhaps made a bit of an error here. My understanding was that soap was fat and caustic, which boiled together makes the kind of hard white stuff we know and love. Not simply wood ash, water and caustic soda. They did have various soda's about, and they were imported and sold the way alum was, but most people would have had easiest access to ashes.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:08 am
by Brother Ranulf
Quite right, Guthrie - I should have said "some of the ingredients of soap". Leissive means lye, which is the wood ash and caustic soda in that passage and the "lye of beenes" in the 15th century quote.

Re: washing in just water?

Posted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 11:34 am
by gregory23b
The lye - lessive is the degreaser, the detergent happening on contact with any grease on the clothing, plus added whitening effect . bling.